What Anxiety or Depression Medications are Safe to Use in Addiction Recovery?

What Anxiety or Depression Medications are Safe to Use in Addiction Recovery

Finding anxiety medication and depression medications that are safe in addiction recovery without forming a new substance use disorder is critical.

The statistics surrounding people suffering from an addiction and a mental health condition such as anxiety or depression at the same time are staggering. According to a National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 45% of Americans have a dual diagnosis.1 Those with dual diagnoses have a mental health condition and a substance abuse disorder. Due to the prevalence of both conditions, simultaneously treating them can be a challenge.

We will examine what medications are safe to take during recovery to treat anxiety and depression and how a therapy program as part of an addiction treatment plan can help.

Safe Anxiety and Depression Medications to Use in Addiction Recovery

When someone suffering from anxiety or depression is recovering from an addiction to drugs or alcohol, they must still treat their mental health disorder. This experience can be frightening because people don’t want to fall into another addiction to this new substance in their bodies.

Some anxiety and depression medications are generally safe to take during addiction recovery since they aren’t likely to lead to a new substance use disorder.2 As we look at which ones these include, it’s important to note that a licensed medical professional should manage any prescriptions. Working closely with a medical professional while being honest and open can prevent further addictions while treating current conditions.

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRIs)

These medications are generally the first prescribed to treat anxiety and depression. They work by correcting chemical deficiencies, and most people can tolerate them well.

Common drugs that fall under this category include:2

  • Fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • Citalopram (Celexa)
  • Escitalopram (Lexapro)
  • Sertraline (Zoloft)
  • Fluvoxamine (Luvox)
  • Paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva)

It typically takes 2-6 weeks for people to start feeling the effects of these medications.

Selective Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)

These medications generally are used to treat anxiety if those in the SSRI group don’t work. They include:

  • Duloxetine (Cymbalta)
  • Venlafaxine (Effexor XR)

These can also take a few weeks to produce results.


Buspirone is another anti-anxiety medication that can treat short or long-term anxiety symptoms. It works slower than some other drugs and may not effectively treat all types of anxiety disorders.

Buspirone is commonly known as the drug BuSpar. It is often prescribed for people with a substance abuse disorder because it causes few side effects and a low risk of becoming addictive.


While physicians commonly prescribe beta-blockers for people with high blood pressure and heart conditions, sometimes physicians prescribe them for specific anxiety disorders. Beta-blockers can relieve some of the physical symptoms of anxiety by reducing the effects of norepinephrine.

Some common beta-blockers include:

  • Atenolol (Tenormin)
  • Propranolol (Inderal)

A licensed medical professional should prescribe any medication taken to treat anxiety or depression.

Addictive Drugs to Treat Anxiety and Depression

A medical professional may prescribe drugs that treat anxiety and depression and have a greater risk of dependency. One class of these drugs is Benzodiazepines or “Benzos.”

While these drugs can immediately take away feelings of sadness and panic, they also cause the user to come down off of this high. Since they want to maintain their good feelings, they feel tempted to take more, leading to an addiction.

Specific drugs in this category include:

  • Ativan
  • Xanax
  • Klonopin

Due to their addictive tendencies, a doctor usually doesn’t prescribe these drugs to people with a substance use disorder.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment at Clear Life Recovery

At Clear Life Recovery, we have the tools necessary to help people with depression and anxiety, and substance use disorder. We aim to help patients get to the root of what caused their substance abuse disorder to succeed in their recovery.

Treating one condition without treating the other is not as effective and can lead to relapse. Customized treatment plans can include a combination of therapies and holistic approaches to help heal the mind and body. Please contact us for more information on treatment programs at Clear Life Recovery.



[1] https://www.samhsa.gov/data/data-we-collect/nsduh-national-survey-drug-use-and-health

[2] https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323666#types-of-anxiety-medication