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Everyone experiences symptoms of stress and anxiety from time to time, but those with persistent, long lasting symptoms are often diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Sometimes these are caused by environmental stimuli or stressful, traumatic situations; other times, anxiety is induced via the use of substances. 

Drug and alcohol induced anxiety disorder is a common mental health condition experienced by those who use and abuse substances or medication – while it might not be caused directly by substance abuse, it is often triggered by overuse and even withdrawal. 

What is substance induced anxiety disorder?

According to Yale Medicine, “Substance/medication-induced anxiety disorder is a mental health condition characterized by nervousness, restlessness, or panic that is directly caused by the use, abuse, or withdrawal of a substance or medication. This disorder can result from various substances, including alcohol, drugs, prescription medications, or exposure to toxins.” 

For some individuals, this develops after only one use of the substance. The panic or anxiety may set in as soon as the substance is consumed; for others, the symptoms of anxiety do not manifest until withdrawal occurs. 

While anxiety is a common withdrawal symptom, the distinction between the two is made if the symptoms resolve after a few days, or if the anxiety persists and begins interfering with one’s quality of life. Anxiety as a result of withdrawal typically resolves quickly, while substance induced anxiety tends to take much longer to resolve, often needing professional care. 

Substance induced anxiety disorder is not a highly common mental health condition – it is more likely for individuals to have a pre-existing condition of anxiety or paranoia that co-occurs with substance abuse than to have an anxiety disorder induced by drugs and alcohol. As little as 0.002 percent of individuals will actually be diagnosed throughout a year with substance induced anxiety disorder. 

Knowing the symptoms will enable you to better understand the signs your body is giving and help you seek the right kind of help to treat any anxiety related to substance abuse and medication use.

Substance-induced anxiety disorder symptoms 

Substance induced anxiety presents itself with symptoms that are both physical and mental. While not everyone will experience all the symptoms all at once, knowing what the common symptoms are will allow you to notice how long they have been present and to what level of severity. 

Physical symptoms are likely to include:

  • Tense muscles
  • Significantly decreased or increased body temperatures
  • Tightness or discomfort in the chest, including shortness of breath
  • Increased heart rate
  • Shaking
  • Sweating 
  • Fatigue and lack of energy

Mental health symptoms that are commonly experienced include:

  • Increased, uncharacteristic irritability
  • Feeling like you are completely out of control 
  • Difficulty focusing on the task at hand
  • Persistent worry and nervousness
  • Feeling out of touch with reality 
  • Struggling with a fear of dying 

Depending on your particular experience, you may have a number of these symptoms, or you might exhibit only a few; the symptoms may be mild and go away quickly, or they may be more severe and longer-lasting. 

An easy way to tell whether the anxiety disorder is the result of substance abuse is to note whether or not the symptoms of anxiety were present for a month or more than when substance use began. If they were, it is more likely that the anxiety disorder already existed, and the substance use caused them to worsen or increase.

What causes substance induced anxiety disorder? 

A number of various substances and medications have been linked to the onset of substance induced anxiety disorder, including illicit drugs and other medications. 

Common offender substances include: 

  • Cannabis
  • Alcohol
  • Hallucinogens, including LSD, ecstasy and phencyclidine (PCP)
  • Stimulants, including cocaine and methamphetamine 
  • Hypnotics
  • Tobacco
  • Caffeine
  • Heavy metals and toxins, including gasoline, paint and carbon dioxide

Some of the medications known to have potential to cause substance-induced anxiety disorder include: 

  • Antihistamines
  • Stimulants such as those prescribed to treat conditions like ADHD
  • Medications often used to control blood pressure, including both calcium channel blockers and beta blockers
  • Steroids and corticosteroids
  • Opioids
  • Thyroid medications 
  • Mood altering medications, including antidepressants and anxiety medications
  • Sedatives 

Each person will respond to drugs, alcohol and even appropriately prescribed medications differently. In order to avoid the onset of an anxiety attack as a result, take the time to learn the expected side effects of any medication you have been given. Keep lines of communication with your doctor open if you feel that your medication is causing additional problems.

And if consuming alcohol, do so moderately. Know what substances you are consuming and weigh the benefit (if any) with the extensive, high cost. And know yourself – if you are already prone to anxiety or paranoia, stay away from substances with the potential to worsen it.

Treatment options for substance-induced anxiety disorders 

If you or a loved one have been suffering from substance induced anxiety disorders, or are struggling with paranoia and anxiety in general, it can feel extremely challenging to face the routines of everyday life. In order to balance your life and find relief, professional help is always available for you

To learn more about our programs or to get in touch with a mental health therapist, reach out to October Road by calling 888-201-5086 or contact us online today.

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