When your life is a steady buzz of anxiety, it can be quite tempting to self-medicate with alcohol or drugs. A glass of wine or a joint smoked in the evening can make you feel more at ease and free of the constant worry and tension. Unfortunately, dealing with anxiety in this way tends to only create another problem – substance abuse. These two problems frequently show up together and when the person is at last ready to deal with one of these issues, they actually need to tackle both in order to find true recovery.
The habit of easing anxiety with substances is fraught with peril, because dulling the anxiety is paramount. Over time, the body develops tolerance for the substance –whether alcohol or drugs- and pretty soon, it take more than a single glass of wine or just one joint to feel relaxed. Before the person realizes it, they are drinking more alcohol or using more of the drug just to maintain the same level of calm.
The two problems of anxiety disorder and substance abuse frequently go hand in hand. In fact, it can go the other direction too. Individuals with an alcohol or drug dependency may wind up developing an anxiety problem, because these substances can actually cause anxiety and panic attacks. For this reason, once the person decides to deal with one issue, they really need to address both.
At first, anxiety symptoms may worsen as the person gives up substance use, but eventually the anxiety levels will go down. Since pharmaceutical-based therapies can themselves be addicting, most experts suggest non-pharmacy treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) along with a support group. The CBT will be useful in learning healthy strategies for managing anxiety while the support group will give ongoing encouragement throughout the recovery from substances.
If you are a person who struggles with anxiety, don’t try to handle the problem on your own and definitely not with dulling substances like drugs and alcohol. Instead, call a professional who knows how to guide you in managing anxiety and overcoming substance use. The Family Guidance Center of St Joseph knows all about how these two issues are interrelated and they can help you find relief.