Substance-Induced Anxiety Disorder

What is substance-induced anxiety disorder?

Substance-induced anxiety disorder is nervousness, restlessness, or panic caused by taking a drug or stopping a drug.

If you had anxiety before you started using the drug, even if the drug makes your symptoms worse, it is not considered a substance-induced anxiety disorder.

What is the cause?

The brain makes chemicals that affect thoughts, emotions, and actions. Without the right balance of these chemicals, there may be problems with the way you think, feel, or act. Many drugs change the amounts of these chemicals.

Some drugs can cause anxiety while you are taking them. Other drugs can cause anxiety for several weeks after you stop taking them. Drugs and medicines that can cause anxiety include:

  • Alcohol and illegal drugs such as cocaine and LSD
  • Nonprescription medicines such as some decongestants
  • Caffeine
  • Prescription medicines such as stimulants, steroids, and medicines to treat asthma, Parkinson’s disease, and thyroid problems

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms may start while you are taking the drugs or within a few days after you stop taking them. Besides feeling nervous and worried, symptoms may include:

  • Thinking that bad things will happen or that you will never get better
  • Having trouble falling asleep or waking up often during the night
  • Having trouble concentrating or remembering things
  • Fearing that you are losing control of yourself and will go crazy or will die
  • Losing weight because you don’t feel like eating, or because your stomach hurts or you have vomiting or diarrhea
  • Having chills, hot flashes, sweating, shaking, numbness, or a pounding heartbeat
  • Having trouble breathing, trouble swallowing, or chest pain

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask how much and how often you use nonprescription, prescription, and illegal drugs. Be honest about the medicines and drugs you use. Your provider needs this information to give you the right treatment. He will also ask about your symptoms, medical history and give you a physical exam. You may have tests or scans to help make a diagnosis.

How is it treated?

See your healthcare provider if you believe that a medicine may be causing anxiety. Your healthcare provider may prescribe a change in medicine or treatment for your symptoms. Do not change the dosage or stop taking any prescribed medicine unless your healthcare provider has given you instructions to do so.

Drug abuse and dependence can be treated. For any treatment to be successful, you must want to stop using drugs. Do not try to use alcohol and other drugs to reduce withdrawal symptoms. Your healthcare provider may prescribe medicine to help you get through withdrawal.

Self-help groups such as Cocaine Anonymous, support groups, and therapy may be helpful. You might be treated in a substance abuse treatment program. Your healthcare providers and counselors will work with you to develop a treatment program.


Substance-induced anxiety disorder can be treated with either group or individual therapy. Therapy in a group with other people who have substance abuse problems is often very helpful. In some cases, medicines for depression or anxiety may help you to stop substance abuse. Discuss the options with your healthcare provider or therapist.

Other Treatments

Learning ways to relax may help. Yoga and meditation may also be helpful. You may want to talk with your healthcare provider about using these methods along with medicines and therapy.

Claims have been made that certain herbal and dietary products help control cravings or withdrawal symptoms. Supplements are not tested or standardized and may vary in strengths and effects. They may have side effects and are not always safe. Before you take any supplement, talk with your healthcare provider.

How can I take care of myself?

  • Get support. Talk with family and friends. Consider joining a support group in your area.
  • Learn to manage stress. Ask for help at home and work when the load is too great to handle. Find ways to relax, for example take up a hobby, listen to music, watch movies, or take walks. Try deep breathing exercises when you feel stressed.
  • Take care of your physical health. Try to get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Eat a healthy diet. Limit caffeine. If you smoke, quit. Don’t use alcohol or drugs. Exercise according to your healthcare provider’s instructions.
  • Avoid situations where people are likely to use alcohol or drugs.
  • Check your medicines. To help prevent problems, tell your healthcare provider and pharmacist about all of the medicines, natural remedies, vitamins, and other supplements that you take. Take all medicines as directed by your provider or therapist. It is very important to take your medicine even when you are feeling and thinking well. Without the medicine, your symptoms may not improve or may get worse. Talk to your provider if you have problems taking your medicine or if the medicines don’t seem to be working.
  • Contact your healthcare provider or therapist if you have any questions or your symptoms seem to be getting worse.

Get emergency care if you or a loved one has serious thoughts of suicide or self-harm, violence, or harming others. Also seek immediate help if you have chest pain or trouble breathing.

For more information, contact:

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-08-28
Last reviewed: 2013-05-06
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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