Substance/Medication-Induced Anxiety Disorder

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Substance or medication-induced anxiety disorder is the diagnostic name for severe anxiety or panic which is caused by alcohol, drugs, or medications. While it is normal to have some feelings of anxiety in stressful situations, and even the transient feelings of anxiety, paranoia or panic that can happen spontaneously during intoxication or withdrawal from alcohol or drugs, substance-induced anxiety feels much worse and goes on a lot longer. For some people, it can significantly upset their enjoyment in life.

Unfortunately, the same drugs that many people use to try and boost their confidence, help them relax, and lower their inhibitions are the ones most prone to causing substance-induced anxiety disorder or panic attacks. In some cases, people don't even realize that it is alcohol, drugs or medications that are causing the anxiety because they only associate those substances with feeling good.


When physicians or psychologists give a diagnosis of substance/medication-induced anxiety disorder, they check to make sure that the anxiety wasn't there before the use of alcohol, drugs or medications thought to be responsible.

This is because there are several different types of anxiety disorders, and if the symptoms were there before the substance use, it isn't diagnosed as substance/medication-induced anxiety.

How Soon Anxiety Can Be Induced After Taking the Drug

In some cases, anxiety or panic can occur straight away. There is even a category "with onset during intoxication," which means that the anxiety episode actually started when the individual was drunk or high on the drug. It can also occur during withdrawal, during which symptoms of anxiety are common.

However, with anxiety which is simply a symptom of withdrawal, the person's symptoms will generally resolve within a few days of discontinuing alcohol or drug use, while with substance-induced anxiety disorder, it can start during withdrawal, and continue or get worse as the person moves through the detox process.

Generally, the diagnosis isn't given if the person has a history of anxiety without substance use, or if the symptoms continue for more than a month after the person becomes abstinent from the alcohol, drugs or medication.

For the diagnosis of Substance/Medication-Induced Anxiety Disorder to be given, the symptoms have to be causing a great deal of emotional upset or significantly affecting the person's life, including their work or social life, or another part of their life that is important.

Drugs That Cause Substance/Medication-Induced Anxiety Disorder

A wide variety of psychoactive substances can cause substance-induced anxiety, including:

  • Alcohol-induced anxiety disorder
  • Caffeine-induced anxiety disorder
  • Cannabis-induced anxiety disorder
  • Phencyclidine-induced anxiety disorder
  • Other hallucinogen-induced anxiety disorder
  • Inhalant-induced anxiety disorder
  • Amphetamine-induced anxiety disorder
  • Other stimulant-induced anxiety disorder
  • Cocaine-induced anxiety disorder
  • Other substance-induced anxiety disorder
  • Unknown substance-induced anxiety disorder

Medications known to cause substance-induced anxiety include:

  • Anesthetic-induced anxiety disorder
  • Analgesic-induced anxiety disorder
  • Sympathomimetic or other bronchodilator-induced anxiety disorder
  • Anticholinergic-induced anxiety disorder
  • Insulin-induced anxiety disorder
  • Thyroid preparation-induced anxiety disorder
  • Oral contraceptive-induced anxiety disorder
  • Antihistamine-induced anxiety disorder
  • Antiparkinsonian-induced anxiety disorder
  • Corticosteroid-induced anxiety disorder
  • Antihypertensive and cardiovascular medication-induced anxiety disorder
  • Anticonvulsant-induced anxiety disorder
  • Lithium carbonate-induced anxiety disorder
  • Antipsychotic-induced anxiety disorder
  • Antidepressant-induced anxiety disorder

Specific heavy metals and toxins that can cause panic or anxiety symptoms include organophosphate insecticide, nerve gases, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and volatile substances such as gasoline and paint.

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Article Sources
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Additional Reading
  • American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition, DSM-5. American Psychiatric Association, 2013.