The Drug Class Blog

Oct 17

Chickens and Eggs

One of the young women I was working with was having increasingly disabling symptoms of anxiety. These had always been there a bit but were getting worse, as was her alcohol consumption, which she felt was helping the anxiety. It can help the symptoms but was making the problem worse. After quite a few discussions she agreed to leave the alcohol alone. The first couple of weeks were hard but they she began to feel better. Last time I checked she had been alcohol free for 4 months and said she can't remember feeling so good.

Lots of teens find that alcohol can ease feeling of shyness or nervousness particularly in social situations. For many teens this is their road into becoming alcohol dependent. If they feel they can't have fun without it or feel too self conscious to be out sober then there is definitely a problem.

The secondary issue, which I have seen with lots of kids, is an increase in anxiety symptoms as the length of time their alcohol use increases. It is a bit of a chicken and egg thing but here is evidence that alcohol changes brain chemistry enough to become the anxiety causing culprit.

Anxiety causes feelings of nervousness and very real fear. An alcohol induced anxiety disorder caused by the excessive drinking of alcohol has prominent features of generalized anxiety and fear, panic attacks, and in more severe cases can cause phobias, or obsessive-compulsive behavior.

An alcohol induced anxiety disorder can last as long as you are drinking, and to aggravate the matter further, anxiety can also be a result of withdrawal from alcohol. In the case of withdrawal induced anxiety, research has shown that the anxiety will last approximately 4 weeks after you stop drinking alcohol. However, since each person has an individual nervous system, this time element will vary.

In general, people who abuse alcohol have injured or altered serotonin systems in the brain. Serotonin is a feel good chemical that the brain distributes, and alcoholics have a shortage or drought of this chemical in the brain. The damage to the brain's serotonin neurotransmitter is associated with several disorders, including general anxiety, anxiety attacks, anti-social behavior, and depression, depression being a hallmark symptom of excessive drinking.

Chronic abuse of alcohol ís often associated with depression and depression causes anxiety.


Alcohol can increase anxiety in many different ways, four of which are:
-Alcohol affects our mood because it depletes serotonin in the brain. Serotonin, a feel good brain chemical, can cause anxiety and depression when in short supply.
-Alcohol causes dehydration which has symptoms of nervousness, shaking, dizziness, confusion and weakness.
-Our nervous systems have a reaction to excessive drinking. The nervous system will try to fight off the sedative effects of alcohol, which can lead to a state of hyperactivity. The hyperactive state can lead to sleep deprivation which can contribute to anxiety.
-Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can cause your heart rate to become elevated, leading to heart palpitations, once again causing anxiety.

So if your son or daughter is exhibiting anxiety symptoms, or complaining about them it might be a good idea to take a break from alcohol use.

What do you think?

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