By Irfana Parveen

B.Sc (Psychiatry Ward)

19 September 2021
Medically reviewed by
Sumayya Salam
Pharm D
Looking for Over the Counter Anxiety Medications? Here's what you should know
Table of Contents

The ratio of people suffering from anxiety is increasing daily, which inhibits their ability to lead a normal life. To alleviate this problem of constant worry, people seek the help of medications to attain immediate relief from their struggles.

For instant help, people often wonder if there’s an over-the-counter medication available. However, the only medicines for anxiety are prescription-based and can’t be bought over-the-counter. There’s no such thing as “over-the-counter” anxiety medications.

Why Medication Is Prescription Only?

Anxiety medications are controlled substances because they affect the brain. It is important to only use them under a doctor’s supervision and with care, as too much can cause severe issues like addiction.

Over-the-counter medications for anxiety may not be recommended because they don’t solve the problem. Anxiety is a disease that needs to change to make it go away, and this can only happen through coping with stressors rather than taking medication on its own.

Medications dull anxiety, but don’t cure it. You’d have to take the medication for the rest of your life, which can be dangerous and not ideal since drugs stop working after a year or so.

Still, Medications Can Help. So Why Don’t We Have Over-The-Counter Ones?

Potential for Abuse

According to Hasin D, Carpenter KM, McCloud S, Smith M, Grant BF: The Alcohol Use Disorder and Associated Disabilities Interview Schedule (AUDADIS) Drugs that treat anxiety can be abused and cause significant mental impairments. If these drugs were available over the counter, many people would attempt to take them off label, which could pose too much of a danger.

Remember, these drugs directly affect your brain by altering neurotransmitter production and reception in your body. Most of them cause significant dangerous side effects when you stop consumption, just like how alcohol addiction is challenging to overcome, similar is the case with the withdrawal symptoms that come from quitting anxiety medication.

Other Reasons To Avoid Medications

These medicines may provide some relief in the short term, but they worsen anxiety if used for a long time. They create dependency and, thus, can be detrimental to your mental health as you will not have any other coping mechanism available when facing stress or pressure situations.

So if you stop taking these medicines, your ability to cope with anxiety will take a hit, and there’s no guarantee that it won’t get worse. Anxiety medications are not recommended due to their low benefits and many risks involved without an alternative treatment or medical supervision.

Will Anxiety Medications Be Available Over The Counter?

An over-the-counter anxiety medication might become available in the future. It is possible that Buspirone, an alternative to prescriptions like Valium and Xanax, may be made available without a prescription; however, it takes several days before you experience any effects with this drug as they are not as strong. But it is still not the right choice. There are currently no medications that meet the criteria for over-the-counter anxiety medication. (Lessenger, J.E. and Feinberg, S.D., 2008.)

Alternatives To Over-The-Counter (OTC) Anxiety Meds

There are certain things you can take that aren’t necessarily anxiety medications and are available over the counter. These supplements don’t work like prescription meds, but they still alleviate symptoms of stress and anxiety to a certain extent.

There Are Several Options That You Could Try, Some Of These Options Include:

Magnesium– According to Tarleton EK, Littenberg B, MacLean CD, Kennedy AG, Daley C (2017) Role of magnesium supplementation in the treatment of depression: Magnesium supplements have been proven to reduce anxiety because they are a nervous system relaxant. This is important for people who struggle with high levels of stress and tension, exacerbating their symptoms. Magnesium is a natural muscle relaxer, so it may help decrease the experience of restlessness or irritability, even if it doesn’t relieve you completely.

Herbal Supplements- Herbal supplements have been proven to reduce anxiety. Passionflower, chamomile, kava, and lavender are all effective in aromatherapy treatments; they help patients feel more at ease. Aromatherapy is an effective holistic treatment that uses plant extracts to promote health and wellbeing. It’s important to use aromatherapy with caution, as it can be dangerous if not properly supervised by a doctor or medical professional.

Melatonin- Many with anxiety struggle to sleep due to the stress of their condition. Melatonin is a hormone that helps your body know when it’s time for rest, and many find taking this supplement reduces some symptoms associated with insomnia. Taking melatonin may help you fall into deep slumber more quickly, resulting in less insomnia, which will decrease your anxiety symptoms.

5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) – 5-HTP is a supplement known to increase serotonin levels, which play an important role in regulating mood and appetite. Studies have shown that increasing the level of serotonin in the brain, should decrease anxiety symptoms. 5-HTP is a supplement that may be used as part of your diet. However, there can be side effects to taking these supplements, and you should consult with a doctor before including them in your daily routine.

CBD oil– CBD oil is an extract of the cannabis plant (known as Cannabidiol). It is usually taken from industrial hemp, which contains minimal THC (the drug that causes the high), and even then, any remaining THC can be removed entirely. Although it has not been approved for medical use by the FDA, CBD oil is often used to treat stress due to its apparent ability to reduce anxiety. However, there are some risks associated with this product that you should discuss with your healthcare physician before trying.


There are no over-the-counter anti-anxiety medicines available as they do not meet the legal criteria of pharmaceutical companies. In the future, OTC drugs might be made accessible for treating stress, but until then, some other alternatives could help relieve stress.

You can treat anxiety naturally without taking prescription medication. Still, you should consider that natural remedies can help ease symptoms of anxiety and stress as they have similar effects to prescription medication. However, it’s not quite the same because you’re avoiding chemicals in medicine.

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