Anxiety disorders are the most common group of mental illnesses in the US, affecting 40 million people in the country. If you suffer from an anxiety disorder, you know that it can impact every area of your life. With symptoms like panic attacks, rapid heart rate, trembling, and sweating, anxiety can be debilitating. Medication is one effective treatment option, but if you’ve had a problem with substance use, you may be concerned about the risk of addiction. Choosing a non-addictive anxiety medication makes all the difference to reduce the risk of addiction relapse.
Some anxiety medicine creates a feeling of euphoria—intense happiness and excitement. This “high” can lead to cravings, which can lead you to need more of the drug over time to get the same effect. Some medications to reduce anxiety, like opioids, have such a history of abuse that you may want to avoid them even if you haven’t dealt with addiction. For an anti-anxiety medication to not be addictive, it shouldn’t flood your brain with dopamine—the chemical that gives you that high. Fortunately, there are effective anxiety medications with no addictive potential because they don’t create euphoria. There are also many therapy-based treatments for anxiety disorders that involve no medication whatsoever.
Non-Addictive Anxiety Medications
There are many different types of anxiety and a wide variety of mental health treatments in Worcester, MA, for each. When you see a doctor, he or she will consider which type of anxiety you have, along with any other medical or mental health conditions you may suffer from, before prescribing medication. Below is a summary of the types of non-addictive anxiety medications that carry little to no risk for abuse.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are a class of drugs originally developed to treat depression but were found to be just as effective—if not more so—at reducing anxiety. They work by increasing the amount of serotonin in your brain, which has a mood-boosting effect. They’re particularly effective in treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). SSRIs include:
- Fluoxetine (Prozac®)
- Escitalopram (Lexapro®)
- Citalopram (Celexa®)
- Paroxetine (Paxil®)
- Sertraline (Zoloft®)
The drawback to the non-addictive anxiety medications, SSRIs, is that they take four to six weeks of building up in your system before you feel the full effects. They can also cause uncomfortable withdrawal effects if you suddenly stop taking them, including vertigo, nausea or vomiting, chills, shock sensations or “brain zaps,” and visual disturbances. Possible side effects of SSRIs are:
- Dry mouth
- Sexual problems
Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors are better for disorders like generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder. They’re similar to SSRIs in that they boost serotonin, but unique because they also regulate norepinephrine—a neurotransmitter related to alertness and concentration. Regulating both of these has a strong, positive effect on mood. Examples are:
- Venlafaxine (Effexor®)
- Duloxetine (Cymbalta®)
SNRI side effects are similar to those of SSRIs, plus potentially fatigue, loss of appetite, and constipation. SNRIs also cause withdrawal effects when you abruptly stop taking them, similar to those of SSRIs.
3. Vistaril® (Hydroxyzine)
Hydroxyzine is a fast-acting drug that is very effective in treating anxiety temporarily. It sometimes has the side effect of sedation, but this wears off the longer you take it. Hydroxyzine works by blocking the histamine receptor. This means that the drug helps balance neurotransmitters in your brain that regulate your moods, such as histamines (like Benadryl® or other antihistamines) and serotonin.
4. Buspar® (Buspirone)
This non-addictive anxiety medication is similar to an SSRI in that it increases chemical messengers involving serotonin. Buspar only targets one subtype of the serotonin receptor, so it affects just one specific area of your brain. When SSRIs target more receptors, there are more side effects. Because Buspar targets one, you get fewer side effects. It does also take the same amount of time as an SSRI to feel the effects. Side effects you might experience include:
- Sore throat
- Sleep problems
These non-addictive anxiety medications temporarily relieve anxiety symptoms, such as shaking and rapid heart rate. They do so by blocking the effects of adrenaline, or epinephrine. Epinephrine is a hormone that creates anxiety in your fight-or-flight response. A beta-blocker doesn’t do anything to change the chemical balance of your brain, so it can’t be relied upon long-term. They’re usually prescribed short-term while you find more lasting ways to combat your anxiety. Beta-blockers include:
- Acebutolol (Sectral®)
- Atenolol (Tenormin®)
- Propranolol (Inderal®)
At-Home Options for Anxiety
If you suffer from anxiety, medication isn’t the only option for relief. These techniques, backed by evidence, are proven to work just as well, if not better, than medication for some people. They can be taught in therapy, or you can learn them on your own. Once you learn how to do them, you’ll be able to reduce anxiety if you ever need to stop or change medications. Here are some things you can try to calm yourself down when you’re anxious:
- Go through a guided meditation
- Journal about your anxiety, describing it as best you can. Do this each time you face your fears, and keep track of what changes over time
- Listen to your favorite music
- Take note of one thing you can see, smell, taste, touch, and hear. This is a grounding technique, which can effectively stop you from focusing on your anxiety and help you connect with your surroundings
- Try “square breathing.” Breathe in for five seconds, then hold it for five. Breathe out for five seconds, then pause for five. Repeat until you feel your heart rate slow and your shaking stop.
Mental Health Treatment Center in MA
Anxiety is a frustrating and sometimes scary condition to experience. Fortunately, there’s plenty of help available! The best course of treatment for you may involve non-addictive anxiety medication, therapy, or both. You might also need to try a few non-addictive anxiety medications before finding what works best for you. Don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor about your concerns regarding addiction. He or she will work with you to create a treatment plan that’s both effective and provides you much-needed peace of mind.
Programs at Washburn House for mental health disorders include:
- Dual diagnosis treatment in MA
- Cognitive behavioral therapy in MA
- Dialectical behavior therapy
- Yoga therapy in Worcester, MA