Substance-Induced Anxiety Disorder & the Drug Abuse Cycle

Substance abuse and mental health problems tend to go hand-in-hand regardless of which condition precedes the other. The harmful effects of addictive substances on the mind always come with a risk of psychological dysfunction and emotional distress. Such is the case with substance-induced anxiety disorder.

According to the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration, substance-induced anxiety and depression symptoms are the ones most commonly experienced during the course of drug abuse. Substance abuse naturally breeds emotional turmoil that only grows worse with continued drug use. Combine this with the self-perpetuating cycle that drug abuse imposes and people struggling with substance-induced anxiety disorder stand to develop full-blown anxiety disorders in the absence of needed treatment help.

Characteristics of Substance-Induced Anxiety Disorder

Substance-induced anxiety disorder can develop out of most any form of drug abuse, whether it be opiates, stimulants, sedatives or hallucinogens. The key characteristic of this condition lies in the occurrence of anxiety symptoms whenever a person abuses drugs. This means, someone who suffered from anxiety prior to abusing drugs would not meet the criteria for substance-induced anxiety disorder.

Substance-Induced Anxiety Disorder

Chest pains and states of panic are common symptoms of substance-induced anxiety disorder.

Symptoms of this condition can vary from person to person, though symptoms most commonly experienced include:

  • States of panic
  • Restlessness
  • Nervousness
  • Constant worry
  • Problems sleeping
  • Chest pains
  • Problems thinking or concentrating
  • Feeling out of control
  • Weight loss
  • Always feeling as if something bad will happen

The Effects of Drugs on the Brain

What most defines an addictive substance is its ability to interfere with the brain’s chemical system. In this respect, drugs can either increase or decrease neurotransmitter production rates in the brain and in the process, offset critical brain functions in harmful ways.

Neurotransmitter chemicals, such as dopamine, GABA, serotonin and norepinephrine regulate the body’s physical processes and emotional and psychological functions. In effect, substance abuse practices create imbalances throughout the brain and body, which predisposes a person to anxiety symptoms along with a host of other adverse effects.

The Substance Abuse Cycle

With continued substance abuse, the brain cells that produce neurotransmitter materials start to undergo damage each time a drug’s effects force or limit chemical production rates. According to the Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, damaged cells, in turn, become less responsive to the drug’s effects and so require larger doses in order to produce the expected “high” effect. These interactions set the cycle of substance abuse in motion.

Before long, substance abuse practices give rise to withdrawal episodes as the brain’s ability to regulate bodily processes becomes compromised. Anxiety symptoms develop out of nearly every type of withdrawal syndrome, regardless of the type of drug involved. In effect, symptoms brought on by substance-induced anxiety disorder will only grow worse the longer a person keeps abusing drugs.

Treatment Considerations

As anxiety symptoms grow more severe, a person can easily start using drugs as a way to self-medicate at which point drug-using behaviors and anxiety symptoms become even more enmeshed. When left untreated, ongoing damage done to the brain’s chemical workings pave the way for a full-blown anxiety disorder.

If you or someone you know struggles with substance-induced anxiety disorder and have questions about available treatment options, please feel free to call our toll-free helpline at 888-647-0051 (Who Answers?) to speak with one of our addiction specialists.


I NEED TO TALK TO SOMEONE NOWI NEED TO TALK TO SOMEONE NOW888-647-0051Response time about 1 min | Response rate 100%
Who Answers?

Where do calls go?

Calls to numbers on a specific treatment center listing will be routed to that treatment center. Calls to any general helpline will be answered or returned by one of the treatment providers listed, each of which is a paid advertiser: ARK Behavioral Health, Recovery Helpline, Alli Addiction Services.

By calling the helpline you agree to the terms of use. We do not receive any commission or fee that is dependent upon which treatment provider a caller chooses. There is no obligation to enter treatment.