Which antianxiety drugs are used in the treatment of fibromyalgia?

Updated: Apr 23, 2020
  • Author: Chad S Boomershine, MD, PhD, CPI, CPT; Chief Editor: Herbert S Diamond, MD  more...
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Agents of varying durations of action are used frequently for anxiety and panic and as sleep aids (poor sleep is nearly universal in fibromyalgia). [114]  Antianxiety agents are often used in combination with antidepressants and anticonvulsant drugs (both of which also have efficacy for anxiety and insomnia) and include benzodiazepines (eg, alprazolam [Xanax, Niravam; half-life, < 12 h], temazepam [Restoril; half-life, 10-15 h], clonazepam [Klonopin; half-life, 25-100 h], buspirone, trazodone [Oleptro]).

In considering the choice of an anxiolytic drug, remember that many antidepressants also have indications for anxiety. The short-acting nonbenzodiazepine hypnotics zolpidem (Ambien) and zaleplon (Sonata), along with careful attention to optimum sleep hygiene, are useful in the treatment of insomnia but have no effect on pain in fibromyalgia.

An effective combination is zolpidem at bedtime as needed, plus zaleplon (5 mg)—which has a very short half-life—for awakenings in the middle of the night. Patients who do not experience improved sleep with the above and with careful attention to good sleep hygiene should be referred for polysomnography.

Sodium oxybate (Xyrem), [134]  a sedative hypnotic, prolongs stage III/IV restorative sleep, which is essential to feeling rested and refreshed on awakening. Such deep sleep is usually disrupted in patients with fibromyalgia, leaving the patient stiff, sore, and exhausted upon awakening.

Sodium oxybate is currently approved by the FDA for narcolepsy-associated cataplexy and excessive daytime sleepiness. In phase III trials, it has proved effective for relief of pain and fatigue and for sleep quality and patient global improvement. [135]  Because of its potential for abuse, dependence, and diversion (date rape), it is available only through a centralized pharmacy (1-866-997-3688).

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