Alternative Anxiety Medication: Do OTC Supplements Work?

Suffer from anxiety? If you live in the US, you’re not alone. In fact, roughly 20% of the US population – or one in five people – is affected with social anxiety disorder.

Like many, you’ve probably tried buying OTC supplements – some kind of herbal remedy to treat your anxiety without the need for a prescription. Or perhaps your doctor prescribed you something that didn’t work and you opted for the other alternatives.

These alternatives may have natural ingredients packaged within each pill. But the question is, do OTC supplements really work? If they do, how effective are they compared to prescribed medications that purport to have similar effects?  

What’s in a pill?

When seeking help, we often blindlessly put our faith in physicians without questioning their judgement. But the truth is, “following doctors’ orders” isn’t always the ideal. After years of taking anti-anxiety medication with little-to-no long-term benefit, many people are left wondering: what’s in these drugs?

Many prescribed medications are actually selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like the Prozac, Lexapro, Zoloft, and Paxil; serotonin-nonrepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) such as Effexor, and Pristique; and benzodiazepines (Xanax, Klonopin, Ativan, and Valium).

At times, beta blockers like Propranolol is prescribed to patients with social anxiety disorder. This deluge of drugs has patients suffering under the weight of “medication overload”.

many people suffer from medication overload

If these brand name drugs make you cringe, then likely you’ve tried one or more and dealt with its unpleasant side effects: lethargy, loss of appetite, and loss of libido to name a few. The reality is you don’t need a prescription; there are alternative medications for anxiety available over-the-counter.

OTC Medication for Anxiety

One such medication is Phenibut, a common GABA agonist used to treat social anxiety, depression, and even stress.

Phenibut is recently becoming popular among a younger, health-conscious generation who can’t afford expensive prescriptions and prefer to avoid the social stigma of asking a doctor for anxiety medication. Once a “fringe” supplement, Phenibut has quickly proven its effectiveness among users.

Still others seek out natural, alternative means to treat their anxiety problems, especially sufferers of frequent panic attacks. Despite its legality and efficacy, Phenibut’s “synthetic” nature can be turn-off for some — just another “pill in disguide”.

Thus, individuals avoid taking any “man-made” supplements, resorting to natural herbs to help them with anxiety or panic attacks.

Natural Alternatives

Nowadays, ”natural” medication for anxiety (such as the aforementioned over-the-counter supplements) have become the most popular alternative medicines to treat anxiety.

Despite their “natural” branding, many herbals aren’t backed my much research. The health supplement market is expected to grow to nearly $200 billion globally by 2020, and much of it is unregulated. As such, it’s important to do a bit of research as to whether supplements are really effective or not.

Many herbal supplements will not have the same effect compared to prescription medications for your anxiety levels. And while they work for some, they do not work for others.

There is ample research showing that certain anti-anxiety supplements don’t follow through on their marketed effects. Take, for example, the popular supplement Maca. Many sites make the claim that maca works for anxiety: