The Lure of SubstancesFeeling consistently worried, jumpy or stressed can be simply exhausting. People with anxiety disorders may become so disabled that they simply cannot get through a standard day. Their fear paralyzes them. Substances of abuse might seem to provide some avenue of relief, at least temporarily. Substances like cocaine and heroin might help people with anxiety to fall asleep, and that’s something that they might find extremely difficult to do without help. Other drugs of abuse such as cocaine and methamphetamine might help people with anxiety to feel as though they’re powerful and in control, and this might help the anxious feelings to fade. Unfortunately, people who lean on substances for anxiety control may find that their coping skills cause more harm than help. Substances such as alcohol and cocaine can cause an increase in feelings of anxiety when addicted people attempt to stop taking them. People who use these drugs for anxiety control may find that they’re on an endless roller coaster, using drugs to control anxiety, feeling an increase in anxiety when they try to stop using, and then reverting to drug use once more. It’s no wonder that the Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that 20 percent of Americans with an anxiety or mood disorder have a substance abuse disorder. This type of cycle is persistent, and it’s hard to overcome without help.
Breaking the LinkIf suddenly stopping the abuse of drugs causes a spike in anxious feelings, it’s reasonable to expect that a tapered or assisted withdrawal from drugs could be a beneficial first step on the road to recovery. That’s just what structured detox programs provide. At the beginning of these programs, experts determine what drugs the person has been taking, and at what dosages, and then develop a reasonable plan, with the assistance of consulting physicians, to help the person get sober without experiencing a spike in anxious feelings. The methods used can vary depending on the drugs the person has been taking.
A few examples:
- Alcohol addiction: Medications can ease trembling and symptoms of fear and nervousness.
- Opiate addiction: Medications can soothe physical discomfort associated with withdrawal, and those medications might be used to keep cravings at bay as therapy moves forward.
- Barbiturate addiction: A slow taper from the medication can allow the body to achieve sobriety naturally, without discomfort.
- Cocaine addiction: Medications can play a role here as well, allowing the person to feel relaxed and comfortable.
Medication ManagementPeople who have anxiety disorders and addictions may have become accustomed to popping a pill or taking a drink when the stresses of life become overwhelming. In general, this is a habit that addiction treatment programs attempt to address, as they provide clients with lessons they can use to control their anxiety without resorting to abusive drugs. There are some people, however, who have anxiety disorders that are so severe that they simply cannot participate in therapy programs. Their mental illnesses put up roadblock after roadblock, preventing true healing from taking place. These people might need medications in order to start their healing.
In an overview of the topic, published in Medscape, the authors suggest that there are anti-anxiety medications that can be helpful for people with addictions, and these medications come with a low abuse potential. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (commonly known as SSRIs) have been proven effective in depression and substance abuse, the authors claim, although some people benefit more than others do, even when they’re both provided with the same therapy. In general, since the risk of abuse still exists and not everyone benefits from the therapy, medications aren’t considered mandatory for all patients with anxiety and substance abuse, and those who do use this therapy are monitored closely by consulting physicians to ensure that the treatment is working as it should.There are multiple therapy types that can be used to treat anxiety disorders, and the therapy type chosen typically depends heavily on the type of anxiety disorder the person has. However, almost all therapy types attempt to challenge these negative thoughts and help people to come up with replacement ideas that are both positive and reassuring. For example, behavioral psychotherapy teaches clients to use breathing techniques when anxiety strikes, replacing the shallow, fast breaths that accompany fear with the slow, deep breaths that come with sleep. The heart rate slows, the muscles relax and the anxiety seems to fade. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy might also help people to label their thoughts as destructive and take them apart directly, confronting the destruction instead of masking the pain.
Therapy TechniquesAnxiety disorders can cause people to spend an inordinate amount of time listening to the voices inside of their heads and believing the messages they hear.
People with anxiety disorders might harbor destructive thoughts such as:
- I know this will be worse tomorrow.
- There’s no way I’m going to be able to handle this.
- Something terrible is about to happen; I can feel it.
- I’m the only one who knows how bad things really are.
In therapy, clients might also be provided with tools they can use to identify cravings for drugs. Anxious feelings might be a trigger, but specific places or even particular people might also cause a spike in the need for substances to take place. Therapists work hard to help their clients spot these weak areas in their recovery plans and develop a set of tools they can use when a relapse seems imminent.Working through therapy for anxiety is difficult, and while the therapy rarely takes years to complete, it’s common for people with anxiety and addiction to spend 90 days or more in their treatment programs. Leaving early could mean catastrophe, as those who drop out of treatment tend to drop right back in to drug use. There’s some good news on this front, however, as research conducted for the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry suggests that people who utilize Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for anxiety tend to stay in treatment, and they tend to maintain long-term improvements. It’s clear that this form of therapy can be a helpful method that people find useful and worthwhile, and as a result, they seem able to avoid the temptation to stop their therapy programs before they’re complete.