Stress is a relatively new psychological and biological term to describe the failure of an organism to respond appropriately to a threat. Previous to this description stress was used in mechanics to mean a strain. Both definitions are accurate to describe how stress affects a human being. Stress can be an awful strain, exhausting, panic, anxious, depressing, nerve-wracking feeling caused by something or someone within our environment. There is no doubt that in today’s day in age we have the most amount of stress especially with the horrible economy, skyrocketing job losses, insurmountable debt, plummeting housing market, and record high divorce rates. Not to mention the amount of crime, homicide, suicide rates within the US.

It’s no wonder why prescription medication is becoming a popular treatment method for people who suffer from chronic stress, even though with a wide range of medications there is no specific drug for stress. That’s because even though chronic stress can cause serious health and mental problems, stress is not a disease. Therefore doctors, psychiatrists and psychologists are prescribing drugs that resolve related symptoms of stress such as anxiety, depression, headaches, blood pressure and sleeping problems. The thought is by treating the symptoms; you ultimately reduce the cause of those symptoms. Unfortunately, these types of medication can be highly addictive. Like with most prescription medications there is a risk of potential side effects, behavioral and health problems. Some prescription medications used for stress include anxiolytics (anti anxiety), anti depressants, sedatives and beta-blockers.

Anti anxiety medications have been prescribed for patients who have anxiety brought on by stress. Again the medication is not a prescription for the stress, but rather the anxiety caused by stress. Sedatives, tranquilizers, benzodiazepines, anti depressants, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), tricyclic antidepressant, and monoamine oxidase inhibitor are all categories of anti anxiety medications.

Sedatives are used to treat stress that causes anxiety, nervousness and depression. Sedatives depress the activity of the central nervous system (CNS). By slowing down the brain function a person should feel a sense of calm and relaxation. Breathing slows and anxiety and tension slip away. Unfortunately, there is a possibility with sedatives for overdose, which can lead to death. Benzodiazepines are one group of tranquilizers that are used frequently in the treatment of stress related anxiety.

Benzodiazepines are a psychoactive drug. It works by activating the neurotransmitter GABA. By activating it, brain activity and function slows down which causes a sedative, hypnotic (sleep inducing), anti anxiety, anti-convulsant, muscle relaxant, and amnesic state. Benzodiazepines can be used to treat anxiety, insomnia, agitation, seizures, muscle spasms, and alcohol withdrawal. Benzodiazepines are safe for use in two categories short to intermediate or long term. Long-term benzodiazepine prescriptions are normally used for treatment of anxiety, however long-term use also has a higher occurrence to build up tolerance, dependency, withdrawal and adverse psychological and physical effects. Examples of benzodiazepines include Xanax, Valium, Ativan, Halcyon, Restoril, Libruim, and Klonopin.

Buspar is used for stress-induced anxiety. Buspar treats anxiety, body tension, dizziness and rapid heartbeat. This medication is a psychoactive drug that should only be used for short-term treatment. Buspar is non-addictive and takes effect within 1-3 weeks after initial usage. This drug affects the serotonin and dopamine receptors within the brain. This causes a change in mood.

Antidepressants are common treatment for stress, anxiety, mood disorders and depression. There are three categories of antidepressants, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI), tricyclic antidepressants, and monoamine oxidase inhibitors. Of the three, SSRI’s are the most popular. SSRI’s work on the neuronal level by slowing downs the reuptake of serotonin. The belief is that by keeping serotonin in the synapse between cells longer it alleviates anxiety, depression, and all the other related symptoms. Although, antidepressants are not addictive they may have side effects such as nausea, dizziness, dry mouth, sleep disturbance, and sexual arousal problems. Common SSRI’s include Paxil, Prozac, Lexapro, Zoloft, and Lurox.

Beta-blockers were originally prescribed to control high blood pressure and treat heart problems however, more recently it has been prescribed for the treatment of stress. Chronic and long-term stress have the ability to raise blood pressure and cause heart problems therefore leading doctors to believe that by treating these symptoms they can reduce the cause of stress. Beta-blockers act by blocking the actions of neurotransmitters and norepinephrine in the arteries and in the heart. In turn the arteries widen, slowing the heart rate and decreasing the force of the contractions. Some common side effects include cold hands and feet, tiredness, and sleep disturbance. Less common side effects can also include impotence, dizziness, wheezing, digestive problems, skin rashes, and dry eyes. Beta-blockers on the market today are Propranolo and Atenolol.

Even though stress can have a serious effect on the body physically and the mind mentally, prescription medications are normally only recommended after a change in diet, exercise and environment. Stress management and relaxation techniques are preferred natural ways to reduce stress before turning to medication.

Author's Bio: 

Graduated with a BA in exercise science and have worked in the medical field since. My focus is alternative medicine however all aspects of health interest me. Check out my health website!
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