When Drugs Make Anxiety Worse – Not Better

Drug Induced Anxiety

If you’re the friend of a close family member of an addict then you’ve probably heard it before, “It takes the edge of,” or “I have anxiety and it helps.” But of course, when they’re not high they seem more agitated and anxious than ever. Why do users claim that substances help with their anxiety? Because in theory, some substances can help calm a person, but long-term anxiety disorders require therapy in addition to medical intervention, definitely not a street drug. Someone could also suffer from drug-induced anxiety.

What is Drug-Induced Anxiety

Something a little different than your typical anxiety is drug-induced anxiety. This diagnosis requires that anxiety was not present or diagnosable prior to the drug use. There are numerous anxiety disorders related to drug use and any of them can come on as a result of drug use.

Even drugs that treat anxiety such as Xanax, or substances that “calm the nerves” such as alcohol can result in anxiety disorders. These anxiety disorders can come on during, or after drug use and are frequently seen as part of withdrawal to a great variety of drugs.

Understanding the Presence of Anxiety and Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety is something that every person experiences at some point in their life. Having anxiety or the feeling of being anxious does not mean you have an anxiety disorder. It also does not mean that you need the support of substances, prescribed or otherwise, to handle anxiety.

When you go beyond normal anxiety into the realm of uncontrollable, unmanageable or debilitating anxiety you may have an anxiety disorder. A doctor or psychiatrist must diagnose this disorder. These disorders include obsessive-compulsive disorder which is far more severe than checking that you turned the stove off, panic disorder, PTSD and more.

Many people fall into the “Generalized Anxiety Disorder,” GAD, and they are very anxious people, but their anxiety has delved so far into their life that it’s devastating. To give some context into how many people have GAD the National Institute of Mental Health estimates that nearly 3.2 million Americans have GAD. GAD can gradually develop into other anxiety disorders.

Overuse of Xanax and Valium

Xanax, Valium, and Ativan, or in their prescription names, Alprazolam, diazepam, and lorazepam, have made quite a splash on a nationwide level. These all fall into either the benzodiazepine or barbiturate families of drugs and as unlikely as it sounds can cause drug-induced anxiety.

Abuse of Xanax and Valium is nothing new. Xanax is highly addictive and serves to provide a very short term solution usually for panic disorder, in fact It only “works” for about 6 hours. Valium on the other hand is for anxiety disorders but does not treat panic disorder and its effects are present for a longer duration of time.

Both drugs are highly addictive, and neither should be prescribed to a person with a history of drug abuse.

Common Drugs That Result in Drug-Induced Anxiety

Any of the following drugs can lead to induced anxiety disorder or substance-induced anxiety disorder:

  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Cannabis
  • Phencyclidine
  • Hallucinogens such as LSD and Peyote
  • Inhalants
  • Amphetamines
  • Cocaine and similar stimulants

Among the many other drugs that can cause substance-induced anxiety disorder includes nearly all antidepressants, or antipsychotics, opioids, insulin, and even oral contraceptive or birth control.

These drugs don’t always instill anxiety and may create anxiety for different reasons. For example, taking oral contraceptive may result in anxiety from not using it correctly, or forgetting to take it. That is a normal level of anxiety, but without the pill present that person would be experiencing anxiety about the medication.

Seek Out Guidance on Managing Your Anxiety and Controlling Your Addiction

Part of the recovery process is learning how to handle or best manage every day obstacles such as anxiety. While people with an anxiety disorder other than drug-induced anxiety can seek medical help the ongoing front is that anxiety disorders are best combated with therapy and developing coping skills. The recovery process should help you begin to develop the skills necessary to overcome anxiety on a normal level.

At Rehab Carolinas we aim to arm our patients with skill to handle daily life, but also to provide a full diagnosis of previously unidentified medical ailments. Many of our patient’s come out learning that the addiction appeared in life at about the time that an anxiety disorder would begin to expose itself, typically through teenage years. Contact our office now to setup a session and discuss your treatment for sobriety.

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