Relationship Between Substance Abuse And Panic Attacks

Substance abuse and panic disorder form a risky comorbidity that requires immediate treatment. Read on to learn more.

Substance Abuse And Panic Attacks

Most people try to alleviate panic attack symptoms by consuming substances that create a sense of calm. However, this sense of stability goes away as soon as the substance’s effects fade. Alcohol panic attacks can quickly return much more potent and worse than before.

Many people start to take more of the substance in order to help with increasing symptoms, but over time, they can develop a tolerance to the substances that quickly leads to addiction. This may lead to substance-induced panic attacks or drug-induced anxiety and panic disorder.1

There are many symptoms and disorders that may cause panic attacks, including:

Panic Disorder

Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol is a stimulant and a depressant that speeds up the functioning of your brain. Drinking too much alcohol can cause uncontrollable feelings or thoughts of death related to panic attacks.2 An alcohol panic attack may last between five to thirty minutes and can be quite scary, although they aren’t dangerous and should not harm you. Alcohol affects your brain chemistry because it impacts the GABA neurotransmitters, which are chemicals that cause a relaxing effect. Mild amounts of alcohol stimulate GABA and cause feelings of relaxation.

In contrast, heavy drinking depletes GABA, increasing feelings of panic and tension. Quitting alcohol altogether may lead to withdrawal symptoms in the form of panic attacks and other anxiety symptoms.3

Cocaine or Methamphetamine Abuse

Methamphetamine and cocaine are stimulants that increase stimulant-induced anxiety. Other drugs that cause panic attacks can also treat ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and improve symptoms of panic attacks.4

Marijuana Abuse

Many people believe that marijuana is harmless. However, it can cause mental health conditions, including panic and anxiety attacks. Though panic attacks don’t affect everyone, long-term use increases the risks of panic disorder symptoms.

Opioid Abuse

Doctors prescribe opioids for pain management, but some people also abuse illicit opioids. Opioids also cause substance-induced anxiety disorder when used other than prescribed. Some research states that 38% of people struggling with opioid addiction also have a panic disorder.5

Signs Of Panic Attacks

Alcohol can cause panic attacks, and the following are common symptoms of a panic attack setting in:

Causes of Panic Attacks or Panic Disorder

Several factors are associated with panic attacks, including:

Complications That Panic Attacks May Cause

Panic attacks from drugs cause several complications, like:

panic disorder

Impacts Of Substance Abuse On Panic Disorder Symptoms

Using certain substances in the presence of panic disorders is risky because it heightens the effects of those panic disorders. Different substances affect symptoms of panic disorders in the following ways:

Panic Disorder and Alcohol

Drinking a moderate amount of alcohol stimulates the GABA receptors and induces feelings of relaxation. However, heavy drinking depletes GABA, elevating panic attacks and tension.

Panic Disorder and Marijuana

Marijuana has potentially dangerous side effects for people battling panic disorders because it:

Panic Disorder and Stimulants

Stimulants like nicotine, caffeine, ecstasy, and others have damaging effects on individuals with panic disorders. Stimulants increase feelings of anxiety and change how your body mimics panic attacks. Be careful if you take stimulants and already have symptoms of panic disorders.

Treatment For Panic Disorder And Addiction

Treating dual diagnosis is not as simple as treating substance abuse or panic disorder alone. Your doctor has to diagnose you before advising on the best panic disorder recovery plan. These plans can include medically supervised detox, which allows you to safely abstain from substance or alcohol usage under medical supervision.

These treatments can also include counseling, as talk therapy helps you to understand what causes these panic attacks and can teach you how to manage them.6

Medication-Assisted Treatment and Other Options

Medication-assisted treatment allows you to take safe medications that will help mitigate withdrawal symptoms and helps to make sure you don’t relapse.7

Lastly, group and family therapy allow you to discuss with others – including your family – what may be going on and learn how to cope with your disorders with support and understanding from others.

Below are some additional tips to alleviate panic and anxiety.

Calm Your Breathing

Breathing exercises boost oxygen intake and carbon dioxide expulsion, leading to a relaxed and calm mind. Take a break when you feel anxious and deeply breathe in and out between time intervals until you feel comfortable.

Relax Your Muscles

When anxious, your muscles are strained and tense, making it challenging to manage your anxiety. Relaxing your muscles will reduce your anxiety levels.

Think Realistically

Panic attacks are associated with racing thoughts and rapid heartbeats. Take time and get to a quiet environment and clear your thoughts. Practice meditation and mindfulness to find balance, be calm, and relax.

Table of Contents

Questions About Treatment?

We are a patient-first substance abuse and mental health treatment facility located in Los Angeles, California. At Essence Healthcare, we provide different levels of care from detoxification to drug rehab aftercare. Our team is standing by to address your questions. Your call is confidential and no obligation is required.