There are now a whole range of drugs for panic attacks on the market. For all of these drugs you will need a doctor’s prescription; none of them are available over the counter. All of these drugs have pros and cons, and some have serious side-effects.
The most effective Panic Attack Drug I have ever come across is Xanax (generic name: alprazolam). It works super-fast (in as little as twenty minutes if it is taken sub-lingually, or under the tongue). It is a benzodiazepine class drug, but unlike the others I have tried it doesn’t make you feel spacey, drunk, “out of it” or lethargic and sleepy. On Xanax I feel fairly normal, although I did once fall asleep on a large dose.
Xanax does have its drawbacks though. If you take it when you are having the occasional panic attack then that will probably be fine. But if you are a regular sufferer then Xanax might not be wise. While it’s side-effect profile is good, any prolonged use (more than a week or two of even small doses such as 0.5mg a day) can become habit forming. Being hooked on Xanax is not fun. It can lead to severe rebound anxiety and a host of other problems. Xanax carries a greater risk of rebound anxiety than other tranquillisers and benzodiazepines because it has a short half-life. The other drugs with their longer half-life are in a way “self tapering”.
Clonazepam, Diazepam (Valium), Lorazepam (Ativan) all have significantly longer half-lives than Xanax and therefore are less habit-forming (but that does not mean that they are totally safe – addiction is still common!)
Side-effects include drowsiness and amnesia. Some people get paradoxical effects, in other words the opposite reaction to what they expected. In the case of someone taking these drugs for panic attacks that would be heightened excitement and possible anxiey and panic attacks! Therefore it is useful to start at a low dose and see how the drugs work for you. Some people don’t like using benzodiazepines because they feel out of control because they are so used to feeling anxious and panicky.
There are newer tranquillisers known as Nonbenzodiazepines, but their side-effect profile is no better and at the moment they are used chiefly for insomnia, not for panic attacks.
All in all, it’s important to remember that drugs don’t provide an overall solution to panic attacks but are fine for occasional use.