Don’t Take Anti-Anxiety Pills Until You Read This

Don’t Take Anti-Anxiety Pills Until You Read This

Everybody feels anxious from time to time. You get a knot in your stomach when you’re going on a first date, your hands get sweaty when you have a job interview, or you can’t stop those racing thoughts about your financial situation. For some people, the nervousness, worry, and panic feel constant. You’re not alone.

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health condition in the nation with 40 million American adults experiencing feelings of tension, apprehension, and fear each year. Seeking treatment often results in a prescription for medication. But anti-anxiety pills can be bad news.

The Problems with Anti-Anxiety Pills

Beware that traditional treatment with anti-anxiety medications can be harmful to the brain. For example, benzodiazepines—including Xanax, Valium, and Ativan—suppress brain activity and can make the brain look toxic (shriveled or low in activity). They have also been found to increase the risk of dementia.

Even more alarming is the fact that deaths from overdoses involving benzos quadrupled from 2002 to 2015, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. And a 2016 study found that the number of prescriptions being doled out for benzos has jumped by 67%. Now, an estimated 13.5 million American adults are popping these harmful and addictive antianxiety pills.

Because of their addictive nature, getting off benzos can be challenging. Stopping the pills abruptly can cause withdrawal symptoms, including a worsening of anxiety.

Fortunately, pills aren’t the only option to ease your anxiety.

Natural Ways to Soothe Anxiety

Here are 6 things you can do to lower anxiety before resorting to medication.

1. Check for underlying medical causes.

Low blood sugar, anemia, and hyperthyroidism can cause symptoms associated with anxiety. When necessary, addressing those medical issues can help alleviate symptoms.

2. Just breathe.

Slow and deep belly breathing, as well as meditation, can immediately increase a sense of calm.

3. Try hypnosis.

Hypnosis and guided imagery can be very powerful in helping you overcome symptoms of anxiety.

4. Do calming exercises.

Yoga and qi gong can help you achieve a more peaceful mindset.

5. Learn to kill the ANTs.

The automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) that invade your thinking can make you feel awful. You do not have to believe every stupid thought you have.

6. Start with nutritional supplements.

Nutraceuticals—such as l-theanine, GABA, and magnesium—have been found to promote a sense of calm and relaxation. Try these before resorting to antianxiety medications that can be both addictive and toxic to your brain,

Find out more about these and other natural strategies to calm anxiety in this “Skills or Pills” episode of The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast with Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen.

Amen Clinics has helped thousands of people overcome anxiety and panic attacks. We use brain SPECT imaging to help identify your particular type of anxiety to help find personalized solutions as part of a brain-body approach to healing.

If you or a loved one is experiencing debilitating anxiety, speak with a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or schedule a visit online.


  1. Thankyou for suggesting Clinical Hypnotherapy.
    I do a 4 week Anxiety programme and im generally the last resort. But they tell me i should be the first, after theyve been.
    By the way, thats my profession.
    Very few people even know Hypnotherapists exist, here in Australia.

    Comment by lynette courtney — November 18, 2019 @ 3:07 AM

  2. I really appreciate Dr Amen and would like to be able to to go to a clinic unfortunately there is non available in our area. Hopefully some day there will be. I have been fighting anxiety for a long time.

    Comment by Charlotte — November 18, 2019 @ 4:40 AM

  3. I have been taking Xanax for over a year now….what can I do – ???

    Cheryl Herring

    Comment by Cheryl Herring — November 18, 2019 @ 5:45 AM

  4. I experienced intense bullying by my boss at work over a three year period. I eventually had to leave but experienced PTSD afterwards for almost ten years. I could not physically walk back in the building even five years afterwards without having panic attacks. I have not been able to return to any regular consistent wirk

    I had been a director overseeing a staff of 40 making a very good salary. What is really awful is that I told the Chief Administrator Officer and HR about it numerous times and they refused to do anything about him. I saw my boss systematically crush others as well.

    I still use Clonazepam for panic attacks and anxiety a (as needed now) 13 years later.

    Comment by Sandra Meyer — November 18, 2019 @ 6:16 AM

  5. This is a great post to keep people from starting the drug but it doesn’t give much guidance to those 13.5 million people that are taking these prescribed drugs.

    Comment by Tim — November 18, 2019 @ 6:28 AM

  6. I wonder if buspar has the same effects on the brain. It is the only thing that helped mitigate my anxiety, and I have been taking it for 10 years. I am now worried about whether or not buspar could increase the risk of dementia.

    Comment by Diane — November 18, 2019 @ 8:51 AM

  7. Dr. Amen is just getting on board after Lisa Ling’s CNN documentary on the hell and damage of benzos that aired October 6. She’s the first one to bring the evil medication to the forefront!!! Dr. Amen is only touching lightly on the damage benzos can do and trust me, even short term!!!!! And he still believes in prescribing them. Only those suffering truly know it’s pure mental torture to taper off of a benzo and a living, dying hell to survive not to mention setback withdrawal symptoms can happen even years later after stopping the meds. This is called benzo protracted brain injury!!! Benzos (any anti-anxiety med) should NEVER be prescribed. Period. Do you think if we were all informed of the damage a benzo can cause, we would opt to take it? HELL NO!!! I needed help to sleep. I TRUSTED my doctor and had no clue she gave me an anti-anxiety med to help me sleep. I tapered off after only using short term and completely healed November 2015, however, I have had major hellish setbacks (protracted brain injury) every year that has lasted months and months and I am right now in a current setback of hell that has lasted six months with no reprieve!!! I have all the major symptoms as if I am withdrawing again and I NEVER had any of these issues prior this benzo medication.

    Comment by Pam Nieblas — November 18, 2019 @ 10:40 AM

  8. Couldn’t agree with you more, Tim!! All of us victims are just that…victims!!! You can find a support group for cocaine, heroin and alcohol but not a single one for benzos at least not in California. Not to mention doctors don’t BELIEVE the hell that we are in tapering off and laugh many victims right out of their office!!!! Dr. Amen could have been one of the first in the last ten years to do research to help us victims with his brain spects that according to him shows the benzo damage. So if it shows Benzo damage, why not feel it your duty, Dr. Amen, to find a cure for what this med has done to thousands????

    Comment by Pam Nieblas — November 18, 2019 @ 2:36 PM

  9. Reading the posts, I am surprised that many are ignoring Dr Amens suggestion re the benefit of clinical hypnotherapy.
    It works folks!
    Look up recognised organisations in your country to find a registered professional.
    In Australia, its AHA and ASCH but Google clinical hypnotherapy organisations in your country.
    Use the power of your own mind, instead of manufactured chemicals.

    Comment by lynette courtney — November 18, 2019 @ 3:26 PM

  10. You will be pleasantly surprised how Dr Amens comment on the benefit of deep breathing, hypnosis, meditation and exercise can help you ween off medications.
    This man knows what he is talking about!!!

    Comment by Tim, thats where Clinical Hypnotherapy from a Registered Professional comes in. — November 18, 2019 @ 3:33 PM

  11. Thak you Dr. Amen for your work in this area. For those who have are using benzos and are wanting to get off. You first need to find a functional medicine practitioner, Dr. Amen’s clinic is one of them, to help with the following. Balance your hormones, nutritional deficiencies, check if you have any genetic SNPs that can affect your neurotransmitters in the brain, last but not least is diet and environmental issues. Glucose swings can contribute to anxiety. Healing from trauma and emotional issues of course needs to be part of it. This is a holistic approach which is helping many people. It’s worth the process.

    Comment by Lita Senior — November 19, 2019 @ 9:01 AM

  12. I have taken Valium and Buspar for anxiety. However, I finally quite taking Buspar in favor of Ashwagandha. My Nurse Practioner was also taking this for performance purposes and okayed my stopping the Buspar and taking 300 mg Ashwagandha twice a day for anxiety, and it has worked.

    I also take about 3 to 5 tablespoons of fresh ground flaxseed daily. I grind about 2 lbs and keep it in the freezer, This to has really helped.


    Omega-3 Fats
    Anxiety also appears to be linked to low levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Studies using omega-3-rich fish oils to treat anxiety have shown impressive results. In one trial, fish oil was shown to decrease anger and anxiety in substance abusers. In another, 2.5 grams daily of omega-3 fats produced a 20 percent reduction in anxiety symptoms.

    Flaxseed oil, a vegetarian source of omega-3 fats, has also been shown to help ease anxiety. In one study, three out of four patients with a history of agoraphobia improved within two to three months of taking flaxseed (2—6 Tbs. daily, in divided doses).

    Comment by Larry Johnson — November 19, 2019 @ 5:21 PM

  13. You can join benzo buddies or benzo warriors on Facebook for support

    Comment by Anna Krasowski — November 20, 2019 @ 7:39 PM

  14. Benzo Buddies is a good group. Yes, do it. It will at least validate what you are feeling and what you are going through. This fall, 2019, Lisa Ling’s “This is America” did a program on benzo users. The program was filmed in Hoffman Estates, IL. This is a legitimate disease/condition that may become the next “opiate disaster”.

    Comment by Sherry S. Stoffel — November 21, 2019 @ 1:08 PM

  15. Dr. Amen hasn’t really done any work in the area of benzodiazepine withdrawal, nor has he addressed the severity and duration of the withdrawal syndrome. Tapering off benzos has nothing to do with finding a functional medicine practitioner and everything to do with finding a benzo-wise doctor who is willing to allow the patient to control the rate of his/her taper. Addressing hormones, nutritional deficiencies, genetic SNP’s, diet, glucose swings, and environmental issues is not necessarily a bad idea, but the cruel, intense, and protracted symptoms of benzo withdrawal are caused by the down-regulation of GABA receptors which results from the chronic presence of the drug. Only with the passing of time will the GABA receptors up-regulate and return to a normal density. Again, it is not a problem with neurotransmitters (like GABA), but with the neuroreceptors, which have shut down over time. The drug causes physical adaptive changes to the brain and central nervous system which only time can reverse. To learn the science behind this, please read the Ashton Manual, written by Professor Heather Ashton.

    Comment by Jeff Stoffel — November 21, 2019 @ 4:09 PM

  16. I agree with you, Pam. Being able to visually observe benzo damage on a brain scan is only that. It does nothing to address recovery. We need to find a way to bring back all of our lost/damaged GABA receptors.

    Comment by Jeff Stoffel — November 21, 2019 @ 4:14 PM

  17. I am pleased that Dr. Amen’s blog has finally given some attention to the dangers of benzodiazepines, and points out the fact that they can be harmful to the brain. Indeed, the long-term use (greater than six weeks) of benzodiazepines can result in profoundly disabling symptoms that can persist for years after cessation. Severe withdrawal symptoms often appear while the patient continues taking a “therapeutic” dose of the medication, due to increased tolerance.

    This blog also states that benzodiazepines are addictive, and that deaths from overdoses have multiplied in recent years. However, problems with benzodiazepines are very rarely the result of addiction. The vast majority of people who have been harmed by these medications took them exactly as prescribed and had absolutely no issues with craving and/or substance abuse. Addiction and prescribed physical dependence are not the same, but are often conflated. I’m surprised and disappointed that this blog has failed to recognize this.

    Finally, this blog recommends the use of GABA supplements to ease anxiety. Although there is some ongoing debate in the medical and scientific communities, GABA is still regarded as being unable to cross the blood-brain barrier, and therefore, theoretically, cannot alleviate the symptoms of anxiety. If a person does truly experience relief by ingesting GABA, that would suggest a problem with the blood-brain barrier (“leaky brain”).

    Comment by Jeff Stoffel — November 21, 2019 @ 6:12 PM

  18. I posted some links on here for safe methods of tapering off benzos, but apparently my post didn’t get approved(?) Please read the Ashton Manual, written by Professor Heather Ashton.

    Comment by Jeff Stoffel — November 22, 2019 @ 7:18 PM

  19. Deep breathing, hypnosis, meditation, and exercise may be helpful for some people to ween off medications. As for getting off benzodiazepines after long term use (longer than six weeks), there is nothing nearly as important as the rate and method by which one tapers off. I would provide links for proper tapering schedules, but for some reason they get edited out by the moderator of this blog, so I will simply recommend the Ashton Manual, written by Professor Heather Ashton, as well as the tapering information on the website for the Benzodiazepine Information Coalition. Both of these are internationally recognized as the leading resources on scholarly information on benzodiazepines. They are based on research, anecdotal evidence, and lived experience.

    Comment by Jeff Stoffel — November 23, 2019 @ 1:27 AM

  20. The television program referenced above is actually called “This Is Life With Lisa Ling”. A small bit of it was filmed in Schaumburg, IL, but the filming took place, and featured people from, all around the country. I would provide a link for the program, but for some reason the moderator of this blog rejects any posts that contain links. Just search for the program within YouTube. It originally aired on October 6, 2019.

    I myself am suffering from a severe and protracted benzodiazepine injury (neurotoxicity), and I feel that this problem is quite different from the “opiate disaster”. I don’t really believe it’s a fair and accurate comparison. The great majority of patients who have been harmed by benzodiazepines took them exactly as prescribed, never engaged in drug-seeking behaviors, and had no issues with substance abuse or addiction. Rather, over time, benzodiazepines caused physical adaptive changes to the brain (neurological damage) resulting in a drastic worsening of the symptoms for which the medication was originally prescribed, along with a host of additional debilitating symptoms. Recovering from this neurotoxicity can be far more severe and lengthy than with any other class of drugs in the world.

    Comment by Jeff Stoffel — November 23, 2019 @ 1:49 AM

  21. I would provide links for proper tapering schedules, but for some reason they get edited out by the moderator of this blog, so I will simply recommend the Ashton Manual, written by Professor Heather Ashton, as well as the tapering information on the website for the Benzodiazepine Information Coalition. Both of these are internationally recognized as the leading resources on scholarly information on benzodiazepines. They are based on research, anecdotal evidence, and lived experience.

    Comment by Jeff Stoffel — November 23, 2019 @ 2:13 AM

  22. It was from a visit to Amen Clinic that I was first prescribed valium/diazepam. All of the many psychiatrists who had treated me previously already knew of the dangers of long term use and wisely never prescribed, not even for short term. I am now in the process of a hopeful recovery from a protracted benzodiazepine injury, all thanks to Amen Clinic.

    Comment by Clayton Hubbard — December 9, 2019 @ 9:18 AM

  23. I am interested in the benzo detox by the amen clinic. Can you give me info or point me in the right direction?

    Comment by Rick skiles — March 1, 2020 @ 5:48 PM

  24. My benzo detox was not under guidance from Amen Clinic.

    Comment by Clayton — May 2, 2020 @ 5:48 AM

  25. Hello Dr,Daniel Amen how are you and I have a Lorazepam and Buspirone good or bad and I use every day.

    Comment by Aren — October 29, 2022 @ 12:21 PM

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