The Dependency Risk: Are Anxiety Meds Addictive?

Are anxiety meds addictive? Find the answer and explore the risks of dependency on anxiety medications and how to manage them effectively.


Anxiety is a common mental health challenge that touches the lives of millions across the globe. In fact, it affects almost 30% of adults at one time or another.1

Thankfully, we’ve made some incredible strides in the medical field that have brought us a range of medications to help soothe and control anxiety symptoms.

are anxiety meds addictive

Are Anxiety Meds Addictive?

With these advancements and increasing warnings about medication addictions, it’s only natural to wonder: are anxiety meds addictive? It’s a valid concern and one that we here at Choice House will answer. 

Read on to unravel the complexities of anxiety medications and their potential for dependency.

Understanding Anxiety Medications

Before diving into the question of “are anxiety meds addictive?”, it’s important to understand the different types available in the market. Commonly prescribed anxiety medications fall into two categories: benzodiazepines and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).2


Benzodiazepines are fast-acting sedatives that can quickly relieve anxiety symptoms. They are effective at managing acute episodes of anxiety. But, they also carry a higher risk of dependency due to their fast-acting nature.

Examples of benzodiazepines include:

  • Xanax
  • Ativan
  • Valium


SRIs are a class of medications used to treat depression. But, they’re also effective in managing anxiety disorders in the long term. SSRIs work by regulating serotonin levels in the brain, helping to stabilize mood and reduce symptoms of anxiety. 

While they’re generally considered less addictive than benzodiazepines, they’re not without risks. Some common SSRIs prescribed for anxiety are:

  • Prozac
  • Zoloft
  • Lexapro

The Risks of Dependency Associated With Common Anxiety Medications

Wilderness therapy programs involve participants engaging in activities such as:

Now that we’ve got a basic understanding of the types of anxiety medications, let’s delve into the risks associated with them. From physical and psychological dependence to increased anxiety and side effects, these risks can affect you in multiple ways.

Physical Dependence

Physical dependence can occur when the body gets used to the presence of the drug. It can lead to withdrawal symptoms when you stop or reduce the medication. The symptoms show that the body has become reliant on the drug to function as normal.

Psychological Dependence

Psychological dependence is when you start to feel emotionally or mentally reliant on a drug. This could mean you feel unable to cope with stress or anxiety without the medication.


Tolerance is when the body gets used to a drug, needing higher doses to achieve the same effect. Tolerance can increase the risk of dependency. It also has implications for long-term anxiety management.

Increased Anxiety

It’s a bit ironic, but prolonged use of anxiety medications can sometimes lead to increased anxiety. This phenomenon is known as rebound anxiety.3 It can create a vicious cycle where you need higher doses of the medication, increasing the risk of dependency.

Impaired Cognitive Function

Long-term use of certain anxiety medications, particularly benzodiazepines, can lead to cognitive impairment. 

This can include problems with:

  • Memory
  • Attention
  • Decision-making

Side Effects

Are anxiety meds addictive, and do they have side effects? Like all medications, anxiety drugs come with potential side effects. 

These include:

Warnings and Indicators of Anxiety Medication Dependency

So, are anxiety meds addictive? The short answer is yes, they can be. It’s important to know the signs of dependency so you can seek help if needed. 

Some of the warning signs and indicators of anxiety medication dependency will be detailed below.

Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms can indicate a physical dependence on anxiety medication. Some symptoms include: 

  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Physical discomfort
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Seizures
  • Confusion
  • Change in appetite

Inability to Stop Using the Medication

If you find it difficult to stop using the medication, even when you want to, this could be a sign of dependency.

Preoccupation with the Drug

Another warning sign of dependency is spending a lot of time:

  • Thinking about the drug
  • Getting it
  • Recovering from its effects

Continued Use Despite Problems

Continuing to use the medication despite experiencing negative consequences, such as relationship problems or health issues, can indicate dependency.

Neglect of Responsibilities or Interests

If you start neglecting your responsibilities or losing interest in activities you once enjoyed, you may be dependent on your medication.


Engaging in risky behavior, such as driving while under the influence of medication, can be a warning sign of dependency.

How to Manage the Risks of Anxiety Medication Dependency

Now that we have a clear answer to the question, “Are anxiety meds addictive?” and understand the risks associated with anxiety medications, we need to know what to do about them. 

From regular monitoring and gradual dosage adjustment to psychotherapy, there are several ways to manage these risks.

Regular Monitoring

Regular check-ins with a healthcare provider are crucial when taking anxiety medication. This allows for the early detection of signs of dependency and the adjustment of the treatment plan as needed.

Gradual Dosage Adjustment

If dependency is suspected, it’s important not to stop the medication abruptly. Instead, a gradual reduction in dosage, supervised by a healthcare provider, can help manage withdrawal symptoms.

Use Medication as Directed

Taking medication exactly as prescribed is key to managing the risks of dependency. This means not taking more than the recommended dose and not using the medication recreationally.


Psychotherapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, can be an effective adjunct to medication in the treatment of anxiety. 

It can also provide tools to manage anxiety without medication, reducing the risk of dependency.

Healthy Lifestyle

A healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise, a balanced diet, and adequate sleep, can help manage anxiety symptoms and reduce reliance on medication.

Avoid Alcohol and Other Substances

Alcohol and other substances can interact with anxiety medications, increasing the risk of dependency and other adverse effects.

Support Network

Having a strong support network can be invaluable in managing anxiety and the risks associated with medication. This can include friends and family, as well as support groups and mental health professionals.

Are Anxiety Meds Addictive: Prescribing Them and Finding the Balance

When it comes to prescribing anxiety medications, it’s all about finding the right balance between therapeutic benefit and dependency risk. This is part of a bigger concept in medicine known as risk-benefit analysis.4

Let’s explore some of the factors that healthcare providers consider when deciding on the best treatment plan:

Assessing Severity and Duration of Anxiety

If you’re dealing with short-term, intense bouts of anxiety or extremely distressing situations, benzodiazepines might be the go-to. This is because their benefits (like quick relief and effectiveness) outweigh the short-term risks.

For ongoing, long-term anxiety, other options like selective SSRIs or talk therapy might be the better choice due to a lower risk of dependency.

Your Medical History

If you’ve had a past struggle with substance abuse or addiction, your healthcare provider will likely tread carefully when it comes to prescribing medications with a high risk of dependency. In these cases, they might explore alternative treatments that come with a lower risk of dependency.

Tolerance Development

If you’ve been on a certain anxiety medication for a while and it seems like you need higher doses for the same relief, your healthcare provider might decide to switch up your medications. They might also look into non-drug interventions to reduce the risk of dependency.

Co-Occurring Disorders

If you’re juggling multiple conditions (like anxiety and depression or anxiety and chronic pain), the healing benefits of certain medications might be significant enough to justify their use, despite the potential for dependency. In these situations, careful monitoring and strategies to manage the risk will be key.

Patient Preference

Some people might prefer to steer clear of medications with a high risk of dependency. If that’s you, your healthcare provider will likely explore other therapeutic options like cognitive-behavioral therapy, SSRIs, or other non-benzodiazepine anxiety medications.

In all situations, the goal of your healthcare provider is to find the most effective treatment plan for you that also minimizes potential risks.

It’s a complex decision that involves:

  • Careful consideration of many factors
  • Close monitoring
  • Ongoing adjustment of the treatment plan

Are Anxiety Meds Addictive: How Medical Professionals Determine the Appropriate Duration of Treatment

Are anxiety meds addictive, and how long should you be on anxiety medication without the risk of dependency? It’s a common question, and the answer depends on a variety of factors.

Nature and Severity of Symptoms

The nature and severity of your anxiety symptoms can influence the duration of treatment. More severe symptoms may require longer treatment.

Individual Response to Medication

How you respond to the medication can also determine the duration of treatment. If you experience significant relief from symptoms with the medication, a longer duration may be appropriate.

Risk of Dependency

The risk of dependency is another critical factor. If you’re at high risk of developing dependency, a shorter duration may be recommended.

Comorbid Conditions

The presence of comorbid conditions, such as depression or substance use disorders, can influence how long your doctor recommends treatment. These conditions may need additional treatment strategies and a longer duration of care.

Patient Preference

Your preference is also considered when determining the duration of treatment. Some people may prefer a shorter duration due to concerns about dependency or side effects.

Are Anxiety Meds Addictive: Alternative and Complementary Treatments to Reduce Dependency Risk

Are you looking for alternatives to medication or ways to complement your current treatment? Thankfully, there are many methods available. 

From cognitive behavioral therapy and dance therapy to meditation and yoga, there are plenty of options to explore. We offer all these options here at Choice House to help men reduce their risk of dependency on anxiety medications.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is a type of psychotherapy that can be effective in treating anxiety. It involves identifying and challenging negative thought patterns and developing coping strategies.

One particularly effective form of CBT is dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), which is a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy that teaches skills to:

  • Manage stress
  • Regulate emotions
  • Improve relationships

It can be particularly effective for people with severe anxiety.

Dance Therapy

Dance therapy uses movement to promote emotional, physical, and mental well-being. It can be a fun and engaging way to manage anxiety symptoms.

Art Therapy

Art therapy allows people to express their feelings and experiences through creative activities. It can provide a therapeutic outlet for anxiety and reduce reliance on medication.


Regular physical activity is known to reduce anxiety symptoms. It promotes the release of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that act as natural mood lifters.

Meditation and Mindfulness

Meditation and mindfulness practices can help people stay present and focused, reducing anxious thoughts. They can get easily incorporated into daily routines and can be practiced anywhere.

Yoga and Tai Chi

Yoga and Tai Chi are mind-body practices that combine:

  • Physical postures
  • Breathing exercises
  • Meditation

They can help reduce anxiety and improve mental well-being.

Experiential Therapy

Experiential therapy involves activities such as role-playing, using props, or engaging in outdoor activities. 

At Choice House, we offer a world-class outdoor and wilderness therapy program that allows men to connect with nature and engage in physical activity, which can be therapeutic and beneficial for mental health.

Drama Therapy

Drama therapy uses theatrical techniques to promote personal growth and mental well-being. It can provide a safe space to express feelings and explore personal experiences.

are anxiety meds addictive

Get Help With Dependency at Choice House

While anxiety medications can be effective in managing symptoms, it’s crucial to be aware of the potential for dependency. 

By understanding the risks, taking steps to manage them, and knowing when to seek help, you can navigate your treatment journey safely and effectively.

If you have questions like “are anxiety meds addictive?”, Choice House has the answers.

How We Can Help

If you’re a young man struggling with dependency on anxiety medication, don’t worry—you’re not alone. 

Located in the beautiful town of Boulder, Colorado, we help men tackle substance use disorder and co-occurring mental health conditions that often go hand-in-hand. 

Our experiential treatment methods focusing on outdoor activities and alternative therapies are designed to help you recover from dependency and cope with anxiety. We’re here to make a difference, and we’re dedicated to helping you on your journey.

Contact Choice House Today

If you or a loved one is struggling with dependency on anxiety medication, don’t hesitate to reach out. 

Contact Choice House today and discover how we can help you regain control of your life, rebuild trust, and find healthier ways to cope with anxiety, stress, and depression.