Before anything, I want to put a BIG disclaimer and a personal experience.
Xanax is nasty stuff.
I took it on and off for several years from age 21 to 30, and while it helped massively with generalized anxiety disorder, it’s a double edged sword. You get to a place where you can’t function without it, and when you don’t have it, your anxiety levels go through the roof. Stopping abruptly can lead to seizures, and I must stress how important it is to speak with your doctor before you begin to taper or stop taking xanax. Abruptly stopping can have serious consequences.
Best thing is to not start in the first place. I still remember the very first 1mg xanax pill I took, simply because of the euphoric and peaceful effect it had. But once you’re in the grips of a full blown addiction, trust me, it’s not so great.
In the past few years alprazolam, better known as xanax (bars, xannies) has become hugely popular, especially among teens.
That’s not a good thing. When benzos were first created, nobody knew the long term effects. They were meant for short term use, a few weeks at most.
Xanax is a medication used to treat people with anxiety issues. In today’s world, everybody has anxiety issues, and getting xanax doesn’t even require a doctor. The dark web gave rise to its own illicit pharmaceutical manufacturers and pretty soon millions upon millions of fake xanax bars were flooding the streets. Kids see these morons like Lil Xan and Lil Pump popping them and think it’s cool to get “bartarded”.
Few drugs are as addicting as xanax. The initial euphoric carefree lift spirals down into an anxiety triggering dependence.
What is Xanax?
Xanax is in the class of medication known as benzodiazepines. It works by balancing the chemicals in the brain that are unbalanced in people with anxiety. The medication increases a chemical known as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). This chemical is made naturally in the brain. It slows down the postsynaptic neurons, thus reducing anxiety. It was developed in the 1960s by Upjohn Laboratories but has significantly increased in popularity in recent years. It was first placed in the U.S. market in 1981. It is a preferred medication because it works immediately and it can be taken for many years without losing its effect.
Risks of Xanax
With Xanax, there is a risk of dependency. The body becomes used to the effects of the medication and wants them to continue. A new baseline is established, and if you stop taking xanax suddenly, the results can be deadly. Seizures are fairly common among people who quit without tapering. Along with this comes the withdrawal symptoms of sweating, tremors, increased anxiety, vomiting, and muscle cramps if one stops taking the medication.
In addition, there are many other risks and side-effects of using Xanax. These include: confusion, dizziness, low energy, insomnia, headache, heart palpitations, nasal congestion, weakness, ringing in the ears, chest pain, sweating and slurred speech to name a few. A complete list of side effects can be found at http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/263490.php.
Another risk is that Xanax has interaction concerns with many other medications and food as well. Possible interactions can occur with grapefruit, certain antibiotics, some heart medications, some blood pressure medications, St. John’s Wort and anti-depressants. Not to mention alcohol, which can lead to utter disaster when combined.
Natural Alternatives to xanax and other benzodiazepenes
Fortunately, there are several natural alternatives that can be used to relieve anxiety without having to rely on Xanax.
L-Theanine – This is derived from the Asian tea Camellia sinensis and two other Camellia species. It is able to provide a relaxing effect as evidenced by studies focusing on recordings of brain activity after consuming L-Theanine. More information on this study can be found at https://doi.org/10.1016/S0924-2244(99)00044-8.
This is Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid. GABA is a neurotransmitter that blocks impulses between nerve cells inside the brain.
Essentially gaba works to calm you down. Low levels of GABA cause anxiety. Thus taking GABA increases the amount present in the brain, relieving anxiety.
Ashwagandha is a plant and its roots and berries are used to make alternative medicine. It has many uses, one of which is to calm the brain, which is needed when trying to treat anxiety. One study discovered that ashwagandha is as effective as certain anxiety medications1.
I prefer the KSM-66 version, which is a standardized extract. There’s also a version called “sensoril” that has twice the amount of extract, and many people report the sensoril version makes them sleepier, so if you want something extra calming, look for that kind.
Several studies have found a link between 5-HTP and anxiety. Within the body 5-HTP is produced by L-tryptophan. It is also produced from the seeds of an African plant, Griffonia simplicifolia. It works to produce a calming effect in the body, thereby reducing anxiety.
In one study of young adults dealing with romantic stress, they reported improved levels of both serotonin and brain derived neurotrophic factor after three weeks2.
Another study found people who suffer from chronic anxiety attacks found relief by taking 200mg 5-HTP3.
Finally a third study found 5-HTP supplements increased GABA levels and promoted increased relaxation((https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12559480)).
This is also known by the common name of golden root and it has been used for centuries. This plant is grown at high altitudes of Asia and Europe. Studies have found that this plant has a adaptive effect which is linked to mood stabilization.
Rhodiola rosea actually combines very well with other supplements like 5-HTP and L-tryptophan, both of which work as serotonin precursors. One study found self reported decrease in anxiety and stress4 and while not the most scientifically rigorous it still supports the notion that rhodiola can help reduce anxiety.
While anecdotal, another user on a social anxiety reported that after trying all sorts of supplements and anti-depressants, he finally found rhodiola rosea, saying “It’s awesome. Amazing. Life-changing. I have never before felt so good in my life. Not once. Anxiety, depression, OCD traits, it’s all nearly gone. Anhedonia is gone, I get excited about regular stuff now, which is quite the opposite of how I’ve always been.”5
CBD oil is extracted from cannabis plants, but it does not contain THC, the component that getsyou high.
CBD effects the CB1 brain receptor and alters the signal related to serotonin. By increasing serotonin, one is decreasing anxiety. This was researched by the National Institute on Drug Abuse6.
This is an antioxidant amino acid supplement. NAC works by detoxifying your body, especially through the liver. As it balances out your neurotransmitter activity it reduces oxidative stress, thus reducing anxiety.
The active ingredient in Xanax is alprazolam. While Xanax is an effective treatment for anxiety, it also has many side effects, comes with the likelihood of addition and can also have long-term negative effects. If anxiety relief is what you’re going after, try some of these supplements first, along with meditation and I think you’ll find some relief.