John D. Hawkins Jr., M.S., C.A.P., Registered Mental Health Intern
Tens of millions of Americans seek help for difficulties with anxiety each year. Many of these individuals will be assessed by physicians or psychiatrists. The standard intervention employed by the majority of these helping professionals will be a prescription for an prescription for anxiety medication, such as Xanax, Valium, Klonopin, or Atavin. While this strategy may be well-intentioned, it is leading to unhealthy and destructive consequences for many.

Someone once told me, “People do what they do”: If you go to a mechanic, he will fix your car; a stylist will cut your hair; and a priest will hear your confession. Physicians and psychiatrists in particular, are trained to assess, diagnose, and prescribe. I have never had a single client return from a visit with a psychiatrist without being prescribed a medication. I do not mean to imply that this is inappropriate or that I am an opponent of medication, only that in some instances, such as a large percentage of individuals with anxiety disorders, it is actually detrimental to the treatment of their anxiety.

The use of medication prescription for anxiety

Certain situations necessitate the use of medication prescription for anxiety due to the severity of an individual’s anxiety. However, a majority of research has shown that the most effective form of treatment for anxiety is psychotherapy. Not medication. Not psychotherapy and medication. I would like to clarify that I am speaking in general and I recognize there are specific individual cases that demand unique considerations.

The underlying basis for the iatrogenic effects of long-term use of medication prescription for anxiety is the body’s inclination towards homeostasis – balance. The body seeks a state of equilibrium and is remarkably adaptive towards behaviors we engage in that disrupt that condition, such as lowering our metabolism when caloric intake diminishes. Drugs in prescription for anxiety medication depress the central nervous system causing the relaxing feeling produced subsequent to taking such medications. The brain reacts by increasing neurotransmitters, such as norepinephrine and epinephrine (adrenaline) that stimulate the nervous system. After consistently using such medications for an extended period of time, the levels of these neurotransmitters will remain at elevated levels even after the effects of the medication has discontinued. Individuals who use or abuse these medications continuously experience effects ranging from distressing levels of anxiety to panic attacks and seizures.

I have regularly worked with clients who had observable tremors yet had no difficulty having new prescriptions written by a variety of physicians. While I am not a conspiracy theorist, these medications generate billions in annual revenue for pharmaceutical companies. The marketing capabilities they possess are unmatched. This produces a almost insurmountable challenge to average clinicians attempting to educate the general public about the truth regarding the most effective treatments for anxiety disorders.

I am not implying these medications do not work. Quite the contrary, they work all too well, but at what cost? Learning to manage your emotions primarily through substances, whether prescribed or obtained illegally, is detrimental in the long run on a variety of levels.

If you are presently using medication prescription for anxiety exclusively as a means to cope with your anxiety, I encourage you to speak with a qualified therapist regarding psychotherapy and plan for addressing the underlying sources of your anxiety. If you are currently using medication prescription for anxiety, do not discontinue these without speaking to a mental health professional. Doing so could have adverse effects, including seizures in some cases. These medications are only designed for short-term stabilization. Long-term use of these substances increases the likelihood of addiction and will not treat the fundamental cause of your distress.



Boynton Beach Counseling Center
Gateway Counseling Center
1034 Gateway Blvd. #104
Boynton Beach, FL 33426
Phone: (561) 468-6464
Phone: (561) 678-0036

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