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Anxiety And Drug Abuse – How They Are Linked Can Surprise One

connection between anxiety and substance abuse

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Anxiety is a mental illness that can affect almost everyone. It can come in different forms. However, the most common is generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and characterized by frequent worrying. This could last for six months.
People with GAD worry about health in one minute and their children’s future the next. Their worrying state seems to increase for no reason at all. Anxiety affects the wellbeing of an individual, both physical and mental.

Table of Contents

Symptoms of Presence of GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder)

  • Diarrhea
  • Dry mouth
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Body tremors
  • Rapid pulse rate
  • Fast, shallow breathing
  • Upset stomach
  • Feeling of jumpiness
  • Lack of appetite
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  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Eating disorder
  • Major depression
  • Panic disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Specific phobias
  • Claustrophobia (fear of enclosed spaces)
  • Agoraphobia (fear of public settings)
  • Arachnophobia (fear of spiders)
  • Substance abuse disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

Anxiety and Drug Abuse: Are They Intertwined?

People who are suffering from anxiety disorder are likely to abuse drugs. Furthermore, this can lead to addiction. In fact, they often use drugs and alcohol to alleviate symptoms such as excessive worrying or feeling of agitation.

Among the most commonly abused substance is alcohol. Actually, they will favor alcohol due to its immediate relief of the symptoms.  Moreover, alcohol minimizes signs of jumpiness or feeling irritated, including episodes of body tremors or panic attack.

If a person’s alcohol abuse becomes chronic, it could make the disorder worse. In fact, the side effects of alcohol withdrawal are similar to the symptoms of anxiety disorder. It may include the following:

  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Persistent false psychotic thinking
  • Feeling of restlessness
  • Feeling shaky
  • Sweating
  • Feeling of fear

Can One Treat Anxiety Disorder?

Presently, there is no single cure for anxiety disorder. However, we can manage it with a combination of therapies. Meanwhile, apart from traditional individual therapy, doctors recommend anti-anxiety medications and group counseling. Here are the common treatments where they combine traditional and holistic methods to bring effective results:

  • Behavioral modification therapies: these types of therapies mostly focuses on improving one’s general behavior. For example, it may include Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). They design these therapies to help the person take control when negative and disabling thoughts take over.
  • Anti-anxiety medication: doctors often prescribe medications to patients with major problems. Under the strict supervision of a doctor, a psychotropic can reduce the symptoms of anxiety. Among the drugs prescribed are:
    • Benzodiazepines such as alprazolam (Xanax) and lorazepam (Ativan) treat episodes of panic attacks and insomnia. These drugs can reduce these episodes, but can have a greater risk of abuse.
    • Antidepressants belonging in the SSRI (selective serotonin inhibitor) are alternatives for those who are afraid of benzodiazepines abuse. Among these drugs are fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), and escitalopram (Lexapro). These drugs can be effective in treating co-occurring disorders of anxiety and depression.
    • Non-addictive anxiolytic drugs such as Buspirone is another type of medication for patients with substance abuse disorder.
  • Family counseling: another recommendation in treating anxiety is family counseling. Furthermore, they encourage all the members of the family to join because the patient’s anxiety may also affect them.
  • Stress reduction therapies: no doubt, stress is among the trigger factors found in our environment that could cause the disorder. For example, they recommend stress reduction therapies like yoga, arts, music, guided meditation, and massage treatments. As a result, it can promote relaxation and prevent disabling thoughts from arising. For patients, these stress therapies can also be a part of the rehab and detox program.
The above-mentioned therapies and practices, as well as medical involvement, should be conducted under strict clinical supervision. Self-medication is dangerous for one’s health as it can lead to serious consequences. Anxiety medications should be prescribed by a doctor only.

What is Dual Diagnosis Recovery?

Anyone suffering from anxiety and drug abuse disorders can be a candidate for a dual diagnosis treatment recovery plan. Consequently, the patient will enter a rehab facility and go through a combination of extensive psychiatric treatments. Additionally, it may be traditional or alternative, including the following:

  • Detoxification process
  • Medication management for psychiatric and anti-addiction drugs
  • 12-step programs (individual and group addiction therapy)
  • Behavioral modification training
  • Family or couple of addiction counseling
  • Special classes to prevent relapse
  • Recreational and relaxation therapies
  • Aftercare program for a full recovery

They customize treatment plans to meet each patient’s needs. As a result, doctors monitor the patient at each stage of the program. Therefore, it ensures the healing process brings positive results.
In conclusion, the anxiety disorder can be a crippling condition. It generally, prevents the person from living normal lives. Furthermore, their symptoms not only affect the sufferer but also those around them.  It can even lead to the abuse of substances.

However, there are treatment options for both anxiety and drug abuse. These can include medication and therapy. If one is suffering, seek professional help. For more information, click here.
  1. Smith J. P., Book S. W. Anxiety and Substance Use Disorders: A Review. Psychiatric Times. 2008; 25(10):19–23.
  2. Back S. E., Brady K. T. Anxiety Disorders with Comorbid Substance Use Disorders: Diagnostic and Treatment Considerations. Psychiatric Annals. 2008; 38(11):724–729. doi:10.3928/00485713-20081101-01.
  3. National Institute on Drug Abuse. The Connection Between Substance Use Disorders and Mental Illness. 2018.


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