When you feel stressed before your exams, that makes you tremble or make your palms sweaty. When you have hot flashes or cold flashes before an important meeting or when you are meeting someone after a long time, this anxiety is a common response to stressful situations. However, if you face symptoms like difficulty breathing, excessive and unexplained worry, fear of impending doom, having specific triggers or repeated flashbacks, and recurring panic attacks, then you may have an anxiety or panic disorder.
The causes of your anxiety can be due to genes, as anxiety disorders are known to pass down from one generation to the other. It could be a stressful event like the loss of a loved one or troubled relationships, health issues like asthma, thyroid, diabetes, heart condition, or a mental disorder like depression. Anxiety can also stem from substance use and is common among people who are heavy users of drugs or alcohol and is also caused due to certain personality factors like perfectionists or narcissists who like to be in control.
What are anxiety pills, and what do they do?
Anxiety pills like Lorazepam, Ativan, Xanax, and Alprazolam are commonly administered to treat anxiety disorders. Anxiety pills commonly belong to the drug class benzodiazepine, which works to enhance the effect of a naturally occurring chemical in the brain called GABA. GABA is known to work as an inhibitory neurotransmitter that blocks or inhibits the initiation, sending, or receiving of chemical messages, decreasing overactivity in the brain and reducing anxiety symptoms.
Anxiety medications are known to work best with cognitive behavioral therapy or other psychotherapy, and there are mainly four types of anxiety medications-
1- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors
SSRIs are generally prescribed to patients with depression and people with anxiety (mainly OCD – Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). SSRIs function by inhibiting nerve cells in the brain from reabsorbing the mood-regulating chemical serotonin.
2- Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors
SNRIs are also categorized as antidepressants that function by reducing the reabsorption of both serotonin and norepinephrine.
3- Tricyclic antidepressants
Tricyclic antidepressants, or TCAs, are older antidepressant drugs and aren’t frequently prescribed due to their risk of side effects. TCAs can be useful for some people in case other medications have failed to relieve anxiety symptoms.
Benzos are a sedative drug that reduces physical symptoms of anxiety like tense muscles and produces a calming and relaxing effect on the brain and body. They are the most commonly prescribed medications to treat anxiety and panic disorder in the US, where drugs like Xanax or Alprazolam, Valium or Diazepam, and Lorazepam or Ativan are used due to their high effectiveness.
What are the possible side effects caused by anti-anxiety pills?
The common side effects include-
- Blurred vision
- Dizziness and drowsiness
- Loss of coordination
Ideally, most of the common side effects should decrease with time. If they get worse, it is advised that you inform your doctor.
The severe side effects include-
- Frequent mood changes like agitation or aggression
- Thoughts of harming yourself like suicide
- Difficulty walking or talking
The severe side effects are, in most cases, unlikely. However, it is advised that you inform your doctor and look for medical assistance if you notice them.
How long do anxiety pills stay in your system?
The half-life of a drug is the amount of time it takes half of the active drug to be eliminated from your system. The half-life of Xanax is averaged at 11.2 hours, which means that half of the active drug exits your body in 11.2 hours. Ideally, it takes a drug 5 to 6 half-lives to be completely removed from the body. Your body will completely eliminate Xanax in 2 to 3 days.
Some tests can detect Xanax in your body even after you stop using it-
Blood – Blood tests can detect Xanax in your bloodstream for up to 5 days after your last dose.
Saliva – Saliva tests can find Xanax in the saliva 2.5 days after the previous dose
Urine – Urine drug screens can detect Xanax for up to 5 days
Hair – Hair takes longer to grow and therefore has a larger window for detection. Xanax can be detected in the hair follicles for up to 3 months after the last dose.
Certain factors can alter the amount of time it takes a drug to leave the body like-
Weight – The half-life of a person with obesity is 21.2 hours on average, which would increase the amount of time Xanax stays in the body
Metabolism – If you have a good metabolism, it will take you a shorter time to get rid of Xanax in your body.
Liver and kidney function – Xanax is absorbed in the liver and is excreted by the kidneys. The better the liver and kidney function, the faster Xanax will leave the system.
Other factors like age, duration of medication, and dosage strength also influence the time of elimination of Xanax from the system.