Relationship between substance abuse and panic attacks

Addict Behav. 1999 Sep-Oct;24(5):731-6. doi: 10.1016/s0306-4603(98)00078-1.


This study was done to determine the strength of association between substance abuse and panic states, including subsyndromal panic, its temporal relationship, and self-medication for panic using abusable substances. A community-based sample was screened for panic using DSM-III-R criteria. Panic and matched control groups participated in a structured interview concerning the presence of substance abuse, use of substances to treat panic symptoms, and the age-of-onset of panic and substance abuse. Of 97 individuals with panic, 39% had abused at least one substance. None of the panic disorder-subsyndromal panic differences reached significance. Only 10% of subjects reported using alcohol and 6% reported ever using illicit drugs to treat their panic. The majority (63%) of those abusing alcohol reported that alcohol use began prior to onset of panic, and the majority (59%) of those abusing illicit drugs reported that drug use began first. This study documents the panic-substance abuse relationship even in those with subsyndromal panic. Substance abuse began prior to onset of panic and substances were used to self-medicate for panic attacks by only a few subjects.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Illicit Drugs*
  • Interview, Psychological
  • Male
  • Panic Disorder / complications*
  • Panic Disorder / diagnosis
  • Panic Disorder / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Self Medication
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Substance-Related Disorders / complications*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / diagnosis
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology


  • Illicit Drugs