Anxiety Sufferers Who Self-Medicate More at Risk for Substance Abuse Disorders

Edited by Living Sober

Last updated December 21, 2012

People with anxiety symptoms who self-medicate with alcohol or other drugs may be at a higher risk of developing anxiety disorders and a co-occurring substance abuse disorder (known as dual diagnosis), according to researchers from the University of Manitoba, as reported in an article on

The research team used data from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism survey to determine the substance abuse rates among those with anxiety disorders.  Conversely, they also wanted to determine the incidence of the new-onset of anxiety disorders among those with a substance disorder.  In total 34,653 were surveyed during the years 2001-2002 and 2004-2005.

The researchers separated the participants into three categories:  those who self-medicate with alcohol only, those who self-medicate with drugs (with or without alcohol), and those who do not self-medicate.  They found that of the individuals with a diagnosed anxiety disorder who self-medicated with alcohol, 12.6% developed an alcohol-use disorder, while just 4.7% of those who did not self-medicate developed the alcohol-use disorder.

Additional findings were that self-medication with alcohol was behind 6.9% of new-onset social phobia and 20.4% of new-onset social phobia was found to be caused by those who self-medicated with drugs.

The researchers concluded that, given their findings, there is a correlation between the development of social phobia and substance use disorders.  Northbound Treatment Services specializes in dual diagnosis treatment for individuals who have both a substance abuse disorder and a co-occurring anxiety disorder. Our highly-trained staff assists patients every step of the way with comprehensive care that focuses on the whole person—mind, body and spirit.  For more information about Northbound’s services, click here.

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