The most common medications to manage symptoms of stress are tranquilizers, beta-blockers, and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), among others. Additional treatments may include acupuncture and herbal remedies.
Stress is the body’s natural response to dangerous situations in which a person feels threatened or is under pressure.
Everyone experiences stress differently, and how a person feels may depend on their genetics, experiences, and social and economic circumstances.
Learn more about the common symptoms of stress and the prescribed medications to address it, including the types, interactions with other medications, and potential side effects. We will also explore alternative treatments and home remedies.
Common symptoms of stress can include:
- muscle tension
- heart palpitations
- a feeling of being overwhelmed
- difficulty concentrating or remembering things
- changes in mood
When a person experiences a stressful situation, their body releases a stress hormone, cortisol, which prepares the body to deal with danger. While this hormone can help a person cope in demanding situations, ongoing stress can take a mental and physical toll.
Stress can affect a person’s day-to-day life. However, several medications can help manage the symptoms.
Benzodiazepines are a type of prescription tranquilizer medications that doctors prescribe for their calming effect. Typically, a doctor will prescribe benzodiazepines in the short term, for
Benzodiazepines work by enhancing the effect of gamma-aminobutyric acid, a substance that sends calming signals to the body. These calming signals counteract the overstimulation that happens in the body when a person experiences anxiety. They quickly and effectively reduce symptoms.
Some of the most common types of benzodiazepines are:
A person can take the medication orally, or a doctor can administer it through an intravenous injection, which delivers the drug directly into the veins.
The dosage will vary depending on a person’s weight, sex, and tolerance.
While benzodiazepines can offer fast-acting relief, the effects may last only a few hours. Below are examples of dose types and how long they last for Valium (diazepam) and alprazolam (Xanax).
Diazepam will take effect within 15–40 minutes and last 5–8 hours.
Light dose: 2.5–5 milligrams (mg)
Common dose: 5–15 mg
Strong dose: 15–30 mg
For anxiety-related conditions, people can take this medication up to three times per day, as needed.
Xanax will take effect within 20–40 minutes and last 5–8 hours.
Light dose: 0.25–0.5 mg
Common dose: 0.5–1.5 mg
Strong dose: 1.5–2 mg
For anxiety-related conditions, people can take this medication three times daily, as needed.
Some substances can have a negative interaction with benzodiazepines,
Potential side effects
Side effects of benzodiazepines can
Long-term use of benzodiazepines can come with the risk of addiction and overuse.
A person may wish to discuss with their doctor the risks and benefits of benzodiazepines and how to navigate the possibility of addiction.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
- increased heart rate
Some common types of beta-blockers
- acebutolol (Sectral)
- bisoprolol (Zebeta)
- propranolol (Inderal)
- metoprolol (Lopressor)
- sotalol (Betapace)
A doctor may suggest taking beta-blockers before stressful events or prescribe them for a person to take regularly.
Before taking beta-blockers, a person should inform their doctor if they have a history of any of the
If a person is pregnant, they should consult their doctor before taking beta-blockers.
Some medications may interact with beta-blockers and affect the way they work. These include:
- nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
Potential side effects
Beta-blockers may cause a range of side effects,
SSRIs, a group of prescription antidepressants, treat anxiety and depression.
SSRIs work by reducing the reuptake of serotonin so that more serotonin is available in the body.
- citalopram (Celexa)
- escitalopram (Lexapro)
- fluoxetine (Prozac)
- fluvoxamine (Luvox)
- paroxetine (Paxil)
- sertraline (Zoloft)
- vilazodone (Viibryd)
Unlike benzodiazepines, SSRIs are a type of medication that doctors tend to prescribe for long-term use. A person can take SSRIs orally in tablet, capsule, or liquid form. In most cases, a person will take their SSRI medication once daily.
A doctor typically starts a person on a low dose and gradually increases it if needed. A person can begin to feel the effects of SSRIs within 2–4 weeks.
Some medications can affect how SSRIs work or increase the risk of adverse side effects. Medications that may interact with SSRIs include:
- other antidepressants
Examples of such substances include:
- headache medications
- herbal supplements such as St John’s wort
Potential side effects
Possible side effects of SSRIs include:
SNRIs are prescription antidepressants that increase serotonin levels in the body. If a person does not respond to SSRIs, they may respond to SNRIs, which work slightly differently.
In addition to serotonin, SNRIs prevent the uptake of norepinephrine, a substance that plays a key role in attention, memory, and focus. Over time, these changes boost levels of serotonin and norepinephrine in the body and aim to improve a person’s mood and anxiety levels.
SNRIs come in tablet, capsule, and liquid form, and a person takes them
SNRIs can interact with certain medications, many of which also interact with SSRIs and come with the risk of serotonin syndrome.
Potential side effects
SNRIs can have the same side effects as SSRIs and may also cause:
Medical professionals may
The dose of pregabalin can vary, but doctors tend to prescribe a low dose at first and increase it gradually.
Pregabalin comes in capsule, tablet, and liquid form. The usual dose of pregabalin is 150–600 mg per day, split into 2 or 3 doses. If a person takes pregabalin as a liquid, taking 2.5 milliliters is usually the same as taking a single 50-mg capsule.
Pregabalin may not have an immediate effect, and it can take a few weeks for a person to feel the benefits. If pregabalin works well for a person, a doctor will tend to prescribe it in the long term.
Medications that interact with pregabalin include:
- gabapentin (Neurontin)
- sleep medications such as Ambien
- cyclobenzaprine (Amrix)
While this list includes some interactions, it does not cover every possible interaction. A person should tell their doctor about any medications they are taking before starting pregabalin.
Possible side effects
Possible side effects of pregabalin include:
- mood changes
- blurred vision
- swelling of the hands and feet
The side effects are often mild and can go away after a few weeks. If side effects continue to affect a person’s quality of life, they may wish to speak with their doctor.
A person may find alternative therapies helpful in managing stress.
People can seek out therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, with a mental health professional.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is another therapy a person can use to manage stress. MBSR helps people relax by focusing on their awareness of their breathing and body in the present moment.
- emotional exhaustion
- general stress
- occupational stress
- psychological distress
Other therapies that a person may find helpful in managing stress include:
Certain lifestyle habits may also help a person manage stress, including:
Stress can affect a person both mentally and physically. However, several medications can help reduce the symptoms of stress.
Each medication has unique dosages, risks, and considerations. A person can work with a doctor to find the most suitable treatment.