Wednesday, March 08, 2006

More Agoraphobia Drugs

Benzodiazepines and anti-depressants are the most commonly prescribed drugs for agoraphobia. Tonight I'd like to talk about a few others that some doctors or psychiatrists might prescribe.

The first will be the anti-convulsants which include Valproic Acid and Gabapentin. These medicines were originally developed to treat people with epilepsy because they can control seizures. Later, they were discovered to be good mood stabilizers and were used to lessen the mood swings of people with bipolar disorder.

Very recently, they have been tested on people with panic attacks with some success. Valproic Acid and Gabapentin have both been shown by studies to be helpful in reducing the frequency and intensity of panic attacks.

Valproic Acid has more potential side effects of the two. The most commonly reported adverse reactions are nausea, vomiting and indigestion. Other potential side effects include interfering with blood clotting and liver functioning. There have also been reports of acute pancreatitis occurring in association with Valproic Acid therapy.

Gabapentin has a smaller risk of side effects plus it has been shown by some studies to reduce anticipatory anxiety in people with generalized anxiety disorder. If Gabapentin can both prevent panic attacks and reduce anticipatory anxiety - then it could emerge as the drug of choice for people with agoraphobia.

However, research on the use of anti-convulsants to treat agoraphobia is fairly new and some doctors and psychiatrists will not prescribe them until more studies are done.

Finally, a drug called Buspar has been used to treat agoraphobia and is in a class by itself. It is an anti-anxiety medication but is not a benzodiazepine. It also does not create the same tolerance or cause the same withdrawal symptoms as benzodiazepines.

The only problem with Buspar is that it takes so long to work - that is, if it works at all. You might have to take a prescribed dose for a week or more to start feeling the effects. Some people don't ever feel any effects. But since Buspar does not have dangerous side effects it might be worth a try. Especially if you find out it does work for you.

However, as I said before, I am not a proponent of using drugs as a long-term solution for agoraphobia. I recommend following a recovery program that challenges you to grow as a person and helps you get free of the underlying anxiety that feeds agoraphobia.

In the long run I think you will want to live with the confidence that you would not be totally debilitated by agoraphobia, anxiety and panic if you stopped taking your pills.

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