Substance abuse or dependence (also known as addiction) is a behavioral condition in which a person struggles with drug and/or alcohol use and its consequences. These consequences may affect medical, financial, or interpersonal areas of a person’s life, including others. In addition to suffering negative consequences, people who misuse drugs and alcohol often experience a feeling of being out of control, feeling like they cannot stop drinking or taking drugs, or feeling “powerless” in the face of the substance. People often drink or use drugs to change their emotions or cope with uncomfortable areas of their lives, such as wanting to feel happier, feel more comfortable in social situations or even to numb unpleasant emotions (such as anxiety or depression). Research suggests that people who use drugs or alcohol to change their emotions are more likely to become addicted or experience the negative consequences of their behavior.
Because of the tendency to use alcohol and drugs to numb unpleasant emotions, many people who live with anxiety disorders also struggle with addiction. This is certainly not the case with everyone; there are healthy ways of drinking alcohol and using prescription drugs. Nonetheless, all patients that are treated at the anxiety center are evaluated for alcohol dependency because co-occurrence is so common.
The Anxiety Treatment Center of Austin does not treat substance abuse, but if a person is receiving treatment for anxiety and is also abusing drugs or alcohol, it is recommended that they seek help for this as well. Co-occurring conditions like these are usually better treated at the same time. If this is the case, a referral can be provided by the Anxiety Treatment Center of Austin for an appropriate level of care (such as an individual addictions counselor, or support groups). Lists of resources for substance abuse and treatment information are presented below.