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The Connection Between Panic and Anxiety and "Self Medicating"

Mar 7, 2008
A lot of people suffering from panic and anxiety disorders tend to "self-medicate". That is, they tend to use alcohol or drugs, both over the counter and illegal, to dull the symptoms of their anxiety. According to the ScienceDirect web site, a study found that as many as 10-40 percent of alcoholics have panic attacks and/or anxiety, and 10-20 percent of people with panic and anxiety abuse drugs or alcohol. The majority of people asked believed that that their self medication worked, even though the researchers found that these people often had more serious situations, including depression.

The study also found that a majority of people reported having anxiety before alcohol or substance abuse.

The relationship between panic and anxiety disorders and alcohol and drugs seems to be a vicious one; people with anxiety and panic use alcohol to self medicate sometimes leading to alcohol and substance abuse, while on the other hand, alcohol and drug use can lead to panic and anxiety disorders.

For years it marijuana was commonly considered not to have any negative long term effects on users, but this has changed. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, not only can you experience anxiety and panic attacks immediately after using cannabis; one of the most common long term side effects of smoking marijuana is panic and anxiety.

Other drugs that can cause anxiety are stimulants such as amphetamines, cocaine or crack. Hallucinogens such as LSD, PCP and ecstasy

In addition to these illegal substances, as previously mentioned, legal substances such as nicotine, alcohol and caffeine can cause panic and anxiety reactions, especially in high doses.

Even prescription and over the counter medication can cause both immediate anxiety reactions and long term anxiety disorders.

Most diet pills contains some sort of stimulant, ranging from caffeine and guarana to ephedrine ( also sometimes called ephedra) and other stimulants closely related to amphetamine. Some of these stimulants are considered harmless in small doses, but are usually found in relatively high doses in diet pills. According to The National Institutes of Health, studies in animals show that the use of diet pills containing fenfluramine, can cause not only panic and anxiety, but also long term brain damage.

If you experience panic and anxiety, it is important to be very aware of what you put in your body. It may be easy to think that a little caffeine or alcohol is normal and maybe even good for you, but if you have anxiety problems, you should probably cut down on the use of these substances or cut them out all together. If you experience negative feeling or anxiety thinking about giving up on these substances, it is quite possible that you are addicted to them, something that makes it even more important for you to give it up.

It might be difficult for you to change some of the habits that are causing your anxiety, and in some cases it may temporarily cause more anxiety to give something up, but if you are suffering from panic and anxiety, you can greatly improve the quality of your life if you limit the amounts of anxiety causing substances you have in your system.
About the Author
Jon Mercer is an expert author and educator.

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