Purpose of review
The aim of this study is to provide a review of articles published between July 2007 and August 2008 on the current use and rationale of benzodiazepines in anxiety disorders.
Recent review articles confirm selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors as first-choice drugs for treating anxiety disorders, alongside newer agents such as pregabalin or serotonin–norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, and combined with cognitive–behavioural therapy. Benzodiazepines are still widely used by clinicians for these disorders, as shown by recent surveys, even though their anxiolytic effectiveness is questioned. Newer agents are in development and may in the future resolve the therapeutic dilemma.
Despite current guidelines, benzodiazepines are still considered by many clinicians to remain good treatment options, in both the acute and the chronic phase of the treatment of anxiety disorders, partially because of their rapid onset of action and their efficacy with a favourable side effect profile, and also because of the sometimes only incomplete therapeutic response and the emergence of side effects of alternative medications. Having experienced good initial symptom relief with benzodiazepine treatment, patients may also be reluctant to taper it down. Clinicians should, however, bear in mind the frequent physiological dependence associated with these substances, and suggest both pharmacological and psychological treatment alternatives before opting for a long-term benzodiazepine treatment, which may remain necessary in certain clinical conditions.