Xanax (alprazolam) belongs to the class of medications called benzodiazepines, and it is one of the most widely prescribed anti-anxiety medications in the United States. According to information published in Psychology Today, in 2008, around 5 percent of American adults between the ages of 18 and 80 had filled a prescription for a benzodiazepine drug at least once in their lives.
Anxiety is often the result of an imbalance in brain chemistry. There are many different natural substances, supplements, and OTC medications that can help to stabilize the brain and enhance the functioning of the neurotransmitters throughout the central nervous system. It is important to discuss these products with your doctor before using them as a substitute for Xanax to ensure they will be safe and effective for you.
Some natural and OTC products that can manage anxiety are outlined below.
Minerals and vitamins can be extremely beneficial for enhancing and promoting brain functioning and health, the journal Integrative Medicine Insights publishes. They can also aid in lowering stress and managing anxiety in place of medications such as Xanax.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved Xanax for the short-term management of anxiety and panic disorders. It is understood to depress the central nervous system, thus calming anxiety symptoms, by boosting levels of GABA (gamma-Aminobutyric acid) in the brain. GABA is one of the brain’s chemical messengers, or neurotransmitters, that helps to lower stress and tension, and promotes sleep and relaxation. When a person is stressed and has anxiety, nerve firings in the brain can be hyperactive, and things like respiration, heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature increase.
Anxiety is likely to make a person feel alert, on edge, tense, and have difficulties thinking clearly. Xanax can calm these nerve firings by suppressing some of the stress-inducing and reactive functions of the central nervous system.
Taking Xanax is not without risks, however. The drug is considered to be extremely habit-forming and is regularly misused. Xanax can interact with other medications, and it is not safe to combine with other depressant substances, such as opioids or alcohol.
Regular use of Xanax can create a physical dependence. As a result, stopping the drug causes uncomfortable, and even possibly life-threatening, physical side effects as well as rebound anxiety and insomnia symptoms.
Xanax is also only meant to be used as part of a complete treatment plan for managing anxiety and not as the only method of care. Many natural and additional treatments can be helpful in reducing anxiety, and they often come without as many potential negative side effects as prescription medications.
If you are already taking Xanax, you should not stop taking it without speaking to your doctor first. Together, you can decide how to handle the withdrawal process from the drug.
In addition to taking supplements or medications for anxiety, there are many other things you can do to boost your mood. Exercise, for example, is a wonderful tool for helping to cope with stress. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) explains that exercise helps to produce endorphins, which make a person feel good. It also enhances sleep functions, decreases tension, stabilizes moods, and improves self-esteem.
Often, when you feel good about yourself physically, you can positively influence the way you see yourself overall. Going for a walk, hopping in the pool for a swim, or engaging in yoga can all be great stress and anxiety-relieving coping mechanisms.
Meditation and yoga can also aid in strengthening the connection between the mind and the body. It can help you to be more in tune with how you are feeling physically, which can then make you more aware of your emotions. You can then learn how to manage and control them more effectively. Mindfulness meditation can help to decrease anxiety, depression, and physical pain, as indicated in studies published by Harvard Health.
Nutrition is an important factor in overall health and well-being. Taking care of yourself physically can help to balance your emotions. Anxiety can cause stomach upset, and the adrenaline rush that often accompanies high stress can cause a crash afterward that dips your blood sugar.
It can be helpful to eat foods that are easily digested, low in refined sugars, energy-producing, and high in vitamins, minerals, and proteins. Try to limit caffeine and alcohol, and drink a lot of water to maintain hydration.
Sleep is another vital aspect of mental health. The better you sleep, the more prepared you are to take on the day, and the easier it will be to balance your moods and emotions. Stick to a set sleeping and waking schedule, limit screen time before bed, and try some deep breathing and relaxation techniques to help you fall and stay asleep.
Breathing exercises can be very helpful as grounding techniques throughout the day as well. Breathing in and out deeply and intentionally can increase levels of oxygen to the brain and help to regulate heart and respiration rates that tend to go up with stress.
Taking a hot bath, using essential oils, such as lavender, drinking hot tea, and listening to music can promote relaxation and ease tension. Reaching out and talking to a friend or family member can be beneficial as well.
Other helpful methods for reducing anxiety without medication include:
Anxiety can be managed in a multitude of ways with and without medication. Xanax can be an effective tool for the short-term management of anxiety when used in conjunction with therapies and supportive techniques.
Some alternatives to Xanax do not require a prescription and have fewer potential side effects. Be sure to discuss anxiety and medication alternatives with your doctor.
(May 2015). How Many People Take Benzodiazepines? Psychology Today. from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/demystifying-psychiatry/201505/how-many-people-take-benzodiazepines
(September 2016). Xanax. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2016/018276s052lbl.pdf
(September 2008). The Role of Vitamins and Minerals in Psychiatry. Integrative Medicine Insights. from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3046018/
Physical Activity Reduces Stress. Anxiety and Depression Association of America. from https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/other-related-conditions/stress/physical-activity-reduces-st
(January 2014). Mindfulness Meditation May Ease Anxiety, Mental Stress. Harvard Health. from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/mindfulness-meditation-may-ease-anxiety-mental-stress-201401086967
(May 2016). 4 Powerful Ways Spirituality Can Ease Anxiety and Depression. Psychology Today. from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/living-the-questions/201603/4-powerful-ways-spirituality-can-ease-anxiety-and-depression
(May 2016). Beating Stress Through Nutrition. Psych Central. from https://psychcentral.com/lib/beating-stress-through-nutrition/