Anxiety is one of the most common health problems in the United States. Anxiety disorders represent the most common mental health problem in the country. Anxiety issues can range from mild issues that lower your quality of life to serious, debilitating problems. Xanax is a brand name for a drug that contains alprazolam, a drug that’s in the class of substances called benzodiazepines. Xanax works to slow down nervous system activity to provide calming, sedating effects.
It’s one of the most popular prescriptions in treating anxiety, but it comes with some downsides. Like many prescriptions, it comes with some side effects, including drowsiness and a risk for chemical dependence. Is there a way to manage anxiety without having to use Xanax? What are some natural alternatives to Xanax? Learn more about addressing anxiety without using Xanax.
Why Seek Alternatives to Xanax?
Anxiety is a serious problem for many people all over the United States. There are several pharmacological options that can help you manage anxiety disorders. However, you may not want to take prescription medication if you can manage your anxiety disorder with other methods. As a prescription drug, Xanax comes with some negative side effects that you may want to avoid, even though it’s generally safe and well-tolerated.
One reason you may want to avoid Xanax is if you have a history of substance use disorders. The FDA warns doctors to be cautious when treating patients with benzodiazepines since they can lead to chemical dependence and abuse. Many people in recovery avoid drugs that come with those risks.
You may also want to avoid a benzodiazepine if you’re over the age of 65. Older adults lose their ability to process benzodiazepines efficiently over time. Older people may be more likely to encounter negative side effects, like drowsiness and sedation. This may also lead to an increased risk of falls, which can be dangerous.
Xanax is contraindicated for use in people that are managing skin irritation or fungal infections with drugs, like itraconazole or ketoconazole.
Supplements and OTC Alternatives to Xanax
It’s essential to note that it’s important to use any drug or supplement with caution. Just because you don’t need a prescription to buy a drug legally doesn’t mean it’s safe for anyone to use. It also doesn’t mean that you can use it in high amounts. Over-the-counter drugs can have adverse effects that can be dangerous, especially if you use them in high doses. It’s also important to recognize that many supplements are unregulated and may not contain what you’re hoping they will.
In many cases, supplements bought from disreputable sources contain nothing but placebos or only contain a small amount of the substances you think you’re buying. In the worst cases, you may buy something that contains active ingredients that can be dangerous. It’s important to only take supplements that come from trusted sources. You should also speak to your pharmacist or doctor before combining supplements or mixing them with other medications.
The following are substances that you can get over the counter and in vitamin stores without a prescription. Some may provide direct help with psychological issues like anxiety symptoms. Others may indirectly address anxiety by promoting your general health and well-being. Many supplements aren’t evidence-based approaches to treat anxiety, but some may find them helpful. If you don’t see results after taking a supplement, don’t lose hope. You may be able to find other treatment options that are effective.
Over-the-Counter Drugs and Vitamin Supplements
- Benadryl. Benadryl is a brand name for an over-the-counter drug that contains diphenhydramine. The drug is an antihistamine, but it also has mild anti-anxiety and sedating effects. However, it may also cause drowsiness.
- Thiamine. Thiamine, also called vitamin B1, is a mineral that occurs in the brain naturally. A deficiency in this vitamin can lead to some uncomfortable psychological and cognitive side effects. Thiamine supplements can help ease some psychological and emotional issues.
- N-A-C (N-acetyl L-cysteine). N-A-C is an amino acid that your body converts into glutathione, which may lower something called oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is a phenomenon that can contribute to a variety of problems.
- 5-HTP. 5-HTP is a prodrug for serotonin, which means it converts to serotonin in the body. Serotonin is an important neurotransmitter that can lift your mood and promote general feelings of happiness that may help ease anxiety.
- Inositol (B8). Also called myo-inositol, it is a naturally occuring sugar in the brain. It’s important in helping the brain send signals. It may also help manage mood swings and stabilize mood.
- PharmaGABA. This is a supplemental source of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a natural chemical that helps to facilitate relaxation and sleep. GABA is also the chemical that benzodiazepines work with to cause their intended effects.
- Probiotics. Probiotics can increase your gut health and gastrointestinal function. It’s possible for gut problems to lead to worse nutrition that can contribute to many issues, including fatigue and mental health problems.
- Picamilon. Picamilon is a supplement and a prodrug for GABA. In the brain, it’s broken down into GABA. It’s also used as a nootropic drug because it’s thought to increase memory and focus.
Herbal Supplements and Teas
- Valerian root. Valerian root is an herbal supplement that’s used to promote sleep. It may have mild sedating and relaxing effects.
- Holy basil (Ocimum sanctum). Holy basil is thought to lower anxiety by reducing the levels of a hormone called cortisol, which is tied to stress.
- Arctic root (Rhodiola Rosea). This is another herb that is said to help control cortisol levels which may help lower stress and ease anxiety.
- Green tea. Green tea contains L-theanine, which may be why some people report calming effects when drinking tea. L-theanine can also be taken as a supplement.
- Ashwagandha. This is another natural supplement that’s said to help lower cortisol and increase serotonin levels. It comes from an evergreen bush, but it can be taken as a supplement.
- Magnesium citrate. This is a natural substance that’s produced in the body that can be taken as a supplement. It’s usually used as a laxative, but it may also have effects on stress levels.
- Kava (Piper methysticum). Kava is a plant that can be used to make tea that may elevate GABA levels in the brain. Again, GABA is closely tied to rest and relaxation in the brain, and it’s the main chemical that Xanax interacts with to achieve anti-anxiety effects.
- Taurine. This is an organic compound that’s found in animals and humans. It’s popular in energy drinks, and it’s an important substance for the human body that’s found in the intestines. It’s also thought to increase GABA receptors.
- Gotu kola (Centella asiatica). This is another herb that’s said to promote calmness. People that use it often use it to facilitate meditation.
- CBD oil. CBD (cannabidiol) is one of the main natural chemicals found in cannabis plants. While THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) provides marijuana’s high, CBD is thought to counteract some of THC’s negative effects and promotes calm and relaxation in people when it’s taken on its own. CBD oil is often added to food products or taken as a supplement.
If you have an anxiety disorder, there are several therapy options that may be able to help you manage your symptoms. In many cases, therapy is recommended, even if you’re taking medication to treat anxiety. However, if you don’t want to or can’t take Xanax, psychotherapies can still be effective in treating anxiety disorders.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most common psychotherapies and may have the most evidence that backs up its effectiveness. It’s used to treat several mental and behavioral health problems, including anxiety disorders. Cognitive behavioral therapy involves examining how thoughts influence your coping responses to stress and triggers. Through the therapy, you will learn to identify anxiety triggers and develop an effective coping strategy to deal with them. CBT was developed through the philosophy of stoicism, which emphasizes meeting and working through challenges.
Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a variation of CBT that was originally developed to treat borderline personality disorder, but it has several applications today. While CBT is about meeting challenges, DBT emphasizes acceptance of challenges. It was influenced by the practice of mindfulness, which involves keeping your mind in the moment, which may help people that worry about the future or the unknown.
Reducing Anxiety Naturally
There are several ways you can reduce stress and anxiety symptoms naturally, in addition to or apart from therapy and medications. There are several techniques to better manage emotions and thoughts that may lead to anxiety. You may learn many practical methods through the course of therapy. Here are some tips that can help you better manage anxiety.
- Get enough sleep. Sleep is important for both mental and physical health. Sleep problems can lead to mental health issues like anxiety.
- Stay active and exercise. Exercise can release important feel-good chemicals like endorphins that can improve your mood. It can also help you avoid aches and pains and other physical health issues.
- Lower caffeine intake. Caffeine is a stimulant, and drinking too much may make you jittery and nervous. Cutting back may improve anxiety symptoms.