Benzodiazepines are prescribed for short-term relief of severe and disabling anxiety. Common medications are lorazepam (Ativan), clonazepam (Klonopin), alprazolam (Xanax), and diazepam (Valium). Benzodiazepines may also be indicated to cover the latent periods associated with the medications prescribed to treat an underlying anxiety disorder. They are used to treat a wide variety of conditions and symptoms and are usually a first choice when short-term CNS sedation is needed. Longer term uses include treatment for severe anxiety and psychosis. There is a risk of withdrawal symptoms and rebound syndrome after continuous usage past two weeks. There is also the added problem of the accumulation of drug metabolites and adverse effects.
Buspirone (BuSpar) is a serotonin 1A agonist. It lacks the sedation and the dependence associated with benzodiazepines and causes much less cognitive impairment. It may be less effective than benzodiazepines in patients who have been previously treated with benzodiazepines as the medication does not provide the sedation that these patients may expect or equate with anxiety relief.
A team from Brazil found cannabidiol (a constituent of marijuana) to be an effective anti-psychotic and anxiolytic 'CBD induced a clear anxiolytic effect and a pattern of cerebral activity compatible with anxiolytic activity. Therefore, similar to the data obtained in animal models, results from studies on healthy volunteers have strongly suggested an anxiolytic-like effect of CBD'.
Pineapple sage, or salvia elegans, is used as a treatment for anxiety in traditional Mexican medicine, and a preliminary study on mice has yielded some support for both anxiolytic and antidepressant properties.
Chlorpheniramine is the only over the counter medication reported to have some, very mild anxiolytic properties (off-label use). The drug is approved by the FDA for allergies, rhinitis, and urticaria.