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Article on anxiety medication misses the mark, as so many do

A recent article in Forbes Health discusses medication classes commonly prescribed for anxiety. As with so many articles on benzodiazepines and antidepressants, this one includes some valuable information — but it also falls far short when it comes to dependence and withdrawal.

In the May 18th Forbes Health article, "Anxiety Medication: Types and Side Effects," contributing author Becca Stanek explores four classes of psychiatric medication. These are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), tricyclic antidepressants, and benzodiazepines. While the author does present the information on these medication classes in an organized and easily accessible format, repeated errors and shallow research may leave readers with inaccurate conclusions.

Withdrawal Complications

The primary concern that I have with this article is the same issue I have with most articles on benzodiazepines — the lack of accurate information regarding dependence and withdrawal. And that goes for the antidepressants listed here too. While my background is primarily focused on benzodiazepines and their long-term effects, the absence of caution regarding antidepressants is also alarming, especially considering that they are listed as first-line treatments. But, for now, let's focus on benzos.

"This category [benzodiazepines] of anxiety medications has a high potential for misuse and dependence, and is generally not recommended for people who have a history of substance use." — Becca Stanek, Forbes Health

In the above quote from the article, the author's primary focus is on substance use disorder (SUD), or addiction. Unfortunately, while some individuals do suffer from SUD with benzodiazepines, the majority have taken the drugs as prescribed by a physician and are dealing with the complications of physical dependence and withdrawal — not SUD. Abuse is not a factor for these individuals. While the author does define tolerance in the following paragraph, there is no mention of withdrawal or any long-term consequences.

What is missing in this article — and what most of us in the benzodiazepine community would dearly like to see — is an effective warning about dependence and withdrawal. Something to inform individuals before they start taking a benzodiazepine, so they know the possible consequences of this drug.

Here's a sample of what I would like to see in these articles. Perhaps one of the authors might include it one day:

Benzodiazepines are not recommended for longer than 2-4 weeks of continuous use. Physical dependence is common, and withdrawal can be severe. Some individuals experience a protracted state known as benzodiazepine-induced neurological dysfunction (BIND) which can last for months, even years after discontinuation. If you choose to withdraw from benzodiazepines, please consult with a licensed physician. Abrupt cessation can be very dangerous, even fatal in some cases. A slow taper under doctor's supervision is the most frequently recommended method.


It is clear when reading this article — and many others like it — that the author was not very knowledgeable of the subject and didn't spend much time researching and crafting her message. I understand the pressure to produce content at lightening-speed for these publication houses, but that mindset also leads to poorly worded articles causing misleading interpretations. I hope that with time, we can help educate journalists and improve the messages that they provide.


This post is for informational purposes only, and should never be considered medical or professional advice of any kind. Information provided here should never be substituted for medical advice. Do not disregard or delay in seeking medical advice. Do not change the dosage of any prescription medication without consulting with a licensed physician.

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