Stanley Cole, M.D., is a psychiatrist in private practice in Newton, Massachusetts.
Dr. Cole has disclosed that he has no significant relationships with or financial interests in any commercial company pertaining to this educational activity.
My standard practice in treating patients with very frequent panic attacks had always been to start both a benzo and an antidepressant, with the expectation of eventually tapering the benzo. But I noticed, both with my patients and those I inherited from other psychopharmacologists, that hardly anyone ever seemed to get off benzos despite my preparing the patient for this plan. I have increasingly detected an attitude from many patients that they have a constitutional right to receive benzos. Recently, I saw a woman with panic disorder, and we went through a whole session planning her treatment with only an SSRI. She seemed reasonable, she understood the plan, but at the end she requested Klonopin. When I described the risks of long-term dependence, she actually said, "Well, why do they make them if I can't have them?" It was with this comment that I finally decided we must be doing something wrong. While I don't want to become one of these benzodiazepine puritans who think that the devil profits from each benzo prescribed, I do think we've lost sight of the fact that the original panic disorder studies by Donald Klein 45 years ago showed that panic disorder usually can be effectively treated with antidepressants alone.