- The Risks of Addictive Anxiety Medications
- 7 Non-Addictive Anxiety Medication Options
- Unlike benzodiazepines used in other anxiety medications, there are several non-addictive anxiety treatment options available.
- While traditional anxiety medication is often faster-acting, it can come with its potentially dangerous side effects and withdrawal symptoms.
- Examples of non-addictive anxiety medications are SSRIs, SNRIs, beta-blockers, Vistaril, Buspirone, Lyrica® , and Neurontin® .
- Non-addictive medications can effectively treat anxiety just as well as addictive ones, according to studies.
Anxiety is one of the most prevalent mental health disorders affecting people worldwide. Although therapy and lifestyle changes often provide relief, medication is sometimes required.
Unfortunately, many anti-anxiety medications carry the potential for addiction or dependence. However, there are safe alternatives that can effectively treat anxiety without the risk of addiction or dependence.
The Risks of Addictive Anxiety Medications
In the 1960s, benzodiazepines were introduced as a safer alternative to barbiturates for anxiety disorder treatment. Since then, they have grown to become the most widely prescribed class of psychoactive drugs globally. Some common examples of benzodiazepines are Xanax®, Klonopin®, and Valium®.
Benzodiazepines are known to cause dependence and addiction. They increase the levels of a calming neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). While this may seem helpful, long-term use can lead to reliance on the drug to produce GABA. This reliance can make it challenging to quit and increases the risk of addiction.
Withdrawal from benzodiazepines can cause uncomfortable symptoms, including insomnia, anxiety, and seizures. Long-term use can result in impaired memory, cognitive decline, and an increased risk of falls and accidents.
For many individuals, non-addictive medications or treatments may be a more viable option to explore, outweighing the potential benefits of benzodiazepines.
7 Non-Addictive Anxiety Medication Options
Although benzodiazepines can be risky, there are several non-addictive medications and treatments available to treat anxiety. Below are seven common options with lower addictive potentials to choose from depending on your situation and needs.
1. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are widely used medications for anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions. They function by increasing the level of serotonin in the brain, which regulates mood, appetite, and other bodily functions.
Examples of SSRIs include Prozac® , Zoloft® , Paxil® , and Lexapro® . Although SSRIs are not addictive, they come with potential side effects such as nausea, insomnia, and sexual dysfunction. These side effects usually go away with time or medication adjustment.
2. Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)
Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are effective in treating both anxiety and depression by increasing levels of important mood-regulating neurotransmitters. Examples of SNRIs include Effexor XR® and Cymbalta® , which are not addictive but may cause side effects such as nausea and dizziness.
As with SSRIs, it’s important to work with a healthcare professional to determine the appropriate dosage and frequency of SNRIs.
Beta-blockers, traditionally used to treat high blood pressure and heart disease, can also be prescribed for performance anxiety or social phobia. By blocking the effects of adrenaline, these medications can effectively reduce physical symptoms of anxiety, such as rapid heartbeat and shaking hands.
Examples of beta-blockers include Propranolol (Inderal® ) and Atenolol (Tenormin® ), which are generally safe but may cause side effects like fatigue, dizziness, and drowsiness.
4. Hydroxyzine Pamoate (Vistaril® )
Hydroxyzine Pamoate, commonly known as Vistaril, is a sedating antihistamine used to treat anxiety. It can help reduce anxiety symptoms, especially in the short term, with its ability to lower activity in the central nervous system. Additionally, it has sedative, hypnotic, and antiemetic effects.
Despite its benefits, Hydroxyzine is non-addictive. However, it may cause side effects such as dizziness, drowsiness, and dry mouth. The medication can be taken in various forms. It is available in pill, capsule, or injection form, but it is not advisable for people with a history of heart disease, glaucoma, severe urinary retention, or gastric obstruction.
Buspirone is a non-addictive medication used to treat generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Compared to other anxiety medications, it has fewer side effects. The drug raises serotonin levels and reduces dopamine activity, which regulates mood and behavior.
It may take a few weeks for Buspirone to work, so it is typically used for chronic anxiety disorders. While the medication has few side effects, such as dizziness and nausea, it is important to inform your healthcare provider about any pre-existing health conditions to avoid complications.
6. Pregabalin (Lyrica® )
Pregabalin, also known as Lyrica,® is a medication similar to gabapentin, used to treat anxiety and seizure disorders. Known for its quick onset of action and higher potency compared to gabapentin, pregabalin works by enhancing the action of GABA, a neurotransmitter in the brain that reduces anxiety.
Research shows that pregabalin is an effective treatment for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and has minimal side effects compared to other anti-anxiety medications. For people who are sensitive to medication side effects, pregabalin is the ideal option.
7. Gabapentin (Neurontin® )
Gabapentin, also known as Neurontin®, is a medication primarily used to control seizures. However, it has been found to be effective in treating anxiety disorders as well. It works by impacting neurotransmitters that play a vital role in anxiety.
Though it requires weeks of consistent usage before noticeable effects are seen, Gabapentin is generally well-tolerated with fewer side effects than most anti-anxiety medications. Gabapentin is especially useful in treating anxiety disorders that co-occur with substance use disorders, as it is non-addictive and does not cause withdrawal symptoms.
Non-Addictive Anxiety Medication FAQs
Below are some of the most frequently asked questions about non-addictive anxiety medications.
Antidepressants like Prozac® and Zoloft® , known as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) and Buspirone (Buspar), are medications that help with anxiety without causing physical addiction. They work by regulating the levels of serotonin and dopamine in the brain, chemicals responsible for mood and anxiety.
Yes, non-addictive medications can effectively treat anxiety just as well as addictive ones, according to studies. In fact, many doctors now consider non-addictive medication the first choice for anxiety treatment due to their lower risk of dependence and abuse.
If you’re taking medications like SSRIs or Buspirone, you may experience mild side effects such as dizziness, nausea, headache, and drowsiness. But these are usually temporary. Your doctor will keep a close eye on your symptoms and adjust your medication as necessary to minimize any discomfort.
Non-addictive anxiety medication may take several weeks to show results. Unlike short-lived effects, these medicines alter brain chemistry gradually to offer long-lasting relief. For best results, follow the doctor’s prescription and continue the medication even if immediate relief is not felt. With time, it helps curb anxious thoughts and feelings.
Yes, non-addictive anxiety medication can be safely taken long-term to effectively manage anxiety symptoms and enhance your quality of life. However, it’s important to discuss any potential side effects and concerns with your doctor. Also, your doctor may regularly review your medication regimen to ensure it’s still the best option.
 Bounds, C. G., & Nelson, V. L. (n.d.). Benzodiazepines – statpearls – NCBI bookshelf. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved May 1, 2023, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470159/
 Sansone, R. A., & Sansone, L. A. (2014, March). Serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors: A pharmacological comparison. Innovations in clinical neuroscience. Retrieved May 1, 2023, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4008300/
 Wilson, T. K., & Tripp, J. (n.d.). Buspirone – StatPearls – NCBI Bookshelf. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved May 1, 2023, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK531477/