Substance abuse and panic-related anxiety: a critical review

Behav Res Ther. 1990;28(5):385-93. doi: 10.1016/0005-7967(90)90157-e.


The relationship between substance abuse and panic-related anxiety can be divided into two broad areas: the incidence of anxiety disorders in substance abuse patients and the incidence of substance abuse in patients with panic-related anxiety disorders. Studies indicate that approx. 10-40% of alcoholics have a panic-related anxiety disorder, and about 10-20% of anxiety disorder patients abuse alcohol or other drugs. The majority of patients with both an anxiety and alcohol disorder report that anxiety problems preceded alcohol problems. In some cases substance abuse (e.g. cocaine) triggers the onset of panic attacks. Most patients believe that self-medication is efficacious despite the fact that they appear to have a more serious clinical condition (e.g. higher rates of depression). Directions for future research are outlined, including the proposal for a study to examine the effects of an anxiety intervention procedure for anxious alcoholics to reduce relapse rates.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alcoholism / psychology
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Panic* / drug effects
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology*