Dubai’s competitive business landscape has rendered anti-anxiety medication less taboo, according to a top psychiatrist in the city, as executives opt for the medication to deal with heightened stress and an increased demand for productivity in the workplace.
“Societal attitudes and an emphasis on productivity and competitive performance… render psychiatric medication less taboo in Dubai, increase demand and diminish the propensity and preparedness for a healthy reflection about personal priorities and values,” says Dr. Stephan Dax at the German Neuroscience Center in Jumeirah Lake Towers.
The meds, which include Xanax, are only available via a doctor’s prescription in the UAE. However, that hasn’t hindered their popularity amongst business executives, who prefer them over a long-term treatment solution such as therapy.
“The ready availability and exclusive choice of medication might dissuade patients from pursuing a more holistic treatment approach and create more problems in the future,” Dr. Dax says.
“In Dubai, CEOs, business executives and other busy professionals of both genders consequently frequently favor pharmacotherapy over other treatment modalities as [they’re] less time consuming and more congruent with occupational demands, in order to deal with depression, anxiety, and stress-related problems, including physical sequelae and ill health,” he adds.
Last year, a survey claimed UAE employees are among the most stressed in the world, with 50% of workers expressing interest in changing their jobs, according to the Cigna 360 Wellbeing Survey, compared to the global average of 31%.
It is in line with the UAE’s booming economy, which is expected to grow by 5.4% this year, according to the Central Bank of the UAE.
Dr. Dax recommends executives adopt healthier lifestyle habits instead of depending on medication, and that includes stress reduction techniques, regular exercise, a healthy diet, sufficient sleep, and limited use of recreational substances, such as alcohol.
“Medications have a limited remit for treating stress-related disorders, and might indeed cause adverse reactions and long term side effects, such as psychological and physical dependence; rather than solving one problem,” he says.
But the meds have become a lifestyle among some social circles in the business world, according to an executive who asked to remain anonymous.
“I can tell you that nine out of 10 of my friends are taking calming pills,” an investment banker in Dubai tells us.
“It’s become a lifestyle for so many people. It’s like a Panadol. It’s in their pockets, in their bags, in their cars. You can count on a pill in your pocket. But you can’t count on someone else to calm you down,” he says.
“In our line of work, we see people who make hundreds of millions in the stock market, then we see who people lose hundreds of millions. At the end of the day, people don’t care what you’re going through. They don’t care if you’re crying on the inside. You just have to deliver. Nowadays, the more ambitious you are, the more assistance you need to get you through the day,” he adds.