Panic Disorder and Drug Abuse

Have you ever wondered why some individuals become addicted to drugs and others do not?  If drugs are so powerfully addicting, then why doesn’t every person who takes drugs suffer from what has been described by the National Institute on Drug Abuse as a chronic disease?

Components of Addiction

Man with Panic DisorderThe answer comes in three parts, according to the experts at the NIDA. The first part is the genetic predisposition to drug addiction. If you have a family member who suffers from addiction, you are more likely to become addicted as well. The second part is environmental. Family, friends, influences, stress levels and the examples that authority figures set in your life have an effect on your drug use. Finally, the age at which you begin to use drugs can affect how likely you are to become addicted. If you are exposed to drug use at critical times of your development as a human being, you can ultimately change your chances to come away from drug abuse without an actual, full-fledged addiction.

One other factor that can have a determination on addiction is the presence of co-occurring disorders. The NIDA explains a co-occurring disorder as a mental condition that exists at the same time as the addiction disease. For some, the co-occurring disorder develops first and the drug user is actually self-medicating the issue with drugs. He might not even realize that he is doing it. He just likes the way he feels when he uses drugs, not understanding that the use of the drugs is acting on his co-existing condition in the same way that other, healthier and more responsible therapies should. In other cases, the use of drugs can lead to the development of a co-occurring condition, which might then lead the individual to use more drugs to address those symptoms.

This continued cycle of drug abuse leads to tolerance. Tolerance means that your body and brain have become so used to having the drugs of abuse in your system that they can’t function properly without them. Some drugs will change the way your brain releases dopamine, for instance, which is the brain chemical responsible for pleasure, among other things. Your brain eventually will stop producing dopamine on its own, so without the use of drugs, you feel sad or, worse, void of emotion. When this happens, your body craves the drug, to the point that not using the drug will cause withdrawal symptoms. These withdrawal symptoms can be moderate to severe, depending on the drugs involved.

How Panic Disorder Fits in With Addiction

One of these co-morbid conditions is panic disorder. As described by the Mayo Clinic, panic disorder is an anxiety disorder that can create many physical symptoms, including feeling frightened that something bad is going to happen, fearing that you may die, irregular breathing, hot flashes and sweating, stomach issue like nausea or cramping, and even chest pain. Some individuals feel as though they are having an actual heart attack.

If you’ve ever suffered from a panic attack, you know how frightening it can be and how it can disrupt your life and the lives of those you love. It is important to remember that panic disorder is treatable, just like addiction is treatable. You do not have to turn to drug abuse to get the help you need to live your life on a more even keel.

Medications to Help Panic Disorder

While medications are often prescribed to help with the symptoms of panic disorder and its subsequent panic attacks, some of the medications are popular drugs of abuse. Benzodiazepines are one such type of drug. These are mild sedatives which depress the central nervous system, causing some individuals to experience euphoric effects when taken irresponsibly. When taken according to the directions, they are safe and effective. Taken inappropriately, however, they can be highly addictive. A few brand names of this type of drug as listed by the Mayo Clinic include:

  • Xanax
  • Niravam
  • Klonopin
  • Ativan

Each of these drugs can have dangerous effects on one’s physical health. According to the information supplied by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, CNS depressants can slow down how your brain functions and when coupled with other drugs or with alcohol, respiration can become dangerously slow.

Is Drug Abuse Already a Problem?

Girl Abusing DrugsIn some cases, a diagnosis of a panic disorder condition does not occur until after an individual recognizes they have an addiction issue and seeks help. What happens if someone has become addicted to the very medication that would have been prescribed to treat them? Fortunately, there are other types of medication available that are non-addictive. Medications such as Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft have fewer side effects for some people, for instance.

If drug abuse or addiction is a problem, it is crucial to receive treatment for the addiction and the panic disorder. If you only treat your addiction, the panic disorder may cause you to relapse. If you treat your panic disorder without addressing the existing addiction, you are far more likely to keep using drugs.

Determining the right treatment for you is an important decision. Addiction is different for each person who suffers from it, and no single, particular treatment is going to work for everyone. To address this, the NIDA suggests that an effective treatment plan be tailored to your individual needs and issues, and that the plan be flexible enough to change as your needs change.

What Are the Benefits of Inpatient or Outpatient Treatment?

There are two main types of co-occurring disorder treatment for panic disorder and addiction. The first treatment option is an intensive outpatient program. An outpatient program often includes individual counseling, including cognitive behavior therapy. Participants in this type of program may also be encouraged to attend regular meetings of an established 12-step program, like Narcotics Anonymous. Group therapy is also an option. Differently slightly from the self-help model, member-run programs of a 12-step situation, group therapy is conducted with a professional therapist but consists of several recovering addicts in a single session. When an individual participates in an outpatient program, he or she experiences various benefits, including:

  • Lower cost due to the lack of room and board
  • Living at home in familiar surroundings
  • The ability to continue working, which may be important for continued health insurance
  • The ability to care for family, including elderly parents or children, if necessary
  • Flexible scheduling; most programs offer day or evening hours for treatment

Outpatient programs will often require daily or random drug testing to ensure continued sobriety as well. On the other side of the treatment coin is the residential inpatient treatment facility. Residential inpatient programs are often housed in comfortable or even luxurious surroundings, such as those found here at Axis. With a relaxing and home-like atmosphere, individuals seeking help for drug abuse and co-occurring disorders such as panic disorder, will find they have access to 24-hour care, nutritious meals to help rebuild physical health, organized schedules for treatment programs and alternative therapies, such as acupuncture and yoga.

While residing at an inpatient facility, you are able to concentrate on your recovery and healing programs without the interference of daily activities and stressful responsibilities. This can be beneficial to the treatment of conditions that cause panic or general anxiety. It also provides a more thorough opportunity for prescribing therapists to adjust medication, should this be a course of action decided upon during the initial assessment.

Get Help for Panic Disorder and Addiction Today

If you or someone you love is suffering from anxiety or panic disorder, or engaging in the abuse of drugs for any reason, please do not hesitate to contact us here at Axis to learn how we can help. At Axis, we can develop a program for recovery that is as unique as you are, so you can return to your home and family healthier and better able to cope with the challenges that come your way.