Drugs for fear of flying

There is nothing wrong with taking prescription drugs for fear of flying. Many people find these drugs safe and effective, and a life-saver! Assuming you don’t fly three times a week, then the drugs of choice for you will probably be a benzodiazepine. The common prescriptions are Valium, Lorazepam and Xanax.

These drugs are addictive but that is a problem for regular users, not occasional users. If you fly once a month and take one or even a couple of tablets you are unlikely to suffer any withdrawals (but be careful-even using them regularly for just a few weeks can cause a lot of problems).


How effective they are depends on how much you take and how your body handles them. Many people find that they make flying easy, and in some cases have even cured the fear of flying by leading the brain to make a positive association with flying rather than a negative one! There is a personal experience of Valium here.

For others, the drugs just take the edge of the fear and allow them to keep in control. You will have to experiment.


Don’t be tempted by online pharmacies: their over-priced products may not be subject to rigorous safety testing and you can’t trust them with your credit cards. A sympathetic doctor will normally be happy to prescribe for occasional uses such as flying.

Xanax Rebound Anxiety

Xanax (alprazolam), like other benzodiazepines, is famous for its rebound anxiety – the anxiety that you can get after you stop taking a drug or as the effects of the drug wear off.

With Xanax you can get a rebound effect just from taking the drug once. It is in essence a bit like a hangover. People have reported different symptoms and plenty of people don’t get any rebound anxiety from just taking xanax once or only occasionally. Some of the symptoms people have reported from Xanax come-down are:

  • Feeling Groggy/Spacey
  • Lacking Motivation
  • Feeling Lazy
  • Feeling Anxious
  • Having a Headache

This straight-forward Xanax hangover tends to be mild and pass over the course of the day.

Much more unpleasant and persistent is the rebound anxiety that you can get after you have been taking Xanax for some time (normally at least 2 weeks but less for some people). For an explanation of why rebound anxiety happens please click here.

Some common symptoms of rebound anxiety from Xanax:

  • Anxiety
  • Palpitations (racing heart)
  • Panic Attacks
  • Intense feeling of fear
  • Tight chest and difficulty breathing
  • Upset stomach
  • Aching Muscles

Rebound anxiety is often described as much much worse than the anxiety that lead the patient to take Xanax in the first place. It can be very serious and that is why you should never stop Xanax abruptly and always follow the doctor’s advice!

If you are suffering from rebound anxiety then speak to a doctor and talk about tapering your dose. Else you can be in for a miserable few weeks or months, as rebound anxiety can really go on (length of rebound anxiety seems to depend on amount of time you were taking Xanax, size of dose and personal differences).

Remember, drugs are not the answer to anxiety. If you are interested in permanent solutions to anxiety I recommend reading Killing Anxiety From The Roots, which is all about the underlying physical causes of anxiety.

You might also consider reading our Panic Away Review.

Does Xanax Work for Anxiety?

Xanax (generic name alprazolam) definitely does work. Most people find, that with the right dose, they can effectively control anxiety to the point where it doesn’t bother them. In that respect Xanax is the most effective medication for anxiety and panic attacks that you will ever take.

Let’s all take Xanax

No, accept for a very specific group of circumstances taking alprazolam is probably not a very good idea. In order to understand why we need to look at how Xanax works.

It all comes down to the chemical GABA. If we have lots of GABA we feel calm, if we are depleted of it we can feel anxious. By raising the amount of GABA in our brains we can promote calmness.

Xanax and other benzodiazepines work by blocking the uptake of GABA. This does not raise the level of GABA but makes the GABA you have go further; your brain thinks you have more GABA than you really do.

This is a problem. Your brain becomes confused by all this new GABA and decides that it is over-producing the chemical. It then produces less which means that as the Xanax wears off you are left feeling anxious. This is called rebound anxiety.

If you take Xanax for a short period of time then you might well not get any rebound anxiety as your brain has not figured that it is over-producing GABA. The danger comes when you take Xanax for a longer period of time, even a couple of weeks are enough.

After that, while you might not feel that you are addicted (you won’t necessarily crave Xanax) your body will miss the GABA and you will feel awful. In some cases suddenly stopping taking Xanax can be extremely dangerous, causing seizures. For many people the outcome is acute anxiety. Many people describe rebound anxiety as the worst they have ever felt, much worse than the anxiety that got them taking the medication.

If you are sensible at this point you go for a slow withdrawal from the drug. If you go cold turkey the rebound anxiety can last for months (although does pass over time). I have known rebound anxiety to last for more than five months from two months of using Xanax. So be warned.

When is it a good idea to use Xanax?

When you don’t need it for very long! If you are scared of flying and go on planes three times a year then Xanax is probably not going to cause you many problems (bar the potential side-effects). But as soon as you start taking it more regularly you should be wary, and look for alternatives.

Xanax Anxiety

Xanax, also known by the generic name Alprazolam, has been licensed in the USA to treat anxiety and panic attacks since 1981. It is used in the treatment of anxiety disorders, panic disorder and, in some cases, depression. It is a member of a family of drugs known as Benzodiazepines. It is a mild tranquilizer.

Many people who have experienced drugs like Valium may be aware of how Benzodiazepines can make you feel doped and sleepy. Xanax is not like this for many people. In my own personal experience Xanax didn’t make me feel very different at all, just much much calmer. I didn’t get any of the side effects listed, and in an ad hoc experiment to see how my reaction times were effected I actually found my reactions to be almost exactly as good as when I wasn’t on Xanax.

Some people do suffer from side effects, sleepiness, dizziness and vertigo, nausea. But these drugs are rather well-tolerated.

In terms of dose, it is important to follow your doctor’s instructions. I personally worked my way up from the 0.25mg dose which is the lowest available and now take 1.5mg on an as needed basis.

Initially I took a tiny amount of one Xanax tablet to see how I tolerated it. As I was fine I took the rest. Some people who suffer from anxiety may have a psychosomatic side effect of feeling a sudden onset of anxiety or panic whenever they try something new. This can mean that at first a Benzodiazepine has a paradoxical effect. If I were you I would persevere, as for the short term relief of temporary anxiety and panic attacks this drug is very useful and very effective.

A word of caution. Like all Benzodiazepines, Xanax can be habit forming. If you take it for too long you may need to taper off slowly to avoid withdrawal effects. Also, if you take it often you may find you need to take more to get the same effect. Your doctor will be able to advise you on this.

I don’t recommend you buy from online pharmacies without prescription, you don’t know what you are getting or how safe it is, or even if it will arrive or not!

See also:

Xanax for travel anxiety.

Medication for Anxiety

There is lots of medication for anxiety available on the market. Almost all of it is only available on prescription from a doctor.

Normally, Patients presenting with anxiety are offered Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors (SSRI for short). This family of medication is considered suitable if the anxiety disorder is ongoing, as SSRI’s are not suitable for short term use. They tend to take at least four weeks to start working (although some people claim to feel better in as little as two days) and aren’t thought to be fully effective until they have been taken for 6 weeks to two months. The common SSRI’s are:

Other drugs which might also be prescribed and are similar to SSRI’s are SNRI’s or Serotonin-norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors. The most commonly prescribed SNRI is Venlafaxine (Effexor). SNRI’s are newer than SSRI’s and tend to be slightly better tolerated with fewer side effects. They were designed to treat depression but are also a medication for anxiety. Likewise they are prescribed for long term use, normally six months or more and sometimes years.

Also read this post on Anxiety Medication Over The Counter.

If a medication for anxiety which is short term is needed then there are various other options. In times of extreme grief or pain, or when panic attacks are severe, a short acting anxiolytic might be used. The normal choice would be one of the Benzodiazepine family:

  • Xanax, alprazolam:
  • Lexotan, bromazepam:
  • Librium, chlordiazepoxide:
  • Klonopin, clonazepam:
  • Tranxene, clorazepate:
  • Valium, diazepam:
  • Rohypnol, flunitrazepam:
  • ProSom, estazolam:
  • Dalmane, flurazepam:
  • Paxipam, halazepam:
  • Dormonoct, loprazolam:
  • Ativan, lorazepam:
  • Versed (Hypnovel, Dormicum), midazolam:
  • Mogadon, nitrazepam:
  • Serax, oxazepam:
  • Doral, quazepam:
  • Restoril, temazepam:
  • Halcion, triazolam:

Benzodiazepines are good because they work quickly (less than an hour even) and are very good at what they do – stopping anxiety and panic. In a way they are the ultimate medication for anxiety. The problem is that if they are taken for too long they become less effective and can become addictive. Constant use for more then three weeks is rarely advised. For a personal experience of Valium click here.

Another drug that is not a Benzodiazepine is Buspirone, which is said to be as good as a Benzodiazipine for reducing anxiety but non-addictive and non-sedating. It has a better side-effect profile but can not be taken on an as needed basis. It has to be taken daily and takes two or three weeks to take effect. As it is non-addictive it is much better suited to long-term use Benzodiazepines.

Treatment for Panic Attacks

Treatment for Panic Attacks in mainstream medicine revolves around two things: medication and CBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy).

Medication tends to fall into two categories: SSRI’s and Benzodiazepines.

The SSRI’s, like prozac, celexa, zoloft etc have pros and cons. They are clinically proven to be effective (although all data from big pharma companies has been called in question at sometime or other). Unfortunately they do have side-effects of which weight gain, nausea (normally temporarily) and sexual dysfunction/loss of libido  (normally temporary) are the most severe and commonly reported. SSRI’s normally take 4-6 weeks to start working and may need to be tapered off slowly at the end of treatment.

Benzodiazepines, like Xanax alprazolam and valium also have pros and cons. They are fast working, normally taking considerably less than an hour to kick in, and are extremely effective. On the downside they can be highly addictive and therefore are not best suited to long term use (although they are prescribed long term sometimes). They also can effect concentration and alertness so hinder the consumer’s ability to drive for example.

On the CBT front, over ten or twelve sessions a trained therapist will help you see panic attacks for what they are (harmless natural responses which appear nasty), will show you how to rationalize out the faulty and extreme negative thinking which causes panic attacks, and show you some physical techniques to calm your breathing and relax your mind and body.

Some people argue that CBT doesn’t really get to the heart of the problem, that you need some kind of psychotherapy to do that. Others argue psychotherapy is a pointless and long-winded waste of money.

Often a combination of therapy and drugs work best.

There are other potential treatments for panic attacks involving herbs and supplements like 5-htp which many people swear by. It should be noted that the effects of long term use of these other therapies has not bee fully studied.