Anxiety and Drug Abuse: What You Need to Know

Anxiety and Drug Abuse Mental illness is more common than we think and many individuals struggle with mental illness for a large part of their lives. While drug and alcohol abuse treatment programs are widely known for their success, there are also dual diagnosis programs that offer help to individuals who suffer from more than one mental illness. One common co-occurring disorder is drug abuse and anxiety. These two disorders often coincide and there is much to be learned about the effective forms of treatment. Find out more about what you can expect if you or a loved one are suffering from anxiety and drug abuse and how to effectively treat both disorders in order to cope on a daily basis.

Anxiety and Panic Disorders

While anxiety is a common experience and reaction for everyone, it can become debilitating for some and in turn, those individuals develop an anxiety or a panic disorder. Anxiety is necessary, to some degree, as it helps to alert us to danger or motivate us to prepare for a presentation or an exam so that we do well and can calm our nerves. For individuals suffering from anxiety and panic disorders, however, anxiety can be a completely different experience and can lead to an inability to handle difficulties in everyday situations. While anxiety exhibits differently in each individual, some common symptoms of anxiety disorder can be extreme nervousness in typical situations, worry and fear that are very overwhelming, racing or unwanted thoughts, insomnia, lack of concentration, and a sense of impending doom.

Panic Disorder is a form of anxiety disorder that includes the occurrence of panic attacks. A panic attack is a sudden and intense onset of impending doom or fear that occurs within a situation that does not call for feelings of fear or doom. Some typical symptoms of panic attacks include shallow or difficulty breathing, feelings of numbness or tingling, sweating, dizziness, chest pain, feeling out of control, and sense of impending doom. Many individuals also experience fear of having future panic attacks after experiencing such difficult attacks and might avoid certain situations in order to prevent an attack. This fear can overtake an individual’s life and impact it significantly.

Correlation between Anxiety and Drug Abuse and the Negative Effects

As you can see, the symptoms of anxiety and panic disorder can be very scary and difficult to cope with, even after the anxiety and panic have subsided. The fear alone of another occurrence is enough to significantly alter an individual’s life. They might begin avoiding situations like going to the grocery store where there are big groups of people or attending church because they are afraid they might have a panic attack and embarrass themselves in front of everyone. As a result of this fear and anxiety, it is not uncommon for these individuals to turn to drug and alcohol use to temporarily relieve their intense feelings. And because drugs and alcohol do not create lasting relief from these feelings, the individual might become an abuser in order to feel the relief on a regular basis. Unfortunately, the use of drugs and alcohol can also intensify the anxiety and panic, as some drugs are known to cause hallucinations and can actually contribute to more feelings of anxiety.


In order to effectively combat anxiety and drug abuse, the individual will need to begin a dual diagnosis treatment program that offers an intensive therapy model that will combat both anxiety and the drug use. The individual will need to learn effective ways of coping with their feelings of fear and anxiety in order to refrain from using drugs and alcohol as a means of coping. Dual diagnosis programs are crucial to the treatment of this co-occurring disorder because they offer highly trained and expert therapists who will treat the anxiety and the drug use simultaneously, which has proven to be a more successful method that entering into treatment for anxiety and then for drug use.

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