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Does Childhood Anxiety Lead to Drug Addiction?

Although according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety may lead to drug addiction, it does not ALWAYS lead to addiction. There is a correlation between anxiety disorders and substance use but anxiety does not always result in substance abuse.

Anxiety Medications

Most medications given for anxiety even in childhood are benzodiazepines. These medications are extremely addictive. Some doctors suggest that giving these medications too early help children to develop a pattern of addiction. The medication may actually reinforce the addiction rather than help get the symptoms under control. This reinforcement can lead to addictive personalities later on.

This is why so many doctors are moving towards other forms of anxiety treatment in adolescents and children. It is important to compare the benefit of the medication to the possibility of damage later on.

Self-Medicating for the Anxiety

childhood-anxiety

Some anxiety medications have addictive properties.

Many people start using drugs because they are self medicating. The drugs stop the anxiety and without noticing children and adolescents become addicted. In some cases of severe anxiety, you will do anything to stop feeling anxious. Once they find a drug or behavior that limits the feelings of anxiety, they will use it.

Childhood Anxiety Treatment and Substance Abuse Later

According to Medscape’s article titled, Anxiety and Substance Abuse, these disorders often occur together. As mentioned earlier, medicating for anxiety in childhood can lead to anxiety disorders and substance abuse disorders later on. Some speculate that using anxiety medication early on causes anxiety and substance use later in life. In adolescence, illegal drugs become more available than in childhood. This availability and the possibility of untreated anxiety can lead to an increased likelihood of substance abuse.

Treating Anxiety Disorder and Substance Abuse

Since the co-occurrence of these disorders is so high, they are often treated together. There are three basic types of treatment for both severe anxiety disorder and substance abuse. These are:

  • inpatient treatment – during this residential treatment users receive drug treatment, counseling, and medication management. Many people with anxiety will continue to need an anxiety medication even after the drug addiction is treated. This treatment usually starts with inpatient care.
  • outpatient treatment – outpatient treatment consists of daily, weekly, or monthly visits to a rehab center. During this treatment, a user receives detox services, medication management, and counseling.
  • combination treatment – this type of treatment starts with inpatient treatment and then when they are ready it moves to outpatient treatment where the user receives counseling and other services.

These treatments address both the childhood anxiety, the cause of childhood anxiety, the substance abuse. Childhood trauma can lead to both anxiety and substance abuse.

The relationship between childhood anxiety and later substance abuse is correlational but not necessarily causational. Although many people, who suffer from childhood anxiety, do end up with a substance abuse problem later on, many do not. Each person is different. If you suffered from childhood anxiety it is a good idea to be aware of your substance use. For more information on childhood anxiety and substance abuse call us at 800-481-6320.

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