Feeling Anxious? 3 Safe Alternatives to Taking Unprescribed Xanax

by Lexi Petronis, Glamour
Did you watch the Real Housewives of New Jersey reunion? It was tense, right? So tense, in fact, that Lauren Manzo says, "Xanax was being passed around like candy."

She could be joking, naturally. But her comment underscored an important point: Xanax is getting more and more popular with women, according to Dr. Paul Hokemeyer, Ph.D., JD, a licensed marriage and family therapist with Caron Treatment Centers who focuses on the treatment of addiction. And it's not just women with a prescription who are taking the drug to calm their anxiety--lots are taking it recreationally. Without a prescription.

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Casual Xanax use comes with major risks, says Hokemeyer--like actual changes in the brain: "It slows down the brain's functioning, impairs judgment and motor coordination, which can result in poor sexual decisions, poor parenting decisions and poor relationship decisions," he says. If Xanax is mixed with other drugs or alcohol, it could be toxic--plus, you could easily find yourself addicted.

Instead of going the Xanax route, Hokemeyer suggests managing your stress and anxiety through non-pharmaceutical intervention like these:

Breathing techniques. "Typically, anxiety arises from distorted thoughts," he says. "For example: you walk into a room and you get what you think is the cold shoulder from your boss, so your thoughts devolve into visions of yourself homeless, pushing a shopping cart. By practicing simple mindfulness techniques, like focusing your attention on your breath or your feet, you are able to interrupt these distorted thoughts and reclaim your emotional composure."

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Counting exercises. "Numbers are linear and logical. They force our attention on something objective and provide a respite from the subjectivity of anxious thoughts," he says.

Physical exercise. "Our minds are so intimately connected to our bodies, so it's important to get regular exercise," he says. "Walking is great, even if it is just around the block. So is jumping up and down. Remember, it doesn't need to be elaborate. Even the slightest elevation in your pulse will work wonders on your mood."

Have you ever taken prescription medication when you didn't have a prescription? How do you deal with stress and anxiety?

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