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Drug And Alcohol Addiction And Anxiety

According to stats provided by the National Institute on Mental Health, over 20% of US adults experience some form of anxiety. These worrying stats cement anxiety status as one of the most prevalent type sof mental illness in the country.  Unfortunately, anxiety also frequently co-occurs with drug and alcohol addiction.

Anxiety often manifests as normal reactions to dangerous or stressful situations. But as the condition worsens over time, it starts to interfere with social activities, work or academic life, and even personal relationships. 

The symptoms of clinical anxiety can prove overwhelming, which explains why some people develop negative coping mechanisms such as drug and alcohol abuse. 

As the National Institute on Drug Abuse asserts, drug and alcohol use often worsens the physical and psychological symptoms of anxiety, effectively increasing the chances of addiction. 

Similarly, people addicted to drugs can also develop anxiety over time, especially as the effects of prolonged drug abuse become prominent. 

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the relationship between drug and alcohol addiction and anxiety and how best to overcome both conditions. 

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More About Anxiety 

Anxiety is a normal and natural response to stressful or important situations. It’s commonly referred to as a feeling of apprehension or fear of what is about to come, like a job interview, exam, or first day at the office. 

However, if feelings of fear and anxiety become extreme and last long to the extent of interfering with your work or social life, then you might have a disorder that requires professional assistance. 

Anxiety disorders are hugely common and can affect anyone regardless of age, status, or occupation. The American Psychiatric Association further adds that women are increasingly likely to develop anxiety disorders compared to men. 

Although mild as it starts, an anxiety disorder can worsen over time and therefore reduce your overall quality of life. 

Here are some of the common types of anxiety disorders. 

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized anxiety disorder is a serious type of anxiety that leaves you excessively worried about ordinary events, routines, and activities. 

The worry is usually exaggerated and is often hard to control. This type of anxiety usually occurs with depression and can easily lead to substance abuse. 

Panic Disorder

Panic disorders usually involve repeated episodes of intense feelings of fear, terror, and anxiety that peak within minutes. A panic attack is usually characterized by fast heartbeats, feelings of impending doom, chest pain, and shortness of breath. 

Panic attacks tend to have lasting impacts and can leave victims scared of partaking in activities that led to the attacks in the first place. 

Social Anxiety Disorder

This type of disorder leads to isolation due to a negative attitude towards social activities. You’ll find that you’re mostly scared of public spaces and interacting with other people due to the fear of judgment and embarrassment. 

Substance-Induced Anxiety

This type of anxiety results from drug abuse and addiction. Some drugs like marijuana lead to increased anxiety or panic, which can transform into brief panic attacks. Drug withdrawal is also another cause of substance-induced anxiety. 


While some people have phobias of objects, animals, or items that are hard to access, others can develop phobias of unavoidable things like darkness, light, and fear of being in a vehicle. 

Some phobias can lead to panic attacks and even increase the chances of drug or alcohol addiction as a way of coping with the unbearable fear. 

Anxiety and Substance Abuse 

Anxiety and substance abuse have a complex relationship in that one can lead to the other, which explains why a large number of people diagnosed with clinical anxiety develop drug dependence as a coping mechanism. 

Similarly, people addicted to drugs or alcohol are increasingly likely to develop mental illnesses like anxiety and depression, which tend to worsen over time. 

Below are some of the risk factors for anxiety or drug addiction: 

Coping Mechanisms 

In most cases, people with anxiety disorders often look for ways to cope with the condition and reduce, if not eliminate, the symptoms, albeit temporarily. 

While this method tends to ease down some nerves, it can prove risky as it increases the risk of drug dependence, especially when done frequently. Tragically, many drugs, including alcohol, actually cause anxiety, as do the consequences of their use, which leads to more drug use to calm anxiety, creating a vicious cycle.

What starts as a way to minimize the symptoms of anxiety gradually leads to addiction to the drug of choice. The speed of addiction usually depends on the type of drug in use and its frequency of abuse. 


If you have a family history of anxiety disorders and drug addiction, chances are you’ll be more predisposed to the conditions than people without such histories in their family trees. 

Unfortunately, people prone to anxiety are increasingly likely to develop substance abuse issues, more so if exposed to stressful environments. 

Drug Withdrawal

One of the major causes of anxiety in drug or alcohol addicts is withdrawal symptoms after reducing drug intake or quitting the habit altogether. 

Withdrawal symptoms like nervousness, sleeplessness, obsessive fears, irritability, and agitation tend to increase the chances of clinical anxiety, more so if not handled early enough. 

Common Signs And Symptoms of Anxiety

Excessive Restlessness And Nervousness: One of the main signs of anxiety is excessive restlessness or nervousness about an issue. While it’s normal to be nervous about important events or activities, extreme nervousness about day-to-day issues is a sign of anxiety and therefore requires medical attention before the condition reduces your quality of life. 

Concentration Problems: Another common sign of anxiety is prolonged concentration difficulty. When you’re anxious to the point that you can no longer concentrate on important tasks or maintain focus due to fear, chances are you’re dealing with clinical anxiety and should seek immediate medical assistance. 

Hyperventilation: Although it’s normal to have an increased breathing rate when nervous or in fear, excessive hyperventilation should be a cause for alarm and warrant medical assistance as it can lead to heart problems. 

Insomnia: It’s normal to lose sleep once in a while, especially when stressed or nervous about a particular event. But when you can no longer catch some good sleep for several days to weeks, you might be dealing with clinical anxiety and therefore require immediate assistance. 

Avoiding important activities: Another sign of anxiety is avoiding important activities due to the fear of either embarrassment or failure. While such behavior might appear normal at first, it can have lasting implications, especially if you procrastinate or avoid important activities altogether. 

Trembling and sweating: Excessive sweating and trembling are common symptoms of a variety of medical conditions. On most occasions, they signal an underlying problem that requires immediate attention. You’ll know you need medical attention if you sweat and tremble excessively whenever scared, nervous, or stressed. 

How To Treat Anxiety And Co-Occurring Substance Use Disorders 

The chances of turning to drug and alcohol abuse as a coping mechanism for an underlying mental health issue are high, exactly why it’s crucial to seek medical attention for issues like anxiety. 

Similarly, drug abuse can lead to anxiety as these drugs work by altering the brain’s chemistry, eventually leading to symptoms of anxiety and depression. 

Since drug and alcohol addiction and anxiety are directly related, treating only one is not recommended, especially if the goal is to achieve lifelong sobriety. 

Here are some of the ways to treat anxiety and co-occurring disorders. 

Inpatient Drug and Alcohol Addiction and Anxiety Rehab

Inpatient rehab involves patients residing at a treatment facility, or a residential facility associated with a treatment facility. Most inpatient drug and alcohol rehabs treat co-occurring disorders using a combination of anti-anxiety medications, behavioral modification strategies, and a wide range of therapies. 

While receiving treatment, patients will get to learn about healthy coping strategies that align with recovery goals. 

The duration of treatment usually varies from clinic to clinic, but you’ll find that most rehabs customize treatment to suit client needs. This means that your loved one can receive 30-day treatment or enroll for an even longer program, depending on the extent of addiction and anxiety. 

Inpatient rehabs come with tons of advantages. Not only will your loved one receive constant supervision in a controlled environment, but they will also have closer professional assistance, which is ideal when dealing with co-occurring disorders. 

Besides individual therapy, patients also get to participate in group therapy, which promotes holistic healing while also developing interpersonal skills. 

Outpatient Rehab

Outpatient rehab, where a patient comes to a facility for treatment but lives elsewhere, is another way to treat chemical dependence and anxiety. The program is usually offered as partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient, or just a normal outpatient and is mostly recommended as a step down from inpatient treatment. 

The partial hospitalization program (PHP) is the most intense plan and usually takes about 4 hours a day and runs for at least 5 days a week. The PHP is highly recommended for patients who have completed inpatient treatment and want to gradually transition to normal lives. 

The intensive outpatient plan (IOP) is slightly relaxed compared to PHP. However, it is more intense than normal inpatient and typically lasts for 2-3 hours and runs for 3-4 days a week. 

Ways To Help a Loved One Struggling with Drug and Alcohol Addiction and Anxiety

Take a Compassionate Approach

When talking to a loved one about drug and alcohol addiction and anxiety (or any mental illness), it is important to take a compassionate approach to avoid worsening the situation. 

Instead of highlighting the consequences of the behavior, you should focus more on the advantages of recovery and the positive consequences of receiving professional treatment for the disorder. 

Anticipate Denial

It’s highly likely that your loved one will deny that they’re addicted or even struggling with a mental illness. 

Some people might even become hostile when approached about their underlying issues, which is exactly why you should take a compassionate approach and anticipate that your loved one might not be too open to receiving treatment. 

Outsourcing to a professional interventionist can come in handy, especially when dealing with anxiety disorders that often lead to delusional beliefs about treatment. Fortunately, some rehabs offer intervention services as part of their treatment package, while others might recommend other professionals that specialize in intervention. 

Offer Emotional Support 

As your loved one gets started on the journey to recovery, it’s vital to provide emotional support to make them feel loved and cared for. Anxiety can lead to a lot of overwhelming thoughts, especially if the patient has a negative attitude towards treatment. 

Therefore, you should be prepared to walk with your loved ones throughout their treatment journey to reassure them of your love, concern, and affection. This means attending family counseling sessions and even accompanying your loved one to support group meetings. 

Is It Necessary To Seek Professional Help?

It is advisable to enroll your loved one in rehab for professional assistance when dealing with co-occurring disorders. Addiction can worsen the symptoms of anxiety, just as an anxiety disorder can lead to chronic addiction. 

The best way to handle addiction is to seek professional assistance at a rehab facility. The doctor will conduct preliminary tests to determine the best cause of action, which will be either inpatient or outpatient rehab.

Considering that withdrawal symptoms can be intense, enrolling your loved one in a professional detox facility is highly recommended. 

Another advantage of receiving professional assistance is that your loved one will benefit from interacting with like-minded people looking to overcome their respective addictions. 

Participating in alumni programs will also boost the chances of successful rehabilitation as patients feel like part of a large supportive family. 

Where Can I Receive Treatment For Drug Addiction and Anxiety 

You can receive treatment for alcohol addiction and anxiety by enrolling in a rehab that specializes in dual diagnosis services. The good news is that almost all licensed rehabs include mental health management in their addiction treatment programs. 

However, it would be best to call a licensed rehab facility well in advance to inquire about the services offered and what sorts of mental illnesses are treated. 

Get Help Today

Don't go through the process of recovery alone. There are people who can help you with the struggle you're facing. Get in touch with one today.

Make a Call

Getting Started

The best way to treat drug addiction and anxiety is by receiving professional assistance from a licensed rehab. And since these two conditions tend to worsen over time, it’s best to seek treatment as soon as possible. 

Contact a rehab center today to kickstart your journey to recovery and lifelong sobriety today. 

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