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Study: Anti-anxiety medicine doubles risk of death

By Tatevik Aprikyan
Published On: Apr 03 2014 10:42:13 PM CDT
Updated On: Apr 04 2014 05:12:41 PM CDT

New Study: Anti-Anxiety Drugs Double Risk Of Death

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho -

Forty million Americans have anxiety, and many take medicine to manage it. A large study published in The British Medical Journal found people who took anti-anxiety drugs like Xanax and Valium more than doubled the risk of death.

Medicine is usually prescribed when anxiety and stress start impacting your daily life, but local doctors also say non-medical management can work well.

"It's been an issue for about 30 years," said Ron Condon, who has been dealing with anxiety.

"There's not a day that goes by, typically,  that we don't see someone with anxiety," said Dr. James Maguire, a physician at Community Care in Idaho Falls.

"To me how I can say it, it's like you're getting ready for your first prom date, you're nervous, you look at yourself in the mirror, your tuxedo isn't right, you keep adjusting. times that by a thousand. You're constantly on edge," said Condon.

"They can't turn their mind off. They're laying in bed at night and they're thinking, thinking," said Maguire.

"After a while it became normal like this is my life," said Condon.

In the '80s when his anxiety started, he was prescribed Xanax, which for the short term did help him.

"I started taking that for a while, and it just wigged me out," said Condon.

Over the years his anxiety became chronic.

"I was anxious about the anxiety. That's a vicious cycle, right?" said Condon.

Maguire said most people have some form of stress of anxiety. A couple days of it is typical and not a cause for concern.

"When it's interfering with relationships, your sleep patterns, your overall well-being -- it's time to intervene," said Maguire.

Intervening nowadays is usually with drugs.

"We want to use medicines that work right here, right now. Those are the Xanax, the Valium, the Klonopin," said Maguire.

Researchers say these medicines classified as benzodiazepines work well for short term use. Long-term use of these drugs can be addicting and unhealthy.

"The side-effects did not outweigh the benefits, and that was it for me. I didn't want to be dependent on the drugs," said Condon.

Condon turned to alternate methods. He takes St. John's wort and L-tryptophan to sleep. He says prayer and meditation also help, and exercise plays a big part.

Studies have shown an hour at the gym of going for a jog is every bit as good as medicines to manage anxiety.

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