You will definitely get differing opinions on this, because everyone has different experiences. I'm hypervigilant when it comes to medications and potential side effects so there aren't many anxiety-inhibiting medications I can take without freaking out completely (I've had some genuinely terrifying reactions to a few, and that has probably distorted my perception of the side effects of others I've tried since). About the only one I can use to help me with anxiety is Valium, and that only in very small doses. Since it can be potentially addicting, it can be hard to get a prescription for it. For some people other medications are very effective.
My doctors have always wanted to prescribe them as a first resort for me, and that always bugs me. I think other methods should be tried first, and then if they are not sufficient then medications should be considered. But for some people they certainly seem to do a great deal of good.