Clinic weaning patients off Xanax

Sept. 14, 2011 at 1:29 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky., Sept. 14 (UPI) -- A mental health clinic in Louisville, Ky., is trying to get all of its patients off the anti-anxiety drug Xanax by the end of the year, an official said.

Seven Counties Services, which has about 30,000 mostly poor patients, is trying to switch those who suffer from anxiety and panic attacks from Xanax and its generic version alprazolam to other types of drugs and to strategies to cope without medication, The New York Times reported. Psychiatrists at the clinic halted new prescriptions for Xanax in April.

Alprazolam has become one of the most prescribed drugs in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control reported that emergency room visits for problems caused by alprazolam and related drugs in the benzodiapezine family almost doubled between 2004 and 2008.

Experts say patients can easily become hooked on the drug because its effects kick in quickly and then wear off in a few hours. Patients also develop tolerance, requiring higher doses.

Dr. Scott Hedges, Seven Counties senior vice president for medical services, is confident the experiment will work.

"The literature strongly suggests there are lots of really good ways to treat panic and anxiety disorders without using this particular medication," Hedges told the Times. "And the risk to the community, if we continue to use this medication, is very high."

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