Anxiety is a problematic condition. During times of intense anxiety, many people want to find immediate relief. The only thing that can provide immediate relief to intense anxiety is medication, but unfortunately medications tend to be prescription only. That's why many people wonder if there are any over the counter medications for anxiety, in order to get the rapid relief they need.
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Unfortunately, there are currently no anxiety over the counter medications. There are a few things you can take without a prescription that may provide you with relief, but in general, these medications are considered controlled substances - they have too powerful an effect on your brain to be handed out without some type of doctor supervision.
But there are still options for both immediate and long term anxiety relief. We'll explore them in this article, and if you haven't yet, make sure you take our free 7 minute anxiety test so that you can score your anxiety severity and see safe treatments.
Why Medication is Prescription Only
Anxiety is not a disease that can be cured by taking some medication for a week. It's something that needs changes to the way you think and feel. That involves learning to cope with the issues that cause you stress, something that medications don't do.
Medications dull anxiety, but they don't cure it. You'd have to take the medication for the rest of your life, and that can be dangerous and not ideal, since anxiety medications also stop working after a year or so.
Potential for Abuse
Most anxiety medications are also drugs of abuse. Taking in certain ways, these drugs can cause significant mental impairment, and the concern is that if they were available over the counter, many people would be taking these drugs off label. That's too dangerous.
Remember, these are drugs that affect your brain directly. They alter your body's production and reception of neurotransmitters. That can be useful for reducing anxiety, but can both cause significant side effects and be extremely dangerous if more is taken than directed. They also interact with numerous other medications, alcohol, and more. These medications simply cannot be over the counter without posing significant risk to the community.
Also, most anxiety medications also cause significant, and possibly even dangerous withdrawal symptoms - not unlike withdrawing from alcohol abuse.
Other Reasons to Avoid Medications
Another problem with anxiety medications is that they can actually make anxiety worse. In the short term, these medicines may provide some relief. But unfortunately, if you use these medicines for so long without any additional coping tips, your brain will start to depend on them as the only way to cope with stress.
So when you stop taking these medicines, you'll have lost some of your natural coping skills which, if you suffer from anxiety, may already have been struggling. That's a significant risk without alternative treatments and a doctor's supervision.
Will Anxiety Medications Ever Be Available Over the Counter?
There may be a day when an over the counter anxiety medication is possible. Some medications, like Buspirone, are a bit less controlled and have fewer side effects, but it can also take several days for the medications to start working (no instant relief) and are not as powerful as benzodiazepines and other prescription medications.
Someday there will be an over the counter anxiety medicine, but as of yet there are no medications that meet the criteria that would make them a viable option as an OTC.
Alternatives to OTC Anxiety Meds
Until an over the counter medication becomes available, there are several options that you could try. Some of these options include:
- Exercise Exercise has been extensively studied, and intense exercise may actually mimic the effects of some of the more powerful anxiety medicines. Exercises releases calming endorphins and burn away the stress hormone cortisol, so if you need rapid relief, a trip to the gym or a 30 minute jog may be highly beneficial.
- Kava Kava is an herbal supplement that some studies have shown may be as effective as several of the anxiety medications. Kava should still be used under the supervision of a doctor since it can also interact with other medicines and alcohol, but kava is an herb that is available without a prescription, so it may be worth attempting. Passionflower and valerian may also be beneficial, although they are not believed to be as powerful.
- Water and Magnesium In some cases, anxiety may be caused by or exacerbated by a lack of important nutrients. So drinking a lot of water, taking magnesium supplements - these may help some people reduce their anxiety and find some degree of relief, even if it doesn't cure your anxiety altogether.
Again, none of these are guaranteed immediate cures, but they can be a tremendous help. If you're someone that benefits from relaxation exercises like deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and visualization, then you should try those as well.
You should also never self-medicate with alcohol, or any drug not designed for anxiety. Self-medication has the same effect as anxiety medicines - use them when you're feeling anxious, and you start to depend on them and lose your ability to cope any other way.
Next Steps for Anxiety
It's important to remember that anyone can cure their anxiety. It's simply not a quick fix. It's something that you need to work on regularly, and learn the skills necessary for reducing the way your stress affects you and preventing your anxiety from becoming unmanageable. It involves long term solutions, but in the end these solutions can be very effective and reduce any chance that your anxiety comes back.
I've helped many people cure their anxiety without the use of medications. But it all starts with your symptoms.
Click here to take my free anxiety questionnaire, and get a recommended treatment based on what you're experiencing.