How fast do anxiety drugs work?

Kelly Davis, Mental Health America

It depends on what type of medication you are prescribed.

Antidepressants:

Drugs in this category (like Prozac or Zoloft) are taken daily and typically take 4 to 6 weeks for people to notice a difference. Other names for drugs in this category include: Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs); Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs); Norepinephrine and Dopamine Reuptake Inhibitors (NDRIs); Atypical antidepressants; Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs); and Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs).

Benzodiazepines:

Benzodiazepines (like Xanax) are taken for anxiety and panic as needed and work rapidly (30-60 minutes). Benzodiazepines are associated with risk for abuse and dependence.

Antihistamines:

Antihistamines can be taken for anxiety and panic in the short term, as needed, and works rapidly. They are typically used in the treatment of allergies. Vistaril is an example of an antihistamine used for anxiety.  

Beta-Blockers

Blockers, which treats high blood pressure, and heart conditions have been used help address physical symptoms of anxiety (like sweating and heart racing) and are not associated with the risks for dependence and abuse seen in benzodiazepines. They are used off label which means they’re not approved for anxiety by the FDA.

Other medications sometimes used to treat anxiety - buspirone, atypical antipsychotics, and anticonvulsants - are also taken daily and typically take 4 to 6 weeks for an individual to notice a difference.

Whatever medication you are prescribed, medications can take time to work, so it’s important to talk through any changes or questions with your doctor.

 

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