non-narcotic medications

Top 5 Non-Narcotic Anxiety Medication List

non-narcotic medications

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders affect 40 million Americans. Those who have battled anxiety [1*]  know just how much it affects all aspects of their lives. Symptoms such as; increased heart rate, panic attacks, sweating, and trembling are debilitating. Although numerous interventions for anxiety attacks have been advanced, medication remains one of the most effective treatment options. But, is there a non-addictive anxiety medication?

People who have a history of addiction may be wary about using medications to treat anxiety. Generally, medications that are known to have addictive properties should be avoided given that other non-addictive medication options are available. Anxiety disorder patients are more vulnerable to drug addiction because they naturally tend to self-medicate to numb their symptoms. So, what is the best non-narcotic anxiety medication?

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Well, here are the top 5 non-addictive and non-narcotic anti-anxiety medications.

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)

As the name suggests, SSRIs are a class of anxiety drugs that work by increasing serotonin secretion in the brain. These drugs were initially meant to treat depression before it was discovered that they are just as effective at treating anxiety. Serotonin is a mood-boosting and feel-good hormone. By increasing the production of this hormone, SSRIs help to suppress anxiety symptoms. These drugs are particularly effective when it comes to treating Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Since they are non-narcotic and non-addictive, SSRIs offer a safe treatment option to anxiety disorder patients since they don’t have to worry about any harmful side effects of the drugs. Most mental health practitioners prescribe SSRIs as the first-line pharmaceutical treatment option for anxiety disorders.

Some of the most common SSRIs used for anxiety disorders include:

  • Paroxetine
  • Citalopram
  • Vilazodone
  • Fluoxetine
  • Escitalopram
  • Vortioxetine

Given that SSRIs are non-narcotic and non-addictive, you may wonder;

How Do They Treat Anxiety?

Well, these drugs correct neurotransmitter deficiencies that often cause anxiety. SSRI medications are generally slow-acting, and it may take anything between two to six weeks for results to show. Even so, these drugs are well tolerated. 30 to 50% of anxiety patients experience mild side effects in the first few weeks of SSRI medication.

Serotonin Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)

These anxiety disorder drugs are similar to SSRIs, both in name and function. Typically, medical practitioners recommend SNRIs in cases where SSRIs fail to work. SNRIs work by not only boosting serotonin secretion, but also regulating norepinephrine. This is a neurotransmitter that enhances concentration and alertness. Thus, SNRIs have a positive impact on patients’ mood. When it comes to SNRIs, the anti-anxiety drugs list is limited to only two medicines. These two medicines are:

  • Venlafaxine XR
  • Duloxetine
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Just like SSRIs, SNRIs have a delayed onset. It takes more than two weeks for the anti-anxiety effects of these drugs to start showing. With time, patients tend to have an elevated mood and higher energy levels. Nonetheless, SNRIs can worsen some of the physical symptoms of anxiety disorders. Some patients also report loss of appetite, fatigue, and constipation after embarking on SNRI medication. If this happens to you, consult your mental health provider immediately for an alternative. If you stop taking SNRIs abruptly, you may also experience some mild withdrawal symptoms.

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This is a fast-acting and non-addictive medication that offers temporary relief from anxiety and its symptoms. Hydroxyzine was originally developed to treat itchiness and environmental allergies, but has been proven to be effective in treating anxiety temporarily. The medication causes dry mouth, and is also sedating. Therefore, it’s often tolerated poorly by anxiety patients. Those who are using hydroxyzine to treat anxiety disorder are generally advised to avoid drugs and alcohol. Thanks to its sedating properties, it’s not advisable to operate machinery after taking this medication. Since hydroxyzine offers temporary relief to anxiety patients, it isn’t a fine-line choice of drug when it comes to treating anxiety disorders.


A significant number of anxiety patients experience seizures and panic attacks. Pregabalin was developed as an antidote for seizures, but in recent times, it has been used as an anti-anxiety medication. Although not well backed by medical studies [2*] , this drug is effective at improving both the physical and psychological symptoms of anxiety. Although it’s neither addictive nor narcotic, doctors don’t often prescribe pregabalin as a first-line treatment option for anxiety disorders. Improper administration of this drug may cause adverse side-effects and dangerous interactions with alcohol and other drugs. Some of the common side effects of this drug include:

  • Impaired muscle coordination
  • Weight gain
  • Dry mouth
  • Dizziness
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Headache
  • Blurred vision
  • Lethargy and fatigue
  • Visual disturbances
  • Sexual dysfunction

Some patients also experience mild euphoria after taking pregabalin. Thus, dosage instructions should be followed thoroughly when taking this anxiety medication. Withdrawal symptoms may also arise, more so among patients who have used pregabalin for a long time.


Buspar cannot be categorized as a new anxiety medication in 2021 because it has been around for years. This non-addictive medication for anxiety and depression is similar to SSRIs in function. It enhances serotonin production, but unlike SSRIs, Buspar only targets a single serotonin receptor. It is highly-effective at treating Generalized Anxiety Disorder as well as Depression. Buspar differs from other anxiety medication because how exactly it works remains unclear. Even so, the drug only affects a specific area of patients’ brains, thus causing fewer side effects. Buspar is also a slow-acting medication, and it may take up to two weeks for patients to start experiencing its effects. Doctors often prescribe Buspar as a second-line treatment option for anxiety after SSRIs. Even so, its addictive properties and favorable side effect profile makes it one of the most widely-used anxiety medications. The drug also helps to reduce withdrawal symptoms among patients who are recovering from opioid use.

What’s the Best Non-Benzodiazepine Anti-Anxiety Medication?

For years, benzodiazepines were the most common anti-anxiety drugs. With time, however, it was discovered that treating situational or short-term anxiety using benzodiazepines comes with the risk of dependence and withdrawal. Thus, there was a need to develop non-narcotic and non-addictive alternatives that would be equally effective at treating anxiety. SSRIs, SNRIs, and beta-blockers are some of the proven non-addictive and non-narcotic alternatives for benzodiazepines.

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Medications for Severe Anxiety and Panic Attacks

If you’re battling severe anxiety, one question that will run on your mind constantly is, what is the best non-narcotic anxiety medication? Well, anxiolytics (also known as anti-panic and anti-anxiety drugs) are the most effective treatment option for severe anxiety and panic attacks. However, it’s best to keep in mind that the form of anxiety that requires medical treatment is known as Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). GAD is characterized by excessive anxiety, worry, and distress, which affect an individual’s ability to function normally. Anxiety medications primarily focus on reducing or eliminating symptoms of the conditions. Often, the medications are used alongside psychotherapy to achieve the desired results. 

Anti-Anxiety Medications and Drug Interactions

Anxiolytics tend to have drug interactions, which you should be wary about. After embarking on anxiety medication, it’s best to keep in mind that the non-addictive drugs may also have negative interactions with alcohol and other medicines. 

For instance, anxiety disorder patients should avoid taking anxiolytics drugs with drugs that inhibit monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI). Combining anti-anxiety medicines with aspirin, warfarin, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may also cause adverse side effects such as gastrointestinal bleeding. 

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Anti-Anxiety Drug Use by Pregnant Mothers

A common question among anxiety patients is whether they can safely take anxiety medication when pregnant or breastfeeding. Studies suggest that SSRIs increase the risk of birth defects, stillbirth, miscarriage, and premature births. Benzodiazepines can harm unborn babies if taken by pregnant women. These drugs can cause weight loss and weakness in newborn babies.

Final Words: Getting Treated for Anxiety

Although anxiety is one of the most prevalent mental health conditions, it’s treatable. When exploring the available treatment options, one question you’ll encounter is, what is the best non-narcotic anxiety medication? To answer the question, we’ve created this comprehensive list of non-narcotic anxiety medication to guide you on the available options. It’s normal to feel anxious from time to time. However, if anxiety prevents you from fulfilling your daily obligations, you need to see a specialist.

At EZCare Clinic, we understand just how harmful anxiety is. Thus, we offer comprehensive treatment options that help our patient to retake control of their lives. Contact us today or book an anxiety appointment to learn new ways of coping and treating anxiety.


+2 sources
  1. Anxiety Disorders - Facts & Statistics
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  2. Pregabalin for the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder: an update. (2013)
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