Panic attacks are a serious affliction which cause sufferer’s great stress and discomfort. They are evident in those who have panic disorders, but fortunately most cases can be treated effectively  through therapy and medication. The goal of therapy is to change patterns of behavior and thought. In conjunction with medication, recurrences of panic attacks are far less frequent than when only one treatment is used.

There are several medications available that are useful in the treatment of panic attacks and the symptoms that go along with them. They can reduce the number of panic attacks, as well as their severity, and reduce the anxiety associated with them. One common class of drugs are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, known as SSRI’s. Examples of these drugs include Zoloft, Paxil, and Prozac, which are also commonly used in the treatment of depression. These medications affect chemicals known as neurotransmitters, which are used by the nerves of the brain to send messages to each other. Neurotransmitters are released by one nerve and taken in by other nerves. If there is an excess of neurotransmitters released, the sending nerve will “reuptake” that excess serotonin. SSRI’s inhibit that reuptake of serotonin, making it available for other nerves to receive these chemical signals.

Panic Attack Medication

Before the advent of SSRI’s, the preferred medications were grouped into what are known as tricylic antidepressants (TCA’s). Examples of these drugs include Norpramin, Anafranil, and Tofranil. TCA’s can be equally effective in the treatment of panic attacks, but tend to have more side effects associated with them, and are generally not tolerated as well as SSRI’s. As with any treatment options, they can be highly effective with proper dosing and close monitoring. The side effects can range from mild to life threatening, in extreme cases. Pregnant women are advised not to use these medications due to potential risks to the fetus. A qualified medical professional is required to adjust dosages and discontinue use if it is so required.

Another group of medications used to treat panic attacks are known as benzodiazepines. Common drugs in this group include Valium, Ativan, Xanax, and Klonopin. These drugs reduce anxiety, but are not intended for daily use over the course of long periods of time, as they are addictive. When used appropriately and under close medical observation, they are effective in short-term or occasional use. They can provide immediate relief, as opposed to SSRI’s, which require daily dosing and take time for them to become effective.

The symptoms associated with panic disorder should begin to improve after a few weeks of using these medications. After 6-8 weeks, a higher dose or another medication may be prescribed. Many of the drugs for panic disorders need to be continued for a year or more, sometimes for life. After a certain period of time has passed, the physician may try to lower the dosage. If the panic attacks return, the higher dosage may be necessary to keep them in check.

Just remember that the use of these drugs needs to be under the strict supervision of your physician. They are useful, yet powerful drugs that can be dangerous in certain cases. In the past, the use of these medications has had a social stigma attached to them, where the users are labeled “crazy” or some other derogatory term. This day and age, it is becoming more and more commonplace to be prescribed these drugs, and therefore much more socially acceptable.

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