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Anxiety and Stress Disorders

Xanax

02/16/2009

Question:

I have been on Xanax for over a year and a half for generalized anxiety disorder. This was prescibed by my psyciatrist. My family doctor says Xanax is really only helpful for 4 months. I take 1 mg a day, but can have up to 3 mg tid. The xanax helps take the edge off but I still suffer from a great amount of anxiety. I am also on 30mg of Cymbalta for depression. I think the anxiety fulls the depression. Is there another drug to try for anxiety? Will I be able to come off the Xanax or am i addicted for life?

Answer:

Xanax (also called alprazolam) is a well known anti-anxiety drug.  It treats anxiety symptoms, not the underlying cause of anxiety.  It does have addictive potential (meaning that people can become addicted to it) and some people do use the drug in abusive, not medically appropriate ways.

Xanax often allows people with anxiety to feel well enough to work on the underlying causes of depression and treat them.  The most common treatments for anxiety are therapy (especially cognitive-behavioral  or "thinking and doing" therapy) and medications (especially the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor medications).  Cymbalta is a closely related drug, a serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor and works similar to the SSRIs for anxiety.

It is not appropriate for me to advise you on your medication.  However, if you are not receiving counseling therapy, you might wish to consider it.  If the Cymbalta has not helped with your anxiety, then talk to your doctor about changing the dose or changing the medication.  You should work closely with your doctors and therapists to find help -- anxiety is a highly treatable disease, but treatment often takes longer (and often with higher doses of medications) than treating some other mental illnesses, such as depression.

Good Luck.

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Response by:

Nancy   Elder, MD Nancy Elder, MD
Associate Professor
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati