Anxiety Medication: Don't Believe the Hype!

May 19 13:14 2009 Dan Stelter Print This Article

Medication is just part of a treatment plan for anxiety; it is not a magical cure by any stretch of the imagination and here's why.

        The topic of medication is always a controversy in our modern age.  American society,Guest Posting most of all the Western nations, wants everything done immediately, and medication sometimes appears to be a viable shortcut.  But, is medication necessarily a good choice for you?

    The first thing to determine is whether one needs it or not, and many factors need consideration.  Doctors, counselors, and psychiatrists are more than willing and happy to help clients find the medication that he or she “needs.” However, I would contend that most people do not need the high dosages professionals claim they do, while many others do not need medication at all.  Experts, while more knowledgeable than the average person, are not necessarily aware of all the effects medication has; no one is.  The other thing to be wary of when reading about medications is who is being paid to promote them, and who is paying the promoter.  It is no coincidence that drug companies find that their drug is the most effective, far more so than competitors.  Try to find independently conducted empirical research for reliable data.  The best thing to do is to discuss your medication with others who are taking the same medication, personally judge what changes are brought about via the drug and whether those positive changes outweigh the negative ones.  Finally, also consult your counselor, psychiatrist, or doctor, but do so with caution.

    And here is some advice on professionals:  the first thing to remember when seeing a counselor, psychiatrist, or doctor about medication is that you are the expert on yourself.  A good professional will give you his advice about the drug, and then let you make the choice.  In an ideal world, this would always happen; unfortunately it often does not.  If a professional continues to claim that a certain medication will work or is helping, but you feel very differently, then it is probably time to find a new doctor, counselor, or psychiatrist.  If a doctor, counselor, or psychiatrist makes finding the right medication difficult in any way, then by all means you have the right to fire them and go see someone else.  Perhaps that person is receiving commissions from drug companies or perhaps that person simply does not know what he or she is doing, or perhaps it is an honest mistake.  Whatever the reason, remember the “experts” make mistakes, sometimes purposely so.  
    Drugs are most effective when you engage in a multi-faceted approach to recovering from anxiety.  When you engage in anxiety-reducing activities like regular exercise, making new friends, asking questions on the forum, and talking to a counselor your anxiety-level is greatly reduced.  Then, add to that the medication piece of the puzzle, and suddenly you will find yourself with very little anxiety at all.  Compare this to a hypothetical example where you ignore all other approaches and simply take medication.  Now, you will “need” a high dose in order to reduce your anxiety level to a similar level like that of the first approach. 

    Another issue with drugs is that drug companies want to provide fast and effective treatment, and your personal health is generally a distant afterthought.  These companies want to make us dependent on their drug.  Why?  Because they have billions of dollars at stake, and if people become healthier, they will lose big money.  So, of course, drug companies will do all they can to keep their power and make it appear that their drug greatly benefits your life.  This may mean that they pay off private research firms to find “evidence” that their drug is effective and safe; they may also bribe Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials; finally, they can make legal bribes, called “campaign contributions,” to politicians.  If a politician receives millions in donations from a drug company, are they going be pushing for increased regulation of the drug industry? 
    Why should you exercise such caution when selecting a drug?  Simple, because of all the aforementioned reasons, but also because people are not aware of the long-term effects of different drugs.  Many anxiety-reducers have only been around for ten or twenty years, and many times (this goes for any drug), research finds that a drug previously believed to be safe now causes birth defects or increases likelihood of cancer.

    The general rule that I like to keep in mind about medication is to take the minimum amount possible that is helpful to your life, with the ideal being to not be on any medication at all.  Medication, for many of us, including myself, is sometimes necessary just to function halfway effectively at different places and situations such as work, school, or day-to-day life.  Currently, I take a ten- milligram dose of Lexapro, with the upper range of available dosages running in the thirty-to-forty milligram range.  I have been able to function very effectively with this dosage, and just a few days after taking the medication, I could already notice it was making a positive impact.  I believe that it has enabled me to make much quicker progress as part of an overall program of anxiety management, and my long-term goal is to be completely off of it and functioning at the same level.

    Finally, bear in mind also that any good professional, or person with experience, will tell you that medication simply reduces the symptoms; it very rarely cures the condition as in ceasing its effect on one's life. (On a side note, it is interesting to note that some people have completely recovered from severe depression and other mental disorders by taking placebos; this is, however, a very rare exception, rather than the rule.  Search around in reliable resources and you will be able to find research detailing this).  Rather, it reduces the shakiness in your hands, tingling in your shoulders, and rapid heart beat, or whatever it is that you may experience.  Medication simply makes the situation more bearable so that you can gain skill at managing and reducing your anxiety level.  

    In sum, medication can be a successful part of a multi-faceted approach to managing anxiety, but taking medication needs to be done in a wise and thoughtful manner.  Just remember that you are the expert on yourself; do not let anyone else tell you anything different, and if something in your gut says that this is not quite right, it’s probably a good idea to follow that feeling.

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