Risks of Substance Abuse Induced Anxiety Disorder

Data gathered by the U.S. National Library of Medicine show substance abuse and anxiety-based disorders rank among the highest rates of psychiatric problems in the United States. Lifetime rates for substance abuse apply for 14.6 percent of the population while rates for anxiety disorders affect as much as 28.8 percent of the population.

Substance abuse-induced anxiety disorders start out as drug abuse habits that evolve into anxiety disorders over time. The risks associated with substance abuse-induced anxiety disorders involve the type of drugs abused and a person’s overall physical and psychological condition.

Substance Abuse-Induced Anxiety Disorders

Alcohol, medications and toxic materials can all trigger symptoms associated with substance abuse-induced anxiety disorders. The types of drugs known to bring about symptoms include:

  • Cocaine
  • Cannabis
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Amphetamines
  • Inhalants
  • PCP

Withdrawal effects from these substances can also trigger substance abuse-induced anxiety disorder symptoms.

The type of anxiety disorder a person develops can vary depending on the severity of the addiction, overall health and the type of drug. The most common types of anxiety disorders associated with substance abuse-induced anxiety disorders include –

  • Phobias
  • Panic attacks
  • Generalized anxiety
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder

Anxiety symptoms can occur during intoxication as well as during withdrawal periods. In more severe cases, someone suffering from this condition can develop psychotic symptoms, such as paranoid delusions and hallucinations. When this happens a substance abuse-induced psychotic disorder is in the making.

 A Self-Perpetuating Cycle

Substance Abuse Induced Anxiety Disorder

Substance Abuse Induced Anxiety Disorder

The toll substance abuse takes on a person’s brain and body functions naturally gives rise to anxiety symptoms; and most especially during withdrawal periods. With substance abuse-induced anxiety disorders, the two conditions – substance abuse and anxiety – tend to reinforce one another to the point where a self-perpetuating cycle starts to take root.

Researchers have identified three primary pathways by which substance abuse-induced anxiety disorders develop:

  • Frequent substance abuse causes the development of an anxiety disorder
  • An existing anxiety disorder drives a person to substance abuse as a means of self-medicating anxiety symptoms
  • A genetic predisposition for developing anxiety problems

With continued drug use, the two conditions become intertwined in such a way that one condition fuels the other while worsening the severity of symptoms a person experiences. Over time, the symptoms of the disorder begin to affect a person’s ability to function normally in everyday life.


While substance abuse-induced anxiety disorders do develop along certain pathways, other existing conditions may be the source of anxiety symptoms. Medical conditions, such as hypoglycemia, hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism are known to produce anxiety symptoms. Likewise, people affected by these conditions typically take medication treatments, which can also contribute to anxiety symptoms.

Other conditions, such as dementia, delirium and primary psychotic disorders may also cloud the issue as all of these conditions can cause anxiety symptoms.  In most cases, an accurate diagnosis of substance abuse-induced anxiety can only be drawn from conducting a clinical history on a person. This, along with a physical examination that includes chemistry panels, blood counts and urine screens can provide an accurate assessment of anxiety symptoms.


U.S. National Library of Medicine



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