Anxiety is a normal emotion that most of us have felt at one time or another. We may worry about a health problem or be concerned about meeting a work deadline. For some, though, anxiety becomes so intense that it interferes with daily life. The tension, strain, and stress can be serious enough that they try to find relief through a potentially dangerous practice: self-medication with alcohol or drugs.
What Is “Self-Medication”?
Self-medication involves using a substance to cope with negative feelings or physical discomfort without the guidance or oversight of a trained medical professional. Individuals struggling with anxiety may start abusing alcohol or drugs in order to calm themselves down and feel more relaxed. For example, they may get into the habit of drinking one or two beers before bed so they don’t lay awake at night feeling overwhelmed by life. They may smoke pot during a lunch break because they believe it will help them cope with a stressful workplace.
Specific Disorders And Substance Abuse
While any anxiety symptoms have the potential to contribute to substance abuse, a review of research suggests that those with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and panic disorder (PD) are most likely to struggle with substance abuse. Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) – which also include significant anxiety although no longer categorized as anxiety disorders per se – have been closely linked to alcohol abuse .
Substances Used In Self-Medication
Someone experiencing anxiety can self-medicate with any substance. Some of the most commonly used substances include:
Alcohol is a popular substance of abuse among anxiety sufferers. Although it’s actually a depressant, drinking alcohol can initially numb feelings of stress, tension, nervousness, and fear. Alcohol also has a disinhibiting effect. This means that it helps people feel less inhibited or restrained; making them more likely to do things they would never do normally. This effect can make individuals feel freer and less afraid of the situation causing their anxiety.
For example, a disinhibited person may not be paralyzed by fear when he’s required to attend an office function or feel embarrassed or uncomfortable eating in public. Consuming alcohol makes many individuals feel friendlier and less anxious. In fact, studies show that some people with social anxiety are more motivated to drink specifically to reduce their social fears . However, despite its initial calming effects, alcohol can end up prolonging or worsening feelings of tension .
Marijuana is also quite popular with anxiety sufferers. This is primarily due to its ability to help them feel more “laid back” and relaxed. According to one survey, nearly 90% of marijuana users reported they’d used the drug in order to relax . When smoked, marijuana affects brain receptors linked to pleasure, producing a feeling of overall calmness.
Marijuana, like alcohol, may not be the effective anxiety reliever that many perceive it to be. For example, some users report having panic attacks after smoking it. Researchers believe this side effect is due to THC – the active ingredient in marijuana. THC has a negative impact on brain chemicals like serotonin and noradrenalin. Furthermore, some experts believe marijuana’s ability to impair thinking can contribute to increased anxiety in some users .
Statistics don’t reveal the exact number of people who abuse heroin to reduce anxiety. However, the dangerous drug’s power to produce a relaxed state of mind may make it the drug of choice for some anxiety sufferers. When heroin is injected, the brain converts it to morphine. This causes a euphoric rush of warmth followed by drowsiness. Heroin is also said to blunt emotions, which may seem to take the edge off of stress, tension, and feelings of anxiousness. The feeling of relaxation is temporary, though, and users need to get high again in order to find relief. This cycle can lead to a serious addiction to the drug.
It seems counterintuitive that anyone struggling with anxiety would choose to use a highly stimulating drug like cocaine. Experts theorize that the drug activates the brain in a way that allows someone struggling with social anxiety to break through inhibitions and cope with stressful situations . Like heroin, cocaine offers only fleeting anxiety relief, causing the user to continually seek out a high. Addiction, overdose, and death are all potential risks.
The Drug Use/Anxiety Paradox
When a person lives with anxiety, it can seem as though substances do reduce the troubling symptoms – and they may in the short term. However, substance abuse, even in the form of self-medication, leads to long-term problems that generate additional stress. Some users get so high that they end up being late for work. They may be unable to attend to the needs of their children or aging parents because their too drunk or have passed out. Substance abuse also harms their physical well-being. Each substance takes its own toll on health, from the potential liver damage of alcohol abuse to the dangers of overdose with cocaine or heroin use.
In addition, finding, buying, and using illicit drugs can contribute to anxiety. Users may worry that family members will notice the scent of marijuana on their clothing or feel uneasy about buying street drugs from an acquaintance. Drug-related activities inevitably add to the stress and strain they’re so desperately trying to alleviate.
Healthier Treatments For Anxiety
Anxiety symptoms affect every aspect of your life, so it’s essential to find help. Self-medication is never an effective or healthy treatment for anxiety. A combination of therapy and lifestyle changes is often enough to reduce symptoms of anxiety without the dangers of alcohol or drug abuse.
A skilled therapist can tailor treatment to address your specific type of anxiety. For example, if you struggle with social phobia, you may receive exposure therapy. Exposure therapy, as the name suggests, exposes you to anxiety-provoking situations in a gradual way that allows you to become more comfortable with them. The goal is to become desensitized to the anxiety as the exposure increases and intensifies.
People with anxiety also frequently benefit from learning relaxation techniques. Strategies like deep breathing exercises can reduce anxiety on the spot by lowering your body’s physical response to stress. Regular exercise is also an effective way to lessen anxiety because it naturally increases the brain’s levels of endorphins, which help promote a sense of wellbeing.
If you’re already self-medicating, be honest with your therapist and other treatment providers about your substance abuse. This will give them the opportunity to accurately assess you and determine the best treatment approach for both issues. You may be a good candidate for “dual diagnosis” treatment, which simultaneously addresses and treats your anxiety and your substance abuse problem. Leaving the substance abuse untreated will likely undermine your anxiety therapy, and vice versa.
Don’t risk your health by self-medicating with alcohol or drugs. Reach out for help so you can find a better way to cope with anxiety and live the life you deserve.
Read More About How Anxiety And Mood Disorders Are Linked To Opioid Abuse
Continued From – In A Relationship With An Addict: Stay Or Leave? Part 1
Addressing Codependency Within Yourself
If, through Al-Anon or CODA, you have identified codependent tendencies, it is time to seek help for that problem specifically. A relationship with an addict is never healthy, but neither is a relationship with a codependent. Codependency is a pattern that mimics addiction. If you hope to have healthy, functional relationships in the future, it is imperative that you begin working through this condition.
Ending a cycle of co-dependency is not easy and professional help may be required, as these patterns are usually deeply ingrained and rooted in childhood experience. Learning new, healthy patterns for relationships is not automatic and needs to be addressed intentionally.
Learning To Recognize The Deception And Manipulation Of Your Addict Partner
How many times has your addict partner blamed you for his or her problems? Or, when you confronted your partner about the addiction, the focus was shifted to you, claiming that if only you were more this or less that, the addicts wouldn’t drink or use in this way? What about all of the excuses of an addict?
Your partner’s addiction is, in no way, related to you or your perceived failings as a partner. Addicts are masters of deception, blame-shifting, excuse-making, and manipulation. Are you falling for it? Do you believe the addict even when you suspect he or she is lying? Do you fail to acknowledge red flags? Part of codependency is smoothing over issues or matters that may cause a fight but should be addressed. Are you allowing yourself to be manipulated?
Recovery May Not Be The Answer For The Relationship
As the non-addict partner, your focus has been on the addict—their needs, their issues, their failings, their protection, and their need to get into recovery. And sometimes the addict does actually pursue recovery, get sober, and join a 12-step community. It seems like this would be the ideal situation.
Not necessarily. Indeed, recovery is always the answer for the addict. There is never a time when it is better to stay in addiction than to get into recovery. But recovery may not be the “answer” for your relationship. The combination of an addict (them) and a non-addict/potentially co-dependent (you) creates a certain relational pattern that, while perhaps not ideal, is familiar. The addict is accustomed to being the screw-up or the authoritarian, and the non-addict is slotted into the role of caregiver, protector and hero.
Recovery changes that. Suddenly the sober addict is bringing a new dynamic to the relationship—taking ownership of their faults, attempting to set proper boundaries, devoting time to recovery and a 12-step community, and seeking the direction of a higher power. This can leave the non-addict in a quandary, not knowing how to act or respond to the sober partner, and not appreciating the shift in roles. Co-dependents get their fix from being rescuers, enablers and controllers. When they are relieved of that role, conflict often results.
Breaking Up With An Addict
A relationship with an addict can never be anything less than toxic. If you are dating rather than married to an addict, the ease with which you can leave the relationship is greater. In the case of marriage where children and a shared home may be involved, other tactics and attempts at recovery should be employed before declaring the marriage over.
For those who are in a dating relationship, the ties with an addict are somewhat easier to sever. While a breakup is always painful, you won’t have the added challenge of a legal battle. The hassle of splitting up possessions or finding a new place to live should not be a deterrent. Freedom and healing is worth that price.
If you fear that your attempts to leave the relationship will be met with violence or other maliciousness, it is wise to involve law enforcement, obtaining a restraining order if necessary. It is also helpful to have the names and phone numbers of shelters in your area where you could stay anonymously for a period of time if necessary.
Listening To Wisdom Of Others And Making A Healthy Decision For Yourself
While the opinions and advice of others need not dictate your life and the decisions you make regarding your relationship, it is often wise to listen to people around you. If your family and close friends are consistently encouraging you to send your partner packing, you may want to take heed. Think they don’t know him like you do, or that they just can’t see the real her? You may be right, but at some point you may need to ask yourself if you are the one who is not seeing the situation in all of its reality.
Whether you decide to stay or leave, you are seeing that not all problems in your relationship are the addict’s. You are gaining awareness of your own faults and perhaps your unrealistic expectations. Only you can decide if this relationship is right for you, but you are gaining the knowledge and understanding to help you make an informed and healthy decision.
Read More About How To Handle A Loved One With An Addiction
You know your partner battles an addiction and you’ve seen the toll it is taking on your relationship, not to mention your own well-being and sanity. Yet you stay. And the problem continues. How do you recognize an addict’s excuses? Is it possible to have a healthy relationship with an addict? Should you even try? How do you decide when it’s time to call it quits?
Unhealthy Attracts Unhealthy In Relationships
It helps to begin with a little soul searching. What keeps you in a relationship with an addict in the first place? The reality is that people who maintain relationships with addicts are often operating from a place of co-dependency and emotional neediness. Whether or not you stay in the relationship, it is probably time to start looking at some of your own issues.
It is easy to make the relationship about the other person and his or her addiction and to be constantly focused on catering to the needs of the one who seems to be the “problem.” As a result, the non-addict doesn’t see the need to work on him or herself. In normal relationships, each partner is growing and changing in partnership with the other. In the case of a relationship with an addict, however, this normal growth and progression stagnates—often for both partners.
Examine Your Motives When In A Relationship With An Addict
People in relationships with addicts often avoid trying to honestly discover why they are in the relationship in the first place. No one can tell you it is time to end the relationship, but you might ask yourself why you think you want, or need, to stay.
Questions To Help You Work Through The Feelings Of Continuing Or Ending The Relationship With An Addict
- Are you afraid of being alone?
- Are you afraid you can’t find anyone better than your current partner?
- Do you believe that you can change him/her?
- Do you think you can love him/her out of the addiction and into a clean life?
- Do you optimistically believe that somehow things will just work out, even though there had been no evidence of that?
- Do you tell yourself it’s not that bad?
- Are you afraid of drastic consequences if you leave the addict? Has he or she threatened harm to self, you, or others if you end the relationship?
- Are you avoiding the hassle? Are you too lazy to make the break and deal with the consequences of splitting possessions and potentially having to find another place to live?
- Are you afraid to discuss the problems in your relationship or your desire to leave for fear of starting a fight? Are you afraid of physical abuse?
- Is the addict working to convince you there isn’t a problem, but maybe your gut is telling you differently?
- Has the addict vowed to go to AA, but failed to follow through?
- Do you think the addict can’t make it on his own without you?
- Are you afraid to present an ultimatum?
More “yes” answers than “no” suggest strong co-dependent tendencies.
Work On You And Your Own Issues
Any time spent in a relationship with an addict can be crazy-making. It is time to start working on you. Seeking your own recovery can often help you to better decide whether you should try to keep the relationship going or end it.
Start by attending an Al-Anon meeting in your area. Al-Anon can help you to better understand addictive patterns and tendencies and give you the tools and support for working with them. You will learn about yourself, and why you stay with an addict, and how to set better boundaries if you do stay in the relationship.
Co-Dependents Anonymous (CODA) is another group worth seeking out. Partners of addicts commonly suffer from codependent tendencies. A group like CODA takes the focus off of healing the addict and puts it onto healing and discovering you.
Whether or not you choose to stay with the addict, and whether or not he or she will get help, you need help and support in dealing with the addiction, and eventually healing from it.
People who have been brainwashed by a relationship with an addict often repeat unhealthy relational patterns in subsequent relationships. Attending Al-Anon can help the non-addict partner learn the realities of addiction and co-dependence, and can be an eye-opening experience of personal growth and development.
Hitting Bottom In The Relationship
As you wait for the addict to hit bottom and reach his or her limits, you might think about your own limits. What does it mean for you to hit bottom in this dysfunctional relationship? Partners of addicts become accustomed to responding to the needs of the addict without considering their own personal needs and preferences. In order to be ready to leave the relationship, you will have to hit your own bottom—the place of complete despair and desperation. It is at this point that you will be ready for a change. Have you hit bottom in your relationship with the addict?
Continued In – In A Relationship With An Addict: Stay Or Leave? Part 2
Substance use is common in a substantial minority of high school-age children across the U.S. Significant numbers of high school-age children also discontinue their education, or drop out, before receiving a diploma and never complete an alternative GED program. In 2013, officials from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration released a report that examined the connection between dropping out of high school and the risks for involvement in substance use. Information for this report came from nine years of data gathered from a project called the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
The U.S. Department of Education tracks high school dropout rates in a couple of ways. One method involves counting the percentage of people between the ages of 16 and 24 who do not attend high school and don’t possess a high school diploma, a GED certificate or any other certificate from a recognized, alternative educational program. In 2011, the last year for which full figures are available, 7 percent of individuals in the target age range who were not institutionalized or incarcerated fit this definition. High school dropout rates can also be roughly calculated by seeing how many incoming freshman go on to receive a diploma within a standard four-year timeframe. Three out of every four students successfully graduate on time, while the remaining 25 percent do not. Apart from any substance-related issues, common consequences of dropping out of high school include making less money, not receiving health insurance coverage and having increased risks for poverty and serious health issues.
Teen Substance Use Rates
The National Institute on Drug Abuse regularly tracks trends for substance intake in U.S. 8th graders, 10th graders and 12th graders. With the exception of involvement with inhalants, older teenagers consistently engage in substance use more often than younger teens. For example, in 2012 over 40 percent of 12th graders drank alcohol in an average month, while only 27.6 percent of 10th graders drank as frequently. Similarly, while almost 23 percent of all 12th graders used marijuana on a monthly basis, only 17 percent of 10th graders used the drug as frequently. Percentages of monthly alcohol and marijuana use were even lower in 8th graders. Marijuana ranks as the most common drug choice among all high school students.
How Dropping Out Influences Substance Use Rates
In the report published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, researchers used data gathered from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health between 2002 and 2010 to identify high school-age children who had dropped out by the 12th grade and determine how dropping out influences substance use rates. The survey’s results indicate that 13.2 percent of teens old enough to be in the 12th grade failed to graduate in this nine-year timespan. The dropout rate among boys was 14.7 percent, while the rate among girls was 11.6 percent. The ethnic groups most likely to drop out before or during the 12th grade were Native Americans/Alaskan Natives and Hispanics. Asian Americans and whites had the lowest dropout rates.
When compared to 12th graders who stayed in high school, dropouts of the same age had consistently higher monthly rates for all forms of substance use. For example, while only 22.4 percent of all enrolled 12th graders smoked cigarettes, 56.8 percent of all dropouts the same age smoked. While 35.3 percent of enrolled 12th graders drank alcohol, 41.6 percent of all dropouts the same age drank. Twelfth grade-age dropouts also had a higher rate of participation in a form of dangerous, short-term alcohol consumption called binge drinking. In addition, while 18.2 percent of all enrolled 12th graders used marijuana or some other illegal or illicit drug, 31.4 percent of all dropouts the same age used an illicit/illegal drug.
When compared to their gender, peers who remained in school, both 12th grade-age dropout boys and 12th grade-age dropout girls had significantly higher rates of intake for all commonly used substances. White 12th grade-age dropouts also had higher rates of intake for all substances than white 12th graders enrolled in school. The same pattern held true for African-American 12th grade-age dropouts and African-American 12th graders still attending school. Hispanics also largely followed the same pattern; however, the alcohol use rate was slightly higher among 12th grade Hispanics still enrolled in school than among Hispanic dropouts the same age. The two groups also had almost equal rates for participation in prescription drug abuse.
Importance Of Substance Abuse Prevention
The findings published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration clearly indicate that people who drop out of high school have substantially higher chances of becoming involved in substance use than their peers who remain in school. In the future, public health officials can use this information to place special emphasis on substance abuse prevention efforts aimed at teenagers and young adults who did not graduate from high school.
Read More About Teen Substance Abuse
03 Jan 2014
Making excuses for the habit is a cornerstone of being and addict. Until an addict can accept that he has a problem, you can expect to hear every excuse under the sun for why he abuses drugs or alcohol. If you suspect that someone you know and love has a problem, recognizing the common excuses can help you identify an addict and potentially stage a safe and healthy intervention. There are many creative excuses, but here are some of the most popular:
Popular Excuses Of Drug Addicts
- I’m not hurting anyone but myself – This is a classic excuse. Why can’t you leave him alone and let him live his life? He’s not hurting anyone else. If it were only that simple, maybe you would stop nagging him. Unfortunately your friend or family member does not live in a bubble and he needs to realize his habit is hurting others.
- I need to use to be social – This is a common excuse used by introverts and the shy who have drug abuse problems. Drug or alcohol abuse should never be a crutch for socializing. In fact, it can make your friend look worse in social settings and can cause embarrassing situations.
- I need to drink/use drugs to keep up at work – Using certain drugs can make a person feel high, powerful and energetic. Facing work and other responsibilities without the drug can seem daunting. Eventually, though, the drug abuse will catch up to him and make all responsibilities, at work and at home, more difficult.
- I only drink to relieve stress – And isn’t that how addiction begins? Drinking or using drugs is never a healthy way to cope with stress. The problems the habit causes will eventually create even more stress.
- I only use on the weekends/socially – There is no such thing as casual drug use. If your friend is getting high or drinking to pass out on Friday and Saturday nights, she still has a problem, and one that will only get worse.
- Everyone else does it – It may be true that you can look around a party and see people getting drunk, or even getting high, but you have no idea what their histories are. Comparing yourself to others is not a valid excuse to abuse drugs and alcohol.
- I can stop whenever I want to – As soon as someone utters this line, you can almost guarantee he has a problem. You should never have to convince others that you can quit whenever you want to. If you do, it means people are worried, and probably with good reason.
What You Can Do Once You Know The Addict’s Excuses
Being around someone who abuses drugs and alcohol or who is already a full-fledged addict means you are going to hear excuses. Learn to recognize them for what they are: pitiable reasons to continue using. When you know what to look and listen for, you can see addiction more clearly. Confront your friend or family member who is making these excuses and offer a solution: treatment.
Addiction is a disease, and like any physical disease, it requires treatment. Help your friend first recognize his problem by challenging his excuses. Then, be prepared to help him and to offer to get him into a treatment program. Doing it on his own will be a major challenge, but if you can be there to help him select a rehab program and to support him in his sobriety, he can succeed.
Read More On How Do I Know If I Am Enabling The Addict In My Life?
What words can describe how a parent feels watching their child attempt to cover life’s pain with substances? When a child has a full-blown addiction, there can be significant financial costs on top of the emotional ones. One book which attempts to relate the family pain of substance abuse also talks about the strain placed on the family budget when addiction takes over.
An Addict’s Desperate And Drastic Steps
David Sheff’s Beautiful Boy recounts his son’s downward spiral with tales of missing credit cards, missing household items, missing checks and even missing coins from a sibling’s piggy bank. Addicts need their substance and they will do nearly anything to stay supplied. In this case, when the child left home and contacted mom and dad asking for more money, the desperate parents sent it.
If the addicted family member is a spouse, the financial dangers can become even greater. Joint bank accounts need to be watched carefully. The person may try to open a new line of credit in order to lay their hands on ready cash. In some cases, addicts have been known to frequent payday advance lending businesses.
What The Family Of An Addict Can Change
When this is the situation, the sober partner may need to take some more drastic steps. Names may need to be changed on bank accounts to protect savings. In extreme cases it may be necessary to establish a trust to safeguard the home and other major assets. The addiction can cost families inordinate amounts of capital, even when someone is maintaining vigilance. The drain can be devastating when fear is the only decision-maker.
When the child or spouse is at last ready to make a change, the costs for rehabilitation are not miniscule. As Sheff points out, money needs to be intentionally protected and then well-directed. Simply handing out money to a child not at home and on drugs isn’t always the best decision. However, investing in recovery is worth every penny.
Parents and spouses will need to make some very tough decisions about where to draw the financial line because addiction is costly. Often it will be helpful to talk with a mental health professional when making those kinds of decisions. They can offer dispassionate insight into whether it’s time for tough love or something else. When you’re in the middle of the situation, the overwhelming emotions can make it hard to reason wisely.
Finding Guidance When Dealing With The Addiction Of A Loved One
A biographical account cannot fully express what a family goes through when a member becomes addicted to alcohol or drugs, but it can lay out some of the potential landmines. Parents of children with addiction can learn from the mistakes of others. Get help when deciding how to support your loved one dependent on substances. There is a right time to close the billfold and a right time to open it again.
Read More To Find Out If You’re Enabling The Addict In Your Life And Break Free From The Cycle Of Broken Promises!
Who recognizes that they are enabling? Who enables so intentionally? And yet, if we have addicts in our lives, we must look carefully at how we interact with them. How do we handle a loved one with an addiction? The years of dealing with the addiction of a loved one blind us to our own actions and their consequences. Much of what we think is “helping” can actually be quite harmful.
Signs You Are Enabling
- Do you make excuses for the addict (e.g., lying to an employer to explain why the addict isn’t showing up for work)?
- Do you lie or deceive to protect the addict or your family’s image?
- Do you intentionally overlook bad behavior, saying that the addict “can’t help it?”
- Do you feel like you bear the brunt of consequences for the addict’s behavior?
- Do you continue to allow an addict son or daughter to live in your home despite substance abuse and his or her unwillingness to follow house rules?
- Do you loan or give money to the addict?
- Have you bailed the addict out of jail, or lied to protect him or her from getting in trouble with the law?
- Do you clean up the resulting mess? This can refer to the physical mess the addict makes during or after a binge as well as the messes he or she is making in life.
- Do you make his or her problems your responsibility?
- Are you trying to protect the addict from hitting bottom?
- Do you experience anxiety over the consequences the addict may experience as a result of his or her substance abuse?
- Do you excuse or overlook the addict’s words or actions when drunk or high?
- Do you feel guilty if you don’t help the addict?
- Do you do things for the addict that he or she can do for him or herself?
- Are you unable to say “no” to the addict?
- Do you live in fear of the addict?
- Are you constantly changing your plans to accommodate the addict’s antics, dramas and needs?
How Enabling Hurts Rather Than Helps The Addict
Enabling does not help or aid, rather it communicates the message that the addict’s actions have no consequences, or that if they do, someone (you) will be there to fix it, clean it up or excuse it away. If you are beginning to recognize enabling patterns in your relationship with the addict, know that it is not your fault. Life with a drug or alcohol addicted parent, spouse or child warps us. We are forced to find a means of coping with a situation that gradually grows more and more severe over time. In the beginning, a little helping isn’t an abnormal thing, but this helping subtly morphs, along with the addiction, into a full-blown condition.
What Can You Do Instead Of Enabling The Addict In Your Life?
What is the alternative? Letting go. And it will be painful to do. You may watch the addict lose jobs, get into trouble with the law, live in squalor, sink into poverty, and suffer all sorts of physical, mental and emotional discomforts. It will be as hard on you to watch as it will be for the addict to live through. You will want so badly to do something.
But when you do, you impede the addict from reaching that point at which he or she will become convinced of the need for a change, also known as “hitting bottom.” The longer you enable the addict and the addiction, the longer it will take the addict to pursue recovery. Get the support you need—either through Al-Anon, therapy or other support systems—and then call a halt to the cycle of enabling and addiction.
Learn How To Set Up A Safe Intervention For Your Addicted Loved One!