Antianxiety Drugs: prescription drugs that are used to alleviate the symptoms of “anxiety.” (Hockenbury, 579) Agents that alleviate anxiety, tension, and anxiety disorders, promote sedation, and have a calming effect without affecting clarity of consciousness or neurologic conditions. (MeSH)

Anxiety includes feelings of fear, dread, uneasiness, and muscle tightness, that may occur as a reaction to “stress.” Most antianxiety agents block the action of certain chemicals in the “nervous system.” (NCIt) They reduce feelings of tension and anxiety. (Cardwell, 198) Also referred to as “antianxiety agents.”


Benzodiazepines: medications that calm jittery feelings, relax the muscles, and promote sleep. They take effect rapidly, usually within an hour or so. Produce their effects by increasing the level of “GABA” which inhibits the transmission of “nerve impulses” in the brain and slows brain activity. Have several potentially dangerous side effects. Can reduce coordination, alertness, and reaction time. Effects intensify when combined with alcohol, other drugs, and ‘antihistamines.’ Can produce severe drug intoxication, even death. Physically “addictive” if taken over a long period of time. (Hockenbury, 578)

Diazepam: works by enhancing GABA’s natural ability to regulate “glutamate.” Excitatory inputs that would normally elicit anxiety by firing action potentials in ‘fear circuits’ are less able to do so in the presence of Diazepam. (LeDoux, 56) Used to treat “bipolar disorder,” it stops acute manic episodes over the course of a week or two. Has potential side effects. Patient’s “lithium” blood level must be monitored as it can cause lithium poisoning. Stabilizes the availability of “glutamate” (in the brain) within a narrow, normal range, preventing both abnormal highs and abnormal lows. (Hockenbury, 579) Editor's note - first marketed and also referred to as ‘valium.’

Buspar: drug that relieves anxiety while allowing the individual to maintain normal alertness. Fewer side effects than benzodiazepines. Does not cause drowsiness, sedation, or cognitive impairment. Seems to have a very low risk of dependency and physical addition. Exactly how it works is unclear. Believed to affect "dopamine" and "serotonin" levels. One major drawback is that it must be taken for two to three weeks before anxiety is reduced. (Hockenbury, 578) Although its exact mechanism of action is unknown, (buspar) may exert its anti-anxiety effects via serotonin and dopamine “receptors” and may indirectly affect other neurotransmitter systems. Unlike typical benzodiazepine anxiolytics, this agent does not exert anticonvulsant or muscle relaxant effects and lacks prominent sedative effects. (NCIt) Editor’s note - generic name ‘buspirone hydrochloride.’