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Anxiety and Substance Use Disorders

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Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health disorders in the United States, affecting about 30% of adults at some point during their lives.1 In southern Nevada, anxiety is the number one mental health diagnosis in emergency departments; anxiety-related visits increased from 11,613 in 2009 to 36,696 in 2017, the latest year for which we have data.2

Substance use disorders (SUDs) are also common, and research shows a strong connection between anxiety and SUDs. Among people who misuse opioids, sedatives, and tranquilizers, as many as 60% will develop an anxiety disorder in their lifetime.3 When mental health disorders are present together with substance use disorders, this is known as co-occurring disorders, or dual diagnosis.

What Is Anxiety?

Anxiety is an emotion that causes feelings of tension, worry, and even physical changes such as a racing heart and increased blood pressure.4 It is a natural response when faced with something worrisome, such as making an important decision, taking a test, or doing something new for the first time.5 Feeling some anxiety in these situations is normal, and anxiety can even be helpful at times to help us avoid or prepare for danger. But when the worry becomes constant and causes problems in daily life, it may lead to an anxiety disorder.5

There are many types of anxiety disorders. Some common ones include:4,5

How Are Anxiety and Addiction Related?

Anxiety disorders commonly co-occur with substance use disorders (SUDs). One study found that among people with anxiety disorders, 15% also had an SUD in the past year. Among those with an SUD, 18% also had an anxiety disorder in the past year, though for those in active SUD treatment, this number is as high as 43%.3

The reasons for this aren’t exactly clear. One theory is that people with anxiety disorders may use drugs and alcohol to “calm the nerves” and manage their unpleasant symptoms, directly leading to a substance use disorder. Research seems to support this, given that anxiety disorders appear before co-occurring SUDs at least 75% of the time.6 People with social anxiety tend to report using alcohol and drugs to ease their symptoms more than with any other anxiety disorder.7

Researchers also know that co-occurring anxiety and substance abuse can worsen each other and make treatment longer and more complex.1 But the good news is that co-occurring addiction and anxiety are treatable, and you don’t have to face either disorder alone.

How to Treat Co-Occurring Anxiety and Addiction

Integrated treatment (also called “dual diagnosis treatment” or “co-occurring disorder treatment”) is long-term, effective treatment for people with co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders. An integrated treatment plan treats both disorders together and often includes some combination of psychotherapy (talk therapy) and pharmacotherapy (prescription medicines) to address the complex needs of co-occurring disorders.1,8

Therapy helps you learn what anxiety is, what triggers your anxiety, why anxiety affects you in certain ways, and how to change your response. One of the most common therapy methods is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

Finding an Addiction and Anxiety Recovery Program

Many rehab centers offer integrated treatment programs that can treat both addiction and anxiety at the same time. American Addiction Centers (AAC) is a leading provider of integrated anxiety and substance abuse treatment programs in Nevada and throughout the United States. Our experienced and compassionate staff will work with you to create a recovery plan that meets your unique treatment needs. We aim for long-term change and can help you gain back the life you want to live.

When you are ready to get started, call our free, confidential helpline at or through text. Our admission navigators are ready to help you 24/7.

Does your insurance cover rehab in Las Vegas? 

Check your insurance coverage or text us your questions to learn more about treatment by American Addiction Centers (AAC).