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Treating Severe Anxiety At A Drug Rehab Center

David Hunter, MA.Ed, LPC

Medically reviewed by

David Hunter, MA.Ed, LPC

April 4, 2019

Anxiety is a dangerous medical problem and some experts believe an anxiety epidemic is crippling an entire generation. Unfortunately, this epidemic is causing many people to turn to illicit drug use. Thankfully, drug rehab centers have become experts at treating these co-occurring disorders. Understanding the complex interaction between drug use and anxiety and how both are treated can help you recover from these troubling problems.

The Connection Between Anxiety And Substance Abuse

Statistics indicate that about 20 percent of all Americans with some form of anxiety disorder, abuse drugs of some kind, whether alcohol or harder substances. As a result, the two often walk hand-in-hand with each other for years.

Common anxiety problems that cause drug abuse include:

  • Social Anxiety Disorder
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Panic Disorder
  • Severe changes in life, such as the death of a loved one or the loss of a job
  • Dealing with the day-to-day rigors of life

People who suffer from severe anxiety often self-medicate with relaxing drugs (such as alcohol or marijuana) to slow their mental process and alleviate anxiety and stress symptoms. Unfortunately, this can create a nasty loop that only exasperates the symptoms of both anxiety and drug abuse.

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For example, let’s say someone has one drink before bed as a “nightcap” to help them sleep. While one drink isn’t necessarily harmful, that one drink slowly turns into several just before bed. This increase creates even more stress in their life as they increasingly turn to drinking to calm their nerves.

Substance-Induced Anxiety Disorder

Unfortunately, even people who don’t have anxiety disorders often suffer from severe anxiety after becoming addicted. This is called “substance-induced anxiety” and is commonly associated with substance abuse and drug withdrawal. Essentially, the idea of suffering through the painful effects of drug withdrawal (nausea, vomiting, confusion, paranoia, headaches, etc.) creates a state of fear and anxiety, which makes it nearly impossible to quit.

Substance-induced anxiety is also associated with the effects of drugs on the body and mind: people that suffer from this anxiety believe that their drug use can be “noticed” by others. This makes them concerned about the way they are perceived and accepted by society. Other people are worried they will be caught by law enforcement officials and punished for their drug use. For the average person suffering from addiction, this may mean the end of a promising career or even alienation from family members.

The distinction between normal anxiety and substance-induced anxiety is the fact that the latter is caused primarily by drug use, not by underlying anxiety disorders. In fact, people who suffer from substance-induced anxiety often had no anxiety symptoms until they began to abuse drugs.

Treating Anxiety And Drug Addiction

If you suffer from severe anxiety and drug addiction, drug rehabilitation centers can help. First of all, they will assess the root of your anxiety and decide if it existed before your addiction or after. This is important, because the treatment options for them two types are fairly different.

Anxiety that came before drug addiction is likely to require intense psychological counseling and a prescription anti-anxiety medicine. In extremely severe cases, cognitive behavior therapy may be utilized to help you find healthy coping mechanisms for eliminating your anxiety. Once your anxiety is under wraps, your impulse to self-medicate will likely decrease.

For substance-induced anxiety, the treatment is more complex. First of all, your body will be completely detoxified of any addictive substances. This will trigger withdrawal and potential anxiety attacks. Often, your symptoms will be lessened by the use of replacement medicines which simulate the effect of drugs in a safer manner.

Once you are finished with detoxification, many of your substance-induced anxiety symptoms should abate. However, you may also feel “substance-loss anxiety,” which is caused by the loss of the “high” of your drug. Psychological counseling, cognitive behavior therapy, and prescription medications should help you get through that difficult feeling.

We Can Help You

Anxiety and drug addiction don’t have to take control of your life. Our professional rehabilitation specialists can help you find a rehab center near you that can help treat both your anxiety and your substance abuse disorder. Just contact us here at to help give your recovery efforts the boost they need to succeed.

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