The National Institute of Mental Health has reported that anxiety disorders are currently the most common mental illness in the US, affecting 40 million adults (18 years and older) or 18% of the general population. Anxiety disorders cost the US $42 million a year, which is almost a third of the country’s total annual mental health bill.
Most people turn to Xanax when feeling anxious. However, many don’t even know the serious long and short term side effects of the drug too. Xanax belongs to the Benzodiazepines group, which are commonly prescribed for anxiety and depression. In 2010, Xanax or Alprazolam was listed as the 8th commonly prescribed medications according to SDI Health.
What is Xanax?
Only in 2011, there were more than 49 million prescriptions for Xanax. This medication acts similarly to other benzodiazepines. It binds to GABA receptors in the brain and slows down heart rate and breathing, creating a sense of relief and relaxation. Like other pharmaceutical drugs, Xanax’s benefits have a cost.
Typical side effects of Xanax:
- Dyspnea or shortness of breath
- Reduced motivation
- Skin rash, respiratory depression, constipation
- Dry mouth
- Decreased libido
- Excessive talking
- Anterograde amnesia and concentration problems
- Drowsiness, fatigue, dizziness, lightheadedness, unsteadiness and impaired coordination, vertigo
More serious side effects of Xanax:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Memory problems
- Slurred speech
- Strange dreams
Long-term side effects of Xanax
The most harsh side effect of Xanax is its high risk for addiction within such a short amount of time. It has a sedative effect that offers the user a high that the body starts to tolerate with frequent usage.
When a tolerance is established, the patients ends up being prescribed a higher dose until they get that relaxed feeling. It begins a cycle an addiction to sedatives, which at some point leads to a higher risk for overdose.
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, more than 20 million people over 12 have reported misuse of Xanax, and there are more than 350 000 emergency room visits caused by benzodiazepines annually in the US, with Xanax being the main culprit.
A natural alternative to Xanax: L-theanine
L-theanine is a potent amino acid that’s primarily found in teas made from the Camellia sinensis plant. L-theanine is an anxiolytic without any sedative/side effects like Xanax.
L-theanine, like Xanax, acts by interacting with brain receptors and increasing dopamine, GABA, and glycine levels in areas of the brain. It helps relax the central nervous system, producing a sense of calm and reduces stress.
Australian researchers conducted a study in 2004 which involved 16 volunteers. They compared the effects of 1mg of Xanax and 200mg of L-theanine and find out that theanine provides better effects, meaning that it induces relaxation throughout the resting task, while none of them showed acute anxiolytic effect throughout the second task which was anxiety.
Taking L-theanine: Tea vs Supplement
There are two options: start increasing your intake of L-theanine; concentrated doses through supplementation and/or lower concentrations in brewed tea.
- The supplements can be found in 200 mg doses which equal 8-10 cups of brewed black tea.
- The recommended dose is of 100–200mg 1-3 times per day for therapeutic benefits
- Green tea: A cup of brewed green tea contains approximately 8mg of L-theanine
- Black tea: A typical 200ml cup of brewed black tea contained approximately 25mg of L-theanine
- Matcha green tea powder: Organic stone-ground matcha offers around 29mg of L-theanine per 2g of matcha powder.
The University of Newcastle in Australia’s team of researchers report that in order to get the highest possible amount of L-theanine out of each cup follow these instructions:
- Steep tea at 80 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes
- Use water to tea ratio of 20 ml per 1 gram
- Steep tea that is between 0.5 and 1 mm in particle size!