By David Sack, M.D.
I have seen first-hand how prescription drugs can improve the lives of people with mental illness. I have also seen how their use can backfire. In fact, sometimes drugs do the opposite of the intended effect. Even when prescribed correctly anti-depressants may intensify the symptoms of depression and increase suicide risk.
Anti-anxiety medications pose a special problem. While approved by the FDA for the short-term management of anxiety, many physicians prescribe drugs like alprazolam (Xanax), lorazepam (Ativan) and diazepam (Valium) for months or years. Prolonged use, typically more than one month, can actually increase anxiety, leading to increased use and abuse. Ironically, the longer the patient uses anti-anxiety medication, the more they need it to experience relief. This sets into motion a cycle of addiction and withdrawal that does little to address the original problem.