Anxiety medications - sometimes known as anxiolytics or antidepressants - are the fastest way to get some relief from anxiety. By default, a medication works almost instantly (although some take a week or so to be effective enough to matter), and so countless people desperately turn to medicines in order to get that relief.
But not everyone has time to go to a doctor, and not everyone likes the idea of taking prescription medications. This brings up the question: are there any non-prescription medications available? What are the best anxiety medications without a prescription?
What is Your Anxiety Severity?
In order to learn what OTC medications or non-medicine treatments are available, you first have to know your anxiety severity score. Take our free 7 minute anxiety test to score your anxiety, compare it to others, and then learn more about individual treatments.
Anxiety Medications and Anxiety Conditions
Before discussing medications, it's important to remember that not all anxiety is the same, just as not all anxiety medications affect people in the same way. Different medicines affect each person differently, so there is rarely a simple answer for which medication to try. Take my free 7 minute anxiety test to learn more.
It's also important to emphasize that medications should never be taken alone. Anxiety medications can cause physical and psychological dependency. If you only take anxiety medicine, you can lose the ability to cope with anxiety without medication. Then, if you stop taking the medication or it becomes ineffective (some anxiety medications lose their effectiveness over time), you may severely struggle to cope with anxiety in the future. Always make sure you're using methods of controlling anxiety that do not involve medication if you choose to try an anxiety drug.
The Non-Prescription Anxiety Drug Options
Unfortunately, there are currently no official non-prescription anxiety medications. That's because anxiety medications, by default, affect your brain chemistry. The only anxiety medicines that work alter your neurotransmitter levels, and while some are effective, those alterations can be dangerous for some people, interact with other medications, and possibly be abused.
There is no such thing as an anxiety medication without side effects, and because anxiolytics can be drugs of abuse or interact poorly with alcohol, they're considered too dangerous in general to be available without a prescription. Doctors and psychiatrists need to be positive you have anxiety, to make sure the risks associated with the drugs are worth the reward.
Medication should always be a last resort, but if you are positive that you're in need of medication, there's no harm in talking to your doctor. Prescription anxiety medications are fairly inexpensive, and some - like Buspirone - have fewer side effects than other medications (although they tend to be weaker).
That said, there are alternatives that can be beneficial for those that are struggling with anxiety. Consider the following as potential non-prescription anxiolytic alternatives:
- Magnesium Magnesium is an abundant mineral that appears to be wiped out of food. While magnesium doesn't necessarily cure anxiety, there is some evidence that it is responsible for alleviating some anxiety symptoms. It's a great choice for those that do not get enough magnesium in their diets, and is quickly becoming one of the most popular types of supplements in America.
- Herbal Remedies Some herbal supplements have shown success with anxiety as well. Kava is perhaps the most well known, and it is available in most herbal stores and natural foods markets. Kava is one of the few herbal supplements that has been effective in numerous well-run clinical studies. But make sure you take kava correctly. Kava doses in most health food stores are smaller than the recommended daily value, and kava needs to be taken with food since it is fat soluble. Passionflower and valerian are also potential options.
- Exercise Even though exercise is not a medication, studies have shown that it's actually more powerful than some anxiety medications and of course has no side effects and numerous health benefits. Exercise increases neurotransmitter levels (just like medications), burns away stress hormone, and can physically decrease anxiety symptoms. Exercise is a medication class all on its own.
All of these are, of course, available without a prescription. In addition, it's not inconceivable that some non-prescription option may be available in the near future. The reality is that pharmaceutical companies want to develop OTC anxiety medications, since they have the potential to profit substantially once they do.
Choosing An Alternative to Prescription Medication
Medications do have their place. Even though they use chemicals that are not natural for the human body, they're not the demon that some people have made them out to be.
Yet they are also still risky, and anything affecting your brain isn't something you want to start taking without a doctor's supervision. So even if a medication was available without a prescription, it may not be worth taking without a doctor.
In addition, no anxiety medication should be taken without something to ensure that you can stop taking the medicine someday, and medication should be avoided in general if there is a way to treat your anxiety without them.
I've helped many people reduce their anxiety without medication. Start with my free 7 minute anxiety test now. The test is a valuable tool for learning the most about your anxiety and using the answers you provide to recommend healthy options.
Charlton, Bruce G. Self-management and pregnancy-safe interventions for panic, phobia and other anxiety-disorders might include over-the-counter (OTC)SSRIantihistamines such as diphenhydramine and chlorpheniramine.ActaPsychiatricaScandinavica 112.4 (2005): 323-323. Charlton, Bruce G. Self-management of psychiatric symptoms using over-the-counter (OTC) psychopharmacology: The S-DTM therapeutic model-Self-diagnosis, self-treatment, self-monitoring. Medical hypotheses 65.5 (2005): 823-828.
Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Sep 28, 2017.