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Is Anxiety Medication Safe for Teens?

Posted on February 2, 2024

Is Anxiety Medication Safe for Teens?

Anxiety disorder [1] is a mental health condition. While it is common among teenagers and young people, it is also common among older people – it is not exclusive to a particular demographic.

When someone suffers from anxiety disorder, they will experience a range of debilitating symptoms [2].

These symptoms include but are not limited to trepidation, excessive worrying, panic attacks, paranoia, restlessness, increased heart rate, and more.

While the symptoms of anxiety sounds extremely counterintuitive – they can actually be helpful and are natural feelings in certain environments.

Someone may feel anxious entering a room for an interview or an exam, whereas others may experience intense levels of anxiety in situations that may be perceived as dangerous to our safety – this can incite the “flight or flight response”.

However, people who suffer from anxiety disorder may experience symptoms of anxiety in very calm, non-eventful or non-stressful situations.

People who experience symptoms such as these in social situations or even by themselves may be suffering from anxiety disorder.

Studies suggest that around 60% of people in the UK suffer from symptoms of anxiety [3] which affects their daily lives. Furthermore, there remains to be many more people who suffer from anxiety disorder that have not yet been diagnosed.

The same study shows that around 45% of people who are suffering from anxiety suffer in silence, and are reluctant to share their problems regarding anxiety with friends, family members, and social services.

Worried about the impact of anxiety on your life? Give our experts a call on 0800 088 66 86

Anxiety Disorder and the Brain

Woman looking anxious

When suffering from anxiety, the brain undergoes significant changes, particularly in areas such as the amygdala and hippocampus.

The amygdala contains grey matter – which is important towards regulating emotions and rationality, whereas the hippocampus is vital in facilitating learning and memorisation.

These areas are significantly impaired when suffering from anxiety disorders.

Studies also show that long-term and severe forms of anxiety disorder increase the likelihood of dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases[4] in the future, making it even more important to deal with through therapeutic approaches and medication.

The same study also suggests that dealing with and treating anxiety disorder decreases the likelihood of developing dementia.

To learn more about how anxiety impacts your brain, reach out ot us today on 0800 088 66 86

Types of Anxiety Disorders

Doctor checking a clipboard

The types of anxiety disorders can vary, and include but are not limited to:

  • Generalised anxiety disorder: Generalised anxiety disorder is typically characterised by feelings of anxiety and trepidation about events that may happen. People who suffer from this are anxious about things that have not even happened or may overestimate the severity of situations in their minds.
  • Social anxiety disorder: Social anxiety refers to someone feeling extreme worry over social situations because it may cause humiliation, embarrassment, criticising, and so on. People with social anxiety disorder often avoid socialising because of the perceived humiliation or criticism that they think that it may bring.
  • Panic attacks: Panic attacks can cause physical symptoms such as dizziness, chest pain, rapid and shallow breathing, sweating, and so on.
  • Separation anxiety disorder: Someone suffering from separation anxiety may suffer when they are away from home or away from someone who they are dependent on. This can refer to a parent, sibling, or a partner.
  • Specific phobia: Someone may suffer from a phobia which causes symptoms of anxiety. Common phobias include agoraphobia (fear of entrapment), claustrophobia (fear of small spaces), thalassophobia (fear of the ocean), or things which are irrational such as fear of numbers (arithmophobia).
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): PTSD happens when someone has suffered a great deal of trauma and has internalised it. When someone suffers from PTSD, they are unable to face certain situations and may suffer from extreme sensitivity to certain subjects. Common causes of PTSD are childhood abuse, war, severe injury, death, and more.

For help tackling your anxiety call our team today on 0800 088 66 86

What is Anxiety Medication?

Collection of pills and medication

Anxiety medication (or anti-anxiety medication) comes in a wide range of forms and will vary according to its effects, and patients will be prescribed different medications according to their genetic or psychological factors.

The use of medication in order to treat a disorder such as anxiety is referred to as pharmacological intervention or pharmacological treatment.

The purpose of anxiety medication is to reduce the symptoms of anxiety, such as panic attacks, restlessness, trepidation, extreme fear or worry, stress, and so on.

Billions of pounds and dollars are invested each year into new methods of anxiety treatment.

While treatment methods and innovation are ever-developing, safeguarding these methods means that many forms of treatment are not yet available for public consumption.

What are Some Examples of Anxiety Medication?

  • Antidepressants (SSRI): Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are one of the most commonly prescribed and used forms of anxiety medication. This medication is prescribed in order to increase the levels of serotonin in someone’s brain, as low levels of serotonin can lead to symptoms of anxiety and depression.
  • Benzodiazepines: Benzodiazepines are a commonly prescribed form of medication, especially if the patient’s response to SSRIs are not as effective as initially anticipated. Benzodiazepines are very effective because of their quick acting properties but long lasting effects. Alprazolam is often sold under the brand name of Xanax, and is a form of benzodiazepines.
  • Buspar: Buspar is another form of anxiety medication with the purpose of increasing serotonin in the brain. Unlike Xanax, Buspar is not sedative and does not have the same potential of dependence.

Make sure that your anxiety is medicated safely sand effectively by giving our team a call on 0800 088 66 86

Is Anxiety Medication Safe for Teenagers and Young People?

teenager stress

Some forms of anxiety medication may come with side effects, both physical and psychological. Studies have shown that SSRIs, for example, have caused some patients to experience symptoms such as:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhoea
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Low libido
  • Trembling
  • Restlessness

It is important that patients discuss with their doctor and health practitioner their side effects because they will vary in form and severity from one patient to another.

Based on the side effects and the patient’s unique details, the health practitioner may lower the dosage, or prescribe another form of medication.

Get help with anxiety whatever your age by calling our expert team today on 0800 088 66 86

Is Prescribing Anxiety Medication to Teenagers Ethical?

Doctor typing on a laptop

While anxiety medication is a common way to help people overcome their symptoms of anxiety to live a more comfortable life, studies show that around 33% of patients suffering from anxiety do not experience remission from anxiety disorder [5].

Although this means that anxiety medication is successful for every two out of three patients, it means that it does not necessarily work for all patients and some will need another way to treat their disorder.

Prescribing anxiety medication for teenagers can be ethical, but must be done only under the guidance of a medical professional.

While many forms of anxiety medication have low potentials for dependence or “abuse”, such as SSRIs, others can be more addictive.

This means that even if it helps minimise the symptoms of anxiety, the patient may struggle to function optimally without this medication.

Treatment for anxiety disorders mostly takes place as an outpatient. Patients very rarely require to be hospitalised unless they are suffering from severe bouts of depression and suicide ideation which requires more thorough monitoring.

To discuss the benefits and drawbacks of anxiety medication on the teenage brain, give our team a call on 0800 088 66 86

Anxiety as a Symptom of Substance Use Disorder (SUD)

Two patients having a serious conversation

Drug and alcohol addiction, otherwise known as substance use disorder (SUD), is a prevalent mental and physiological illness among people of all ages in the United Kingdom.

This is particularly the case with young people and teenagers who are exposed to a coercive binge drinking culture and antisocial behaviour which causes them to engage in drug and alcohol consumption.

Anxiety disorder and depression shares a mutually destructive relationship with substance use disorder or drug and alcohol addiction.

The relationship can work in two different ways: either the subject suffers from symptoms of anxiety and seeks drug and alcohol consumption in order to relieve themselves of these symptoms – this is called self-medicating – or their frequent and excessive drug and alcohol consumption can lead to the development or worsening of symptoms such as anxiety, depression, irritability, and other cognitive impairments and mental health issues.

A study conducted by the UK government discovered that 70% of patients [6] who entered a drug and alcohol rehab from 2021 to 2022 required additional mental health treatment for mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

What makes substance use disorder so dangerous with patients who are suffering from anxiety disorder is that they exacerbate each other’s issues dramatically.

Alcohol is a depressant, and this can lead to significant chemical changes in the brain which further exacerbates symptoms of anxiety and depression.

On the other hand, other drugs are depressants, or stimulants, or even both simultaneously, and this can lead to more effects on the brain.

The prefrontal cortex – the area of the brain which is responsible for processing emotions, memorisation, and rational thinking and behaviour –  is severely affected and impaired by drug and alcohol consumption, particularly among young people and teenagers whose brains are still undergoing neurological development.

Abstaining from drugs and alcohol can drastically reduce the levels of anxiety which someone experiences. Subjects can safely overcome their drug or alcohol dependence by entering a drug and alcohol rehab as an inpatient or an outpatient.

Here, they will have access to counselling, therapy, medication and guidance on how to abstain from addictive substances.

Worried about the impact of anxiety and addiction on your life? Talk to our expert team on 0800 088 66 86

Polydrug use – Alcohol and Anxiety Medication

Alcohol bottle and glasses

Polydrug use refers to the consumption of two or more forms of drugs within the same timeframe.

Not only does this include consuming alcohol with illicit drugs such as cocaine, but consuming alcohol during the same timeframe as consuming anxiety medication is also considered polydrug use and can cause complications.

Drugs and alcohol can actually counteract the positive effects of the anxiety medication which you’re taking.

This can lead to increased levels of anxiety and depression. Alcohol also has a severe impact on our sleep quality – despite making us feel relaxed in the short term.

This will not only affect your cognition, mood levels, and anxiety, but it can exacerbate any existing side effects.

Your medication requires consistent usage to be effective, and you must stick to the guidelines set by your medical health practitioner.

Rather than pausing your anxiety medication in order to drink, consider abstaining from alcohol or minimising your consumption in order to reap the mental and physical benefits of sobriety and your medication.

In order to develop these habits of sobriety, consider reaching out and entering a drug and alcohol rehab to help you fulfil a healthy life of abstinence.

Don’t let anxiety control your life – take to our team today on 0800 088 66 86


[1] Anxiety Disorders: Types, Causes, Symptoms & Treatments

[2] Anxiety signs and symptoms – Mind


[4] Does Anxiety Increase the Risk of all-Cause Dementia? An Updated Meta-Analysis of Prospective Cohort Studies

[5] Pharmacological treatment of anxiety disorders: Current treatments and future directions

[6] Adult Substance Misuse Treatment Statistics 2021 to 2022: Report

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