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10) Pysiological Methods of Stress Management – Drug Therapies

Drugs can be used as a quick and relatively easy way of dealing with stress, especially in the short term.


These are drugs we use to treat anxiety (which often results from stress).

GABA is a neurotransmitter in the body which relaxes the brain by meaning the neurons aren’t stimulated to easily. Benzodiazepines (BZs) increase the activity of GABA meaning that the brain is less aroused so the person is calmer. THis obviously means the person will be less agitated and less anxious.

Beta Blockers

These are drugs that reduce the activity of adrenaline and noradrenaline, meaning that the patient is less prone to stress (see post 6, How the Body Responds to Stress). Beta Blockers work because they bind onto parts of the cells of the heart and body that normally accept adrenaline. This means that adrenaline and noradrenaline can’t reach the heart, so the heart beat slows, blood pressure falls, and the person feels more relaxed.


Kahn et al gave a group of patients a drug, whilst another was given a placebo (a fake “look-alike” which the patient thinks is the drug). They followed 250 patents for 8 weeks and BZs reduced stress much more than the placebo. Therefore the drug must work and it isn’t just psychological (the patient thinks he should feel better due to a drug, so he does).

Hildalgo et al‘s meta-analysis and found that BZs were more effective than other drugs for reducing anxiety.



+ Effectiveness – The work of Kahn and Hildago shows the effectiveness of the drugs.

+ Easy! – Drug treatment requires little effort from the patient compared to CBTs


– Addiction – Some patients can become dependant on the drug, stressing that if they don’t use them they will become stressed again, so they do!

– Side effects – BZs – more aggressive behaviour, loss of memory. BBs = Increase in risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

– Treating the symptoms rather than the problem – The drug treatments only work for so long as they are taken, the problems will still be there once you stop taking them.


About Sam Cook

A blog set up to help A Level students revise Sociology


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