In the U.S., the most common mental illness is anxiety, with more than 40 million people diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.
From obsessive-compulsive disorder and panic disorder to generalized anxiety and posttraumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorders like these are conditions that can develop because of biological, genetic, and environmental factors. While millions of people live with anxiety disorders caused by one of these factors, there are many more who experience anxiety as a result of the mind-altering substances they abuse.
Nearly half of those who have a substance use disorder, such as a heroin addiction or alcoholism, also have a mental illness. Mental illnesses and the disease of addiction tend to go hand-in-hand for many, as each condition can trigger the other. When treatment is not obtained for either condition, a person’s mental health can suffer dramatically.
When someone with an anxiety disorder and a substance use disorder reaches out for help, they will likely receive comprehensive treatment that focuses on treating both conditions. With treatment, professionals can better determine how and why these issues are co-occurring with each other. In many cases, therapists and counselors find that the anxiety a client experiences is directly related to his or her substance abuse. This is referred to as substance-induced anxiety.
What is Substance-Induced Anxiety?
Substance-induced anxiety is anxiety that develops because of a certain substance of abuse. Without the abuse of the substance, the anxiety would not be occurring.
Symptoms of substance-induced anxiety are often shared with symptoms associated with other anxiety disorders, though some symptoms are specific to the fact that a substance is triggering the anxiety. These symptoms include:
- Constantly thinking that bad things are going to happen
- Problems breathing
- Chest pain and pounding heartbeat
- Chills and sweats
- Shaking and tremors
- Being afraid of losing control (“going crazy”)
- Problems with memory and concentration
- Stomach problems such as diarrhea or nausea
- Difficulty sleeping
Those experiencing substance-induced anxiety can experience some or all of these symptoms, plus many others, for as long as he or she continues using. When the substance use causing the anxiety ends, the anxiety and additional repercussions caused by the use can continue, which is why seeking professional treatment can be the best thing a person with this issue can do.
How is Substance-Induced Anxiety Treated?
When someone is presenting with substance-induced anxiety, the first thing he or she should do is quit the substance abuse. Depending on the type of substance being abused, professional detox services may be necessary to support this transition. If this is the case, an individual will detox under the care of professionals who can help them manage their period of withdrawal with emotional support and medications, if necessary.
Therapy, such as that offered through individual and group therapy sessions, can help individuals being treated for substance-induced anxiety address the root causes of the anxiety, the effects it caused within his or her life, and how to move forward now that the substance abuse is no longer occurring.
Attending local support groups such as those offered through Alcoholics Anonymous(AA) and Narcotics Anonymous(NA) can also help those recovering from substance-induced anxiety. The support that can be obtained through others with similar experiences can aid in the healing process.
Other resources that can be utilized include yoga and meditation, along with natural supplements that can help in one’s physical and psychological health and recovery.
Which Substances Induce Anxiety?
Substances that are known for triggering the onset of anxiety include:
- This stimulant substance that is comprised of several chemicals found in pharmacies and home improvement stores often causes anxiety in those who abuse. This is because, when meth is abused, the user experiences two extremes within a short period of time. He or she goes from extreme euphoria and excitement to depression and sadness. The shift from one end of the spectrum to the other often produces feelings of panic and paranoia, both of which are trademarks of anxiety. As the use of meth continues, so does the anxiety.
- Similar to meth because of its stimulant properties, cocaine is one of the most common substances that causes anxiety. When under the influence of cocaine, individuals experience a massive jolt of energy and happiness, but when they lose that high, they can feel jittery and anxious because the stimulant effect of the drug is wearing off. As the brain works to re-balance itself, symptoms associated with anxiety can occur.
- Alcohol abuse is often linked to symptoms of depression because this substance is a depressant in itself. But alcohol can also trigger the onset of anxiety because of how it interacts with the brain. When alcohol is in the body, it alters serotonin levels. Serotonin is responsible for helping to regulate mood, among other things. The consistent alteration of serotonin levels is what produces feelings like panic, lack of control, obsessive thoughts, etc.
Other substances, ranging from LSD to dextromethorphan, have also been linked to substance-induced anxiety.
Get Help at JourneyPure
We know just how difficult it can be to experience a substance-induced anxiety disorder, which is why we approach each and every client with compassion and understanding. If you are experiencing this condition, know that there is help available. At JourneyPure, you can get that help.
Chris Clancy is the in-house Content Manager for JourneyPure’s Digital Marketing team, where he gets to explore a wide variety of substance abuse- and mental health-related topics. He has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist and researcher, with strong working knowledge of hospital systems, health insurance, content strategy, and public relations. He lives in Nashville with his wife and two kids.