What came first, anxiety or substance use disorder?

1. Anxiety Can lead to substance use.
2. Substance use can led to Anxiety.
3. A person can have anxiety and substance use disorder, but they are not related to each other.

Many of our patients suffer from anxiety. Some say they experienced anxiety as early as childhood and using substances made it easier to deal with. Most people start with smoking marijuana. They are then introduced to pain pills through a sports injury, minor surgery, or a party. It may take months or years to realize, they have developed a substance use disorder. In the meantime, the anxiety has gotten worse. It helps to know exactly when you started feeling anxious and what led to the symptoms. Data shows that about 75% of people who have co-morbid anxiety and substance use, suffered from the anxiety first (Smith, 2008). That means if you are being treated for substance use disorder, your anxiety has to be addressed and treated, too. Much fewer people suffer from anxiety BECAUSE of their substance use, although withdrawal symptoms can cause horrible bouts of anxiety, especially opiate withdrawal.
On my next blog, I will discuss anchoring techniques to help get you through a bout of anxiety!

Kim Hart, MS, ALC

Smith, J. P., 2008. Anxiety and Substance Use Disorders: A Review. Psychiatric Times, 25(10), pp. 19-23.