Benzodiazepines vs music therapy. Which is effective in reducing nervousness?

musicians, guitars, music

Anxiety, although is differently perceived by various individuals, feeling of tension, nervousness, apprehension, and worry are the most common emotions. From the medical point of view, the feelings of anxiety and nervousness are usually higher in patients who were about to go under the knife.


In the 1960s, a new set of drugs called benzodiazepines were introduced which worked like a charm in reducing anxiety. Roughly within 2 decades, they have become the world’s most prescribed medication thus emphasizing the necessity of anti-anxiety drugs in the general population. But there is a drawback.

Although benzodiazepines have miraculous effects in reducing anxiety and depression, as a side effect, hyperactivity, agitation and prolonged amnesia (forgetfulness) are commonly associated with their use. Also, its negative influence on the unborn fetus and the increased suicidal tendency is observed with prolonged usage.

Amnesia, although temporary, could cause inconvenience to doctors and caretakers of the patient as there are high chances for the patients to forget if they had taken the medication or not. Despite these side effects, most of the hospitals provide oral midazolam as the standard pre-medication to those anxiety patients who were to undergo surgery as a part of their treatment plan.

There are quite a few non-pharmacological methods to tackle the lacunae of the benzodiazepines. Music therapy is one such non-pharmacological method that can be employed to reduce anxiety. Its use in various medical fields had been identified especially before, during and after surgeries. A clinical study had been conducted which declared that music therapy is more advantageous and efficacious than a standard dose of midazolam.

In this Swedish study, 177 and 159 patients who were scheduled for an elective day or short-stay surgery provided were given music therapy and a standard oral dose of midazolam respectively to counter the anxiety. It was found that calm music which has the same pace as the heart at rest (60-80 beats per minute) has a higher effect in calming patients thus chasing out the anxiety. To enhance the effect, only instrumental music without any distractions must be set up to avoid any distractions.  

After the study, the researcher found that both heart rate and blood pressure showed a reduction. In fact, the reduction was higher in the music therapy group compared to the midazolam group. The main difference between the two therapies is the absence of any adverse effects in the music group when compared to 9 patients in the midazolam group who experienced sedation.

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