There are many non-pharmacologic interventions for reducing anxiety. Some of these include dietary supplements, acupuncture, meditation, yoga, and exercise. These interventions, however, are not employed by a large segment of society which suffers from anxiety. These persons instead seek medications from their physician to alleviate their suffering.
Typical classes of medications for anxiety include the SSRI’s, benzodiazepines as well as the off label use of antihistamines and atypical antipsychotic medications and antiepileptic medications. In addition to the inherent problems with SSRI’s, there are also problems with the other classes of medications.
A serious potential side effect of benzodiazepines is their potential for inducing physical and psychological dependence. In addition, withdrawal symptoms can prove life threatening, especially with the shorter acting benzodiazepines like alprazolam. When taken as directed, which is often not the case; this class of medications can result in compromised coordination, slowed reaction time, falls, disinhibition, delirium, and anterograde amnesia.
It is not uncommon to see suicide attempts involving a combination of a benzodiazepines together with alcohol and/or another sedative hypnotic. While buspirone is relatively well tolerated, it has poor efficacy and a 3 to 4 week lag time to have an effect. Medications such as gabapentin are used off label but there is no research to support its efficacy for anxiety disorders.
Unfortunately, physicians have begun using the atypical antipsychotic medications to treat anxiety. This class of medications has a large and increasing number of very serious side effects. Recent attention has been focused on their causing metabolic syndrome. They frequently cause extra pyramidal side effects, sedation, elevated prolactin levels and drug/drug interactions. All of these medications should be avoided during pregnancy and used with caution in the elderly.
In short, the side effect profile of current pharmacologic treatments for anxiety limits their safe use. CES is a safe, initial alternative to such medications.
By Jason Worchel, M.D., a noted psychiatrist and Director of the Hilo Mental Health Center in Hilo, HI. This post is from a paper written by Dr. Worchel in his testimony before the F.D.A. concerning the effectiveness and safety of CES from the perspective of a practicing psychiatrist.