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Substance abuse and mental health- 1: Decrypting the relationship between substance abuse and anxiety

11-23 | By CSAA Team

Substance abuse and mental health- 1: Decrypting the relationship between substance abuse and anxiety

Mental health disorders and substance abuse often go together. It is quite common to see people dealing with both a mental health issue and addiction to a substance in the United States. In fact, substance abuse and anxiety disorder are among the most commonly occurring problems in America. When a person dealing with substance abuse also starts suffering from a mental health problem, or alternatively, a mental health patient develops addiction to a substance, it is known as a co-occurring disorder or comorbidity or dual diagnosis.

While two different conditions might co-exist in an individual, it is possible that the symptoms of one interact with that of the other and consequently impact both the conditions, simultaneously. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), anxiety disorder has affected around 40 million adults in the U.S. On the other hand, approximately 24.6 million Americans above 12 years of age had used an illicit drug in 2014, as per the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

The two conditions are entirely different but interrelated in many ways. The series “Substance abuse and mental health,” uncovers the relationship between substance abuse and how it is related to different types of mental health disorder. This first article delves into the link between substance abuse and anxiety.

Effects of substance abuse on anxiety disorder

Anxiety disorder is a psychiatric disorder that makes an individual feel nervous, worried and fearful and in turn, incapable of performing normal tasks. It is possible that such people might self-medicate to deal with the symptoms of anxiety, however, this can worsen the condition.

Different substances consumed to alleviate the fear that triggers an anxiety attack can have different effects on the anxiety disorder, such as:

1. Alcohol

Alcohol and other central nervous system (CNS) depressants, including benzodiazepines seems to have a calming effect on an individual’s mind. But their long-term use can lead to health problems, impact physical and mental functioning, which can become a major source of stress. Moreover, withdrawing from the substance can also trigger anxiety attacks, which can further increase the chances of relapse.

2. Marijuana 

Though abusing marijuana is not directly linked to causing anxiety, it’s use can deteriorate the pre-existing symptoms of anxiety such as a racing heart, difficulty in breathing and poor motor coordination. Moreover, withdrawing from marijuana can cause temporary anxiety but the same subsides after some time.

3. Stimulants

Stimulants such as amphetamines, caffeine and cocaine cause a rapid excitement of the neurotransmitters in the human brain, which is associated with the onset, as well as aggravation, of anxiety. One should take necessary precautions as withdrawing from these stimulants can also lead to anxiety due to a sudden drop in the neurotransmitter levels.

Anxiety can lead to substance abuse

Individuals in highly stressful jobs generally opt for substances like alcohol to de-stress from work pressure. Once they experiencing their calming effects and start to feel better, they make a habit out of them by opting for them on a regular basis. This raises the risk of developing addiction.

Treatment can help

Whether it is an anxiety disorder or a substance abuse problem, both the conditions can impact an individual’s performance at work, at school and also ruin his/her personal life. Therefore, it is important to take the necessary steps at the earliest and opt for treatment at the best facility.

If you or a loved one is dealing with substance abuse and accompanying mental health problem, the Colorado Substance Abuse Advisors can help. Call us at our 24/7 substance abuse helpline number 866-300-5857 or chat online with one of our experts who can assist you with complete information about the best substance abuse treatment centers in Colorado.


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