5 Questions to Ask Before Taking Anti-Anxiety Meds, According to a Pharmacist
Get all the facts before beginning your new medication routine.
Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time, but if your feelings persist beyond the occasional bout of worry, you may be wondering if anti-anxiety meds could help ease your mind. A psychiatrist can help determine if medication is right for you, perhaps in addition to therapy and a self-care routine. However, the conversation shouldn't stop once you've got a prescription in hand.
Heidi Polek, RPh, EMBA, a registered pharmacist of 30 years and a Strategic Program Manager at DrFirst, says there are several key questions to ask before taking any anti-anxiety medications. Read on to learn the top five questions she recommends asking before diving into treatment.
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What are the possible side effects?
Polek says that whenever you begin a new medication, it's important to discuss possible side effects with your doctor or pharmacist. This is especially important for anti-anxiety drugs, which she says may cause nausea and upset stomach, dizziness and lightheadedness, tiredness, dry mouth, weight gain, and changes in your sex drive. "In some cases, anxiety symptoms may worsen. If you experience this, contact your doctor or therapist right away," Polek adds.
That said, it's possible you may experience few side effects on anti-anxiety meds, or even none at all. "Keep in mind that many side effects may lessen over time as your body adjusts to the new medication, so don't stop taking it without contacting your doctor," Polek advises. "As with any drug, consider it an emergency and call 911 if you experience signs of a serious allergic reaction, such as severe shortness of breath, swelling in your throat, or severe rash."
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Are there medications I should avoid while taking an anti-anxiety medication?
Before beginning a new drug regimen, be sure to ask your doctor whether any of your other medications or supplements could interact with it, Polek suggests. "Because some medications can interact with anti-anxiety drugs, you should make sure your pharmacist has a complete list of all the medicines you take. Apps can help you keep an up-to-date list right in your pocket. People often forget to include non-prescription drugs and supplements, so be sure they are noted," she tells Best Life.
Polek notes that certain drugs are well known for interacting with anti-anxiety meds. "Some prescription drugs that can interfere with anti-anxiety medications include amphetamines, opioids, migraine medicine in the triptan class, and MAOI-class antidepressants," she explains. "Avoid over-the-counter drugs such as pseudoephedrine, anti-inflammatories, and herbals such as St. John's Wort while taking anti-anxiety medications."
Do I need to take them every day?
Understanding your dosing information is crucial to your safety when it comes to any medication. Dosages for anti-anxiety medications can vary widely depending on type, so you should always ask your doctor to walk you through your particular plan. "While some anti-anxiety medications are fast-acting and intended to be taken as needed, others need to be taken daily for several days or weeks to improve your symptoms," Polek notes.
Beginning an open conversation at the outset can also make it easier to adjust your dosage later if needed. "In some cases, your doctor may start you on a lower dose to see how you react and will increase the dose over time. It can take some time to find what works for you," says Polek. "Some people need to try a different medication or add a new one to treat their symptoms appropriately. Everyone's experience can be different, so work closely with all your doctors and pharmacists—they can help you through this journey."
Can I stop taking them when I feel better?
It can be tempting to stop your psychiatric medications when you begin to feel better, but it can be dangerous to discontinue their use abruptly, says Polek. "Some anti-anxiety meds require you to slowly reduce your dose over time to avoid side effects and a sudden change in your body chemistry," she explains. "Stopping cold turkey can cause severe anxiety, headaches, dizziness, flu-like symptoms, tremors, and nausea or vomiting."
That's why it's important to ask your doctor how long you might expect to take anti-anxiety meds, and to discuss under what circumstances you might stop taking them. Though your plan may change over time time—and that's OK—you'll be less likely to make an impulsive decision based on how you're feeling in the moment.
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What should I do if I miss a dose?
Any time you take a daily medication, it's important that you prepare for the possibility of someday missing a dose. "Every medication is different, so please consult a pharmacist or other healthcare provider before you take a missed dose," advises Polek. She cautions against taking a "double dose" if you should find yourself in this situation with anti-anxiety medications. Instead, plan ahead with your healthcare provider so you know how to safely get back on track with your medication schedule.
Best Life offers the most up-to-date information from top experts, new research, and health agencies, but our content is not meant to be a substitute for professional guidance. When it comes to the medication you're taking or any other health questions you have, always consult your healthcare provider directly.