Anxiety can be a very distressing emotion when a person is in recovery from substance or alcohol use disorder. Everyone experiences a degree of anxiety at some point in their lives.
However, for a people recovering from addictions who are facing people, places and things that could at trigger a relapse, the degree of anxiety is far more severe. What drives and motivates this anxiety is also a little different from being nervous about the first date and our approach deals specifically with relapse prevention.
To a large degree, anxiety is not treated therapeutically and is more often than not treated pharmacologically with the introduction of prescription medications such as benzodiazepines. The list of benzos used in South Africa is also quite extensive to before using benzodiazepines it is worth doing your homework on the substance, it’s side effects and the recommended duration of exposure. In more circumstances than the medical industry would like to admit, talk therapy for anxiety or combinations of talk therapy and benzodiazepines would be a preferred means to deal with the issues of pervasive panic attacks.
Substance use disorders and anxiety
Self-medication with drugs or alcohol may provide temporary relief from anxiety and many other suppressed emotions but it doesn’t last. In the long run, it may actually exacerbate anxiety and panic attacks. This cycle can quickly become a habit, which therapy seeks to address by teaching new coping mechanisms.
The cycle of self-medication can also cause a person or an alcoholic to venture into cross-addiction. This is where one drug or behaviour is simply replaced with another one. For example, a person using cocaine may stop abusing cocaine but then start to drink more heavily. This makes treatment and breaking this downward spiral difficult and increasingly harder to manage as time progresses.
Addiction often starts with self-medication and it is not immediately noticed because it’s a fairly common behaviour.
Most people will engage in some sort of behaviour to alleviate stress or heartache and we live in a culture where an after-work drink is a norm. When this behaviour escalates to the point that it is negatively affecting relationships and work and the person has come to rely on a substance to deal with their feelings, then we see the seeds of addictive behaviour beginning to take root.
Helping someone who is struggling with addiction is difficult. It may involve an intervention or even family therapy. Long-term recovery means being committed to a programme that aims to address the root cause of anxiety and the negative behaviours of drug and alcohol abuse and promote transformation that is meaningful to the client.