Dual Diagnosis - Drug and Alcohol

If I Have Anxiety, am I at Risk for Drug Addiction?

Having an anxiety disorder can place you at risk for substance abuse. Known as a dual diagnosis, this combination can be treated successfully.

If I Have Anxiety, am I at Risk for Drug Addiction?

Table of contents

Written by

Brian MooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

Jeremy ArztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

October 18, 2022

The Edge Treatment Center

It's important to understand that if you are struggling with an anxiety disorder such as panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), you are at a greater risk of developing a drug addiction. The National Library of Medicine explains that it is a very complex and multi-faceted relationship that is unique to each individual. 

In most cases, substances are used to help cope with anxiety. This unhealthy and dangerous coping mechanism often involves the use of alcohol, marijuana, and prescription pills. Today, we are going to explore why this happens, what to look out for, and the best practices to help a loved one … or yourself. 

What Is Anxiety Disorder? 

Having an anxiety disorder is different from the occasional feeling of anxiety that you may experience throughout your life. Anxiety disorders are the constant fear and worry about something that you can't control. These daily worries begin to affect your daily life.

This can even cause you to avoid certain situations or activities in your day due to worries of potential anxiety triggers.

Different Forms of Anxiety Disorder:
  • Separation anxiety 

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) 

  • Generalized anxiety disorder 

  • Phobias 

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

  • Social anxiety  

  • Substance-induced anxiety

Substance Use Disorder

SUD refers to the addiction and dependence on substances such as heroin, alcohol, benzodiazepines, prescription pills, or any other form of the drug. It becomes SUD when the continued use of the substance interferes with your daily life. This can be going to school, working, and taking care of your children. It becomes worrisome once you notice that it affects these things, but it continues to happen. When you notice these effects, reach out for help immediately.

This is a very complex disorder because it can affect all aspects of your life, as well as everyone who cares about you. Most SUDs are hard to treat and involve a long process; however, millions of people per year receive successful treatment for SUD.

It's important to remember that treatment is always possible, even when sobriety feels out of reach.

Dual Diagnosis: What Is a Co-occurring Disorder?

Co-occurring disorders, also known as dual diagnosis, are when an individual has a substance use disorder and is then diagnosed with a mental health condition or vice-versa. This can be difficult to diagnose because sometimes the symptoms of a mental health disorder can look similar to those of addiction.

On the other hand, drug addiction might mask the symptoms that would usually show up within a mental health condition. 

Understanding the connections between mental health and substance use is a key factor in dual diagnosis treatment. 

How Prevalent is Dual Diagnosis? 

A survey showed that within a group of 43,000 adults, about 18% of adults who struggle with substance use disorder also met the criteria for having an independent anxiety disorder. A study published in the National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions found that 15% of adults who had already reported experiencing anxiety within the past year, also reported having a co-occurring SUD. Looking at these statistics, you can see how prevalent co-occurring disorders are.

Who Is More at Risk? 

The National Association on Mental Illness (NAMI) explains that men are more likely to develop a co-occurring disorder, as well as people with other medical conditions, veterans, and those living in poverty. Your genetics and life experiences also play in role in the potential development of a co-occurring disorder. 

Screening for Co-occurring Disorders

When screening for co-occurring disorders, there is a multi-level assessment that is used in most cases. The purpose of this is to understand the patient from many different viewpoints. This is a holistic screening that looks into their lifestyle, genetics, mental health history, physical health history, and potential previous substance use disorder treatment. It is important to note that this holistic assessment is done chronologically to understand when exactly everything took place and further understand the onset of addiction.

This is the first step before treatment, to understand what the patient needs because this will be different for every individual. Our facility is here to help you develop a plan specific to your needs.

Treatments for Anxiety Disorder

Certain medications can help treat anxiety, such as anti-anxiety medications, anti-depressants, and beta-blockers. Beta-blockers are also used for high blood pressure and help relieve some of the symptoms of anxiety, which can include a rapid heartbeat and body trembling. 

There are also different psycho-therapy options available for you, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and exposure therapy. CBT focuses on changing your thoughts and behaviors with negative experiences so that you can find healthier coping mechanisms. 

Treatments for Substance Use Disorder 

The first step and potentially one of the most important for treating SUD is detoxification. This is what will help rid your body of the toxins from drugs or alcohol. Then while you are participating in an inpatient or outpatient program, you can be a part of different therapies. This includes talk therapy and group therapy, both of which have proven to help with SUD. 

Treatments for Co-occurring Disorders

Research has shown that the best way to treat a co-occurring disorder is to combine treatments. This way, you are combating both at the same time. This can help to reduce releases in the future as well as a more successful treatment experience. 

The Edge Treatment Center Provides Expert Dual Diagnosis Care for Addiction and Anxiety

It is important to include everyone in treatment. If you or a loved one are struggling with a co-occurring disorder, receiving treatment is important. At The Edge Treatment Center, we make sure to do this through individualized treatment plans, evidence-based care, and building a sense of community. We also use frequent outside trips and adventures to strengthen bonds, create new healthy relationships, and prove recovery can (and should be!) fun.

Dual diagnoses are complex, but they’re also treatable. Don’t deny yourself a happier life, and don't rely on substances like alcohol and cannabis to treat anxiety. Contact The Edge Treatment Center today to learn more. 

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