Most people recognize the difference between good stress and bad stress. Good stress helps you get up in the morning, go to work, be creative and put bread on the table. Good stress can sometimes be a challenge but it makes life interesting.
Bad stress, on the other hand, can make you not want to get up in the morning! It ruins jobs and relationships and can make you ill. It raises blood pressure, for instance, and that’s just for a start. When stress starts to take over and ruin your life and health you need help. It’s all very well to take about natural health but there are times when help starts at the doctor’s office and leads to the pharmacy.
So when drugs are the only practical alternative for a stress crisis what kind of help is available?
Well, the days of your family doctor casually dispensing “mother’s little helper” (valium) for any difficult patch are long gone. Nowadays doctors are closely scrutinized and they feel pressured to justify prescriptions for psychoactive drugs like valium, a common tranquilizer. (This is probably for the good although slightly hypocritical when the medical profession is only too eager to addict millions to anti-depressants and even children to powerful drugs like Ritalin. It partly depends on which drugs are currently in or out of favor.)
Despite many doctor’s reluctance to prescribe them, benzodiazipines, a large class of drug which includes valium, Librium and the newer Xanax are still the most commonly prescribed drug for temporary and/or situational stress or anxiety. Despite the fact that they have been around a long time, they are still probably the most effective drugs available for generalized stress, at least for short term use.
In addition to general stress and anxiety relief, benzodiazepines are also used to relieve the symptoms of alcohol and narcotic withdrawal. If your stress problems are compounded by drugs or alcohol, benzodiazepines could be useful as they can help you cut your dependence on these substances while also relieving your stress.
There are many other types of drugs used to treat such conditions as anxiety, panic attack, social phobia and depression. These include the notorious Prozac and its relatives. These are probably not as suitable for the short-term treatment of stress as the benzodiazepines but that’s for your doctor to determine.
Another interesting class of drugs, which could prove useful in certain cases, is beta-blockers. Atenolol and Inderal are well-known beta-blockers. These drugs are used primarily to treat high blood pressure but they also have the ability to calm and relieve anxiety and the racing heartbeat associated with these conditions. The psychoactive effect of beta-blockers is not at strong as that of the benzodiazepines but they can often be useful as a complementary treatment because severe stress is often associated with high blood pressure.
The problem with most of these drugs, especially the tranquilizers, is that they are useful for short-term use only. Not only do their effects become less pronounced over time – requiring increasing doses to get the same effect – but they are also highly addictive. Generally speaking, about one month is their maximum practical period of effectiveness.
To be sure, treating stress with drugs is only ever a stop-gap measure to get one through a crisis. Going to your doctor for a prescription should also open a door to more long-term solutions for stress and anxiety. This is where natural methods come into their place. Natural methods for coping with stress are as numerous and varied as the causes of stress.
Some ways to reduce stress naturally may even mimic the physical actions of the drugs just described. For example, tranquilizers actually relax muscles and relieve the associated tension. In fact, valium if often referred to as a muscle-relaxant. Likewise, many natural relaxation techniques work by relaxing the muscles to release tension. Relieving the physical sensation of stress can also help relieve the psychic and emotional discomfort.
In a similar way, beta-blockers work by relaxing blood vessels, allowing them to open and improve blood flow, thereby lowering blood pressure. A natural method called slow breathing also relaxes muscles that constrict major blood vessels. In this way it both relieves stress and reduces high blood pressure.
Drugs are unfairly looked down upon by some natural health advocates. But tranquilizers or sedatives can be lifesavers during a crisis. And they can be a first step to finding a lasting solution to stress and anxiety. Their actions may even point the way to effective natural methods.