On how to chill without benzos

I’m “lightly medicated” on some Celexa for depression and kolonopin as needed. Lately I’ve been feeling like I dip too much into the klonopin (every evening to calm the fuck down and take the edge of anxiety off) instead of a couple times a week at best. I don’t want it to a be a daily thing, so I’ve been trying other ways of getting my heart to stop beating so fast and my mind not to snap in irritation at every noise outside or irritating question I get. CQ, what do you (or would you) do in moments like this to just chill wihout reaching for the benzos. Sometimes I take a hot bath, sometimes I gulp down an entire glass of water in one sitting, and sometimes I just try taking lots of deep breaths. They all work okay half the time. Any further recommendations? Thank you so much.



I’m totally serious. It’s over-the-counter, perfectly safe when used as directed, and even though it’s an antihistamine, it has legitimate anti-anxiety properties.

If I run out of benzos or feel the need to cut back, the first thing I reach for is one of those little pink pills (especially in the evenings.) You’ll be surprised how well they work. Benadryl is my secret weapon against developing an ugly benzo habit.


58 thoughts on “On how to chill without benzos

    • Mike says:

      SAME. Diphenhydramine has been my before-bed jam for a few years now and it works wonders. Makes waking up really tough if I don’t get my full 8/9 hours, though :/

  1. Anna says:

    Why not a joint ? You can’t OD on weed, and if you can pass for a middle class white person it’s as if it were legal.
    Now, I’m reconsidering my response. I use weed as an anxiolytic, but does appropriate administration of weed relieve or aggravate intermittent or generalized anxiety for most people ? Let’s have a poll in the comment section, I’m genuinely interested by any self redacted case reviews.

    • CharChar says:

      The particular strain you smoke matters a LOT. Some are excellent for calming anxiety, and others will exacerbate it quite a bit.

      • Anna says:

        The market where I live is completely saturated with Moroccan indica, and there is no way no reliable way to obtain a particularly strain (unless it came directly from Amsterdam)

    • Livvid says:

      My experience: I stopped smoking weed because it started to trigger anxiety and psychosis. It’s true that you can be selective about your strain, but even the risk of trying something that’s going to make me feel like weed has made me feel before makes me not want to even touch it anymore. It’s a reaction that developed in the past few years and I don’t know why, but since there are so many other ways to treat anxiety, I’m not going to bother trying to figure it out.

      • Anna says:

        Thanks for your answer, your type of case is exactly what put doubt in my mind when I was finished writing my comment. Since I’ve already started with public service announcements lower in the comment section, I’m permitting myself to say:DON’T MIX WEED AND PSYCHOSIS. EVER!
        You my friend have enough to do without figuring out why you can’t or don’t want to do weed. Just don’t do it. It will never be as harmless to you as it would be to a person not having experienced psychosis.
        However there is a category of anxiety disorders that are not related to psychotic disorders, although it’s a spectrum. I wonder how these people self medicate.

      • Anna says:

        Yeah weed is definitely an anxiety inducing substance for many people when used in a recreative setup.
        But I think there’s a fundamental difference between a social recreational situation and a situation where one is using it as a long term personal way of self medicating, right ?

        • Strangely Rational says:

          I know someone who was using it long-term to treat PTSD, and there were some strains he absolutely could not use because it increased anxiety, induced paranoia, and took him to some pretty dark places. Even with the “friendlier” strains, he had to be careful to keep his mind in the right place.

    • Margo says:

      maybe they don’t pass for a middle class white person?

      also it’s funny this has come up a few times recently where people ask Coque if she smokes weed, but I remember her saying years ago that she doesn’t because it turns her into a “paranoid little spider monkey”.

    • The Derpy Bear says:

      Actually it depends on what country they live in. Not all countries will even let middle class white people get away with it

    • Strangely Rational says:

      I don’t care who you are, in my state they will dump your ass in jail as fast as they can if they catch you with weed.

      Here, if you have one plant growing in your closet or over 1 oz. of weed in your possession, you are in bigger trouble than you would be for a DUI. The latter is a misdemeanor. The former is a felony. Even with less pot in your possession, you’re still looking at a misdemeanor with jail time.

      I have a “friend” who learned this the hard way. So it pays to look up state laws and find out how severely they’re enforced.

  2. Rose says:

    Holy shit, this is so helpful. But what if you’re freaking out and still need to be functional? Benadryl doesn’t always puts me to sleep, but sometimes it really fucks me up.

        • IMME says:

          Not a dumb question. You can’t learn if you don’t ask. Also, have you tried taking half a pill? With the shape of Benadryl, you don’t even need a pill cutter, just a sharp knife as long as you’re careful. You could also try taking it with food to help reduce the effect. I take Ativan sometimes, and I’ll sometimes even cut it into quarters so I don’t get knocked flat on my ass.

  3. Gaybeard says:

    You might also try some Valerian drops or Valerian pills. They’re herbal and they’re safe, and they work. Take two in the evening to calm down and get ready for sleep.

    The problem with things like Clonazepam (Klonopin) is that while they help you get to sleep, they are also capable of disrupting your ability to reach stage 4 and the all important stage 5 REM sleep. If constant use of clonazepam is damaging your quality of sleep then it could be what’s making your anxiety more pervasive.

    I’m not sure how severe your anxiety is but my method is to allow moderate anxiety to keep hold of me most days and help me to be productive and then to wait until the “I can’t take it, I’m exhausted” point, and then take two 0.05mg doses for two days, followed by one a day for another two days. That way I’ll spend most of the month without taking anything, with a 4 day break. I find it really helps to keep my productivity up but also create an interruption in my anxiety cycle that forces me to relax (heavily) and push myself out of it.

    Good luck.

    • Quinn says:

      I second the valerian recommendation, but I find it works better as a preventative than a treatment. I take 2 or 3 in the morning and find it keeps my anxiety at bay. Also astragalus root.

      • unicornsrpeople2 says:

        I am also a fan of the herbal remedy, but I drink herbal tea called “Stress Zapper”. Eleuthero Root, St. John’s Wort, Ginko Leaf, Peppermint Leaf, Rose Hips, Stevia, Passion Flower, Ginger, Lemon Balm, Milk Thistle, Lemon Grass.

        I buy from an online herb store and I don’t know how effective any of these herbs are for anxiety, but I find the ritual of making and drinking a teapot full when I’m feeling anxious does calm me down. Could just be placebo, but it’s 100% safe and non-habit forming, plus it tastes good and is a pretty nutritious blend of herbs.

        Plus I smoke weed which definitely calms me down, but has been a real hamper on my productivity. I gave it up for a few months last year and definitely noticed an improvement in my productivity and moods. But I love weed and I’m funemployed right now so I’m backsliding 😀

        Not to say weed is bad for everyone, but it sure does make me lazy.

        • IMME says:

          I second the herbal tea remedy. For me, it’s nowhere near as effective as taking an Ativan for a major panic attack or episode, but it’s fantastic for everyday calming, Since OP was taking about drinking water and taking a bath, I suspect tea might be right up their alley. If someone is looking for something they can get in the grocery store, I’d recommend chamomile or Celestial Seasonings’ “Tension Tamer” blend. Loose leaf, my current faves for relaxation are Teavana’s “Serenity” blend and “Summer Bouquet.”

    • RocketGrunt says:

      As far as herbal remedies go, I’m a huge fan of kava kava. I don’t have anxiety, but I do have sleep problems because I find it hard to relax at night. I’ve never had drowsiness as a side effect from any medication (including benadryl), sleeping pills just make me spacey, and valerian root has no effect whatsoever. Somehow kava kava works for me, though.

    • IMME says:

      Ambien is the devil. I always had wicked fucked up dreams and would wake up more tired than when I went to sleep when I took it.

  4. jdavrie says:

    Never thought of this. I occasionally give my dog Benadryl for thunderstorms, but it never occurred to me that it might have the same effect on humans. Kind of puts my own anxieties into perspective.

    • FQ says:

      I don’t know where I’d be without melatonin (especially when I’m dealing with jet lag), but I’ve found that on the second consecutive day, it does nothing for me.

  5. Mil says:


    I was trying to doze off last night and thought, god I need a benzo & then realized diphenhydramine will do just fine.

  6. Christy says:

    Do you exercise? I swear it is the #2 in my life after Wellbutrin–it’s amazing how well it helps me manage my anxiety. Daily vigorous exercise is a lifesaver.

    • Giselle says:

      I came here to ask the same thing.
      Join a gym, not a bullshit one, a small one with small classes, the kind that make you pay if you skip them, one with some accountability.
      Work you fucking ASS off when you go there / find a class or trainer that won’t let you slack.
      Do this 3-6 times a week. You’ll be too exhausted at first to have anxiety, then when you start getting in shape you will just feel better anyway. Not to mention that hour you are working out will definitely keep your mind too occupied to be worried or thinking about anything (try something that requires a lot of mental energy too, martial arts are GREAT for this especially if you are a beginner).

      • IMME says:

        I can’t say I disagree with this, but I would like to add that depending on your level of anxiety, getting to the gym can be its own kind of panic inducing hell. It might be more realistic to aim for 1-2 times a week to start.

        The classes part is super critical though, because you either go or you don’t. There is no saying “I’ll go in 10 minutes…I’ll go after this show is over…let me just check my email…I need to eat first…I just ate so I need to wait…oops the gym is closed, guess I’ll go tomorrow.”

        Personally, I’m a fan of pilates/yoga fusion classes. You work your ass off and then get to meditate. It’s win/win.

  7. Elizabeth says:

    Not a doctor, can’t legally recommend medications.

    I like propranolol if you don’t have heart or circulatory counter-indications, and don’t take drugs that play badly with it.

    • FQ says:

      I’m on a propranolol ER right now, and while it helps with my physical symptoms a ton, that’s about all it does. It doesn’t chill me out the way klonopin does; it just makes me functional.

    • Anna says:

      I’m not kidding, your advice could be deadly, whether there is a known heart/condition condition or clotting condition (the second of which is often quite often a genetic condition in younger patients that remains unknown until something really shitty happens, like losing half a lung)

        • Anna says:

          A bit like hemophilia, but hemophilia is a recessive trait, so sick people have no healthy copies of the affected gene.
          If you’re heterozygous for that mutation, you can have a much milder clotting disorder. It often comes up when people have to go into surgery (bc you have to adapt the anesthesia and post op care to avoid complications), and it’s incredibly common. Some ppl have multiple episodes of thrombophlebitis but many just never know about this.

  8. minuteye says:

    As a longer term thing, meditation or biofeedback techniques can do that. But you have to practice them ahead of time for them to be useful in the moment.

  9. SMH says:

    Please, if you must do this, be careful about adverse interactions with any medications you are on. Read and research before you ingest. Some ingredients in cough medicines, particularly decongestants, can cause kidney or liver damage. You can get very sick doing this and experience some symptoms that will compound your anxiety tenfold. My level of experience: been there, done that.

  10. Anna says:

    I got lost in the pharmaceutical aspect of this question, but to the OP; maybe go see your psychiatrist ? I understand the self medication aspect but the fundamental job of any doctor is to help you deal with overwhelming or disturbing symptoms. If you are experiencing chronic psychological pain that you can’t deal with, just go see a doctor.
    I mean really the worse thing that can happen is receiving suggestions that are worse than Coquette’s.

    • Steven says:

      Second your recommendation. I usually appreciate Coquette’s responses, but she should not be providing medical advice.

      If the writer is still experiencing significant anxiety despite their current medication regimen, they should follow-up with their psychiatrist. Self-medicating can be dangerous.

      And heads-up: benzos and antihistamines should not be combined lightly. Respiratory depression is real and potentially life-threatening.

        • Steven says:

          Sure, but there’s a difference between using drugs recreationally and treating mental illness. When you conflate the two, you’re well on the way to addiction.

          • The Coquette says:

            I know it’s leap day and all, but that’s a big fuckin’ leap, Steve. (And if you weren’t busy being the human equivalent of a coffee cup warning, maybe you’d notice that my advice was given specifically to avoid addiction.)

      • Anna says:

        In her defence, she recommended an OTC drug to be “used as directed” (that is, or should be, as a pharmacist who knows what other drugs you’re taking and what risk factors you have would recommend).
        (Rereading the answer though it’s incorrect to say it’s “perfectly safe when used as directed”, no drug is perfectly safe).
        In your defence, there is a difference between taking drugs recreationally and self medicating. The latter should be done under supervision of a doctor. Actually the former too, if you can get one.

      • Angua says:

        At no point did she say “definitely mix benzos with Benadryl” but rather (paraphrasing) “if you are looking to cut back on your benzo use, this, used as directed, is an alternative.” An “off label” use, if you will. Because it appears the letter writer KNOWS Benzos aren’t a harmless little thing you pop to chill out and think no more of, but a drug that has a very real effect on you over time, which she’d rather avoid.

        And in a pinch it’s *very* useful to know if you are completely out of your actual prescription med to stop panic attacks/anxiety spikes/what have you, that benadryl is a functional stop gap so you don’t have to pay ER rates for a single freaking vicodin/klonopin/whatnot because you had no idea what else to do.

  11. Yeoja says:

    I started on hydroxyzine (as-needed) but that made me drowsy and when I was in a real state just seemed to push my panic into the deep end. On quetiapine now, which is similar in addition to really fucking knocking me out and making me spacey for a day or two.

    My doctor says the third option (before getting on regular daily antidepressants/antianxiety meds) is the benzodiazepines, i.e. Klonopin. I haven’t wanted to start on antidepressants because they make you fat/kill your sex drive, and I’ve been wary of the Klonopin because I still want to drink. What would you do?

    • Sophie says:

      I have been on a lot of medication for my depression and anxiety, and now control it with; meditation, excercise, St. John’s wort and Benadryl.
      St. John’s has worked the same for me that Effexor and cymbalta, but without the sweaty palms and I can still have an orgasm. Benadryl is great when I’m wired and anxiously hanging off the ceiling.
      Be careful with the benzos, they are seriously the worst thing ever to come off, worse than heroin.

    • Gaybeard says:

      Drinking is definitely not recommended if you have anxiety and depression problems, especially if you’re taking medication for them. I’ve kept up a mild amount of drinking throughout the two years that I’ve been on anti-deps and benzos and everyone who knows me well tells me that my mood and mental stability are visibly affected after consecutive days of drinking (not something ridiculous, but more than 1 day).

      After 2 years of treatment and resistance to changing my lifestyle in response to my problems, I’ve come to a place where I’ve decided to cut drinking out of my life until I feel in control of myself again. So far I’ve found my moods and self-control to be much better. On a rare day I’ll have a beer or two but definitely no regular drinking.

      If you have to drink, then never have a drink on a day that you take a benzo. I made that mistake once by accident a few times and it was not a good time.

      • CynicalGrey says:

        Thanks for sharing that, Gaybeard. I’ve come to that realization myself, and I already feel a lot more balanced and ready to face my anxiety and depression.

  12. Jen says:

    Totally agree, Benadryl is great. I get a nasty hangover from melatonin. For something even milder, try kava kava in capsule form. I’ve even used it in place of beta blockers during the day for speaking at work.

  13. KP says:

    I think Benadryl works better than benzos for racy, panicked thoughts. It doesn’t make me sleepy at all, but it takes a lot to knock me out. I bought some Melatonin – already mentioned, I see — for sleep , but I’ve heard too many stories about sleep paralysis, which I’ve had off and on since I was about eight and it’s not fun, so I’m hesitant to take it. I’ve heard of people using it for anxiety , too.

  14. Strangely Rational says:

    Be careful. My husband had problems with benzo addiction, so his doctor encouraged him to use Benadryl. He became addicted to that instead, and was taking literally (not figuratively) handfuls a day. Like sometimes forty 50mg caps. He’s gone on and off it a few times over the last several years, and it’s been awhile now, so I’m hoping we’re past it.

    I would recommend asking your doctor about alternative anti-anxiety drugs. One is Buspar (buspirone), which is effective and non-addictive. Another is Neurontin (gabapentin), which is used off-label for anxiety. My husband has severe anxiety and is on both of these drugs.

    I am also on Neurontin for anxiety. And both my husband and I agree that it is just as effective for us as a benzo (remember that he’s a benzo addict – and he has even turned Ativan down in favor of this stuff). Some people do have withdrawals upon stopping, so you have to be careful there, but it is absolutely worth asking about.

    As for non-medication techniques, I’ve had decent success with DBT/mindfulness even after just two months.

  15. GroundControl says:

    In a delightful parent/child role reversal last night, I gave my mom Benadryl because she’s been super stressed and not sleeping for the past few months but doesn’t want an Rx sleep aid. It worked so well! I’m so glad you posted about this because it never would have occurred to me otherwise.

  16. margarita says:

    I’m a little late to this, but wanted to reccomend kava as another alternative to benzos- it’s certainly worked for me. It’s a traditional plant from the pacific islands used as a mild anxiolytic and sedative. I’ve never heard of anyone being physically dependant on it, which is the one thing which really worries me about benzodiazepines because, speaking from experience, withdrawal is a bitch. Traditionally, the root is ground up and soaked in cold water and strained. There are pill forms available, but make sure you get one which is root only and cold water extracted – some cheaper companies use ethanol to extract it and the whole plant, which can cause liver problems. Anyway, good luck!

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