Anxiety Medication: Pharmacy Options & Home Remedies

Updated in March 2023

Anxiety medication, like benzodiazepines or antidepressants, can be prescribed by a psychiatrist to relieve symptoms like sleep disturbances, difficulty relaxing or concentrating, fatigue or constant worry. These medications act directly on the brain to regular chemical substances that cause anxiety, generalized anxiety disorder or panic attacks. 

These medications are generally prescribed by a psychiatrist when other treatment options, like psychotherapy, are not effective for anxiety management, or if anxiety is very severe and causes a constant state of fear or worry. These severe cases of anxiety often also present with fast heart rates, shortness of breath, excessive sweating, body aches and abdominal discomfort. 

In addition, there are natural options you can use to manage more mild cases of anxiety, like phytotherapeutic substances such as passionflower, valerian, chamomile or St. John’s wort. These should be used under the direction of medicinal plant specialist. Other ways to manage anxiety include eating a diet that is rich in omega-3 and magnesium, and exercising regularly. 

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Pharmacy medications

It is important to seek medical attention from a psychologist or psychiatrist if you notice any signs or symptoms of anxiety, so that these can be addressed. Treatment for anxiety usually starts with psychotherapy, and then medications are introduced. Many times, the psychiatrist may prescribe medications before starting therapy. 

There are a variety of medications that can be used to treat anxiety. These can be obtained at the pharmacy with a prescription, and can vary depending on the anxiety disorder and the physical or mental symptoms present. 

Some examples of pharmacy medications for anxiety include: 

1. Antidepressants

Antidepressants are the most recommended medication for the long term treatment of anxiety. These help to regulate levels of neurotransmitters like serotonin, noradrenaline and dopamine, to help relieve anxiety symptoms. 

These medications generally take 15 days to reach their maximum therapeutic effect. Therefore, their anxiolytic action usually starts off in a gradual way. 

Some examples of antidepressants that the doctor may prescribe include imipramine, sertraline, paroxetine or venlafaxine. 

2. Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines are anxiolytic medications that are prescribed for the short-term management of anxiety. They decrease brain function and cause a tranquilizing effect as well as drowsiness, all which help the patient to relax and reduce stress. 

Normally, anxiolytics are indicated when beginning treatment for anxiety, together with depressants. These medications are not recommended for long-term use, as they can cause dependency and can reduce mental alertness and coordination. 

Examples of benzodiazepines that are used to treat anxiety include lorazepam, alprazolam, bromazepam, diazepam or clonazepam. 

3. Nonbenzodiazepines

Nonbenzodiazepines like buspirone, are anxiolytic medications under the azapirone class. They are not associated with a risk for abuse, dependency or abstinence, nor do they interact with hypnotic medications or alcohol. In addition, these substances do not cause any changes to alertness or psychomotor abilities.

Generally, these medications are prescribed for people with a history of medication abuse or abuse of other toxic substances. 

4. Beta-blockers

Although these are less effective than the medications listed above, beta-blockers can be useful for people with very intense physical symptoms. These medications have a peripheral action, which means they reduce the perception of system symptoms like tremors and increased heart rate.

One advantage of beta-blockers when compared to benzodiazepines is the decreased risk for cognitive effects. Some examples that can be prescribed for anxiety include propranolol, oxprenolol and nadolol. 

5. Anti-histamines

Although these are primarily used for the treatment of allergies, anti-histamines have shown that they can positively treat anxiety symptoms. The most used anti-histamine is hydroxyzine, an H1-antagonist. Nonetheless, more studies are needed on the effect of these medications on anxiety, which is why they are not recommended when starting treatment for anxiety. 

Natural remedies for anxiety 

Some natural ways to manage mild cases of anxiety include: 

  • Home remedies, like passionfruit tea, lemon balm tea, and St. John’s wort tea, which are rich in soothing and anxiolytic substances. Check out other herbs for anxiety that help promote relaxation.
  • Low intensity exercise, like walking, pilates or yoga. 
  • Relaxation methods, like medication or breathing exercises, which can help to manage many symptoms. 

You should also increase your intake of foods with high magnesium, omega-3 and tryptophan contents (like bananas, sardines and chocolate). These nutrients increase serotonin production, which can help to manage anxiety.