Alcohol Withdrawal and Panic Attacks Can Often Be Linked]

  • Anxiety is a symptom of withdrawal.
  • Drug use, abuse, alcoholism and depression are commonly linked to panic attacks.
  • Withdrawal from alcohol and drugs can increase panic attacks.

What is a Panic Disorder?

A panic disorder is a sudden psychological attack of fear.  Often it is accompanied by physiological symptoms that include heart palpitations, rapid heart beat, and heavy sweating.

The reaction of a panic attack is perceived as extreme and excessive in light of the actual situation.

Panic attacks are frequently associated with drug use and abuse, alcoholism, and depression.

Symptoms of a Panic Attack

The symptoms of a full blown panic attack can appear out of the blue and disappear as mysteriously.

Panic attacks can happen anywhere, at any time, and rarely exceed more than an hour in duration.  The following signs and symptoms are strongly correlated with a panic attack:

  • Difficulty breathing, hyperventilation
  • Tachycardia (rapid heart rate)
  • Light to moderate chest pain
  • Shaking or trembling of hands or whole body
  • Dry mouth
  • Sensation of separation from physical surroundings
  • Nausea, light-headedness
  • Intermittent hot and cold flashes
  • Fear of losing control, going insane

A problem arises when alcoholics and addicts stop drinking. Some addicts are self-medicating to treat panic disorders, whereas others are using it to cope with everyday emotions.

When someone with substance use disorder does stop, withdrawal can be life-threatening. While physically withdrawing from substances, the way they cope with emotions no longer is available.

While anxiety and depression are associated with symptoms of withdrawal, emotions like shame, guilt, remorse and resentment come back.

What are the causes of panic attacks?

The specific cause of panic attacks is not known.

The experience of panic does tend to run in families and be connected to life transitions, severe stress, and trauma.  Abuse of stimulants such as caffeine, amphetamines, and cocaine reportedly can lead to panic attacks.

Laboratory evidence has shown that cocaine causes panic attacks. Studies have concluded that panic attack can also be caused by marital status, employment status and heavy drinking.

Research shows that there is a link between the level of alcohol consumed and the severity of anxiety.

Research also suggests that there is a lot of overlap between panic disorder and alcohol withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms from alcohol, opiates, and benzodiazepines are known to increase the risk of panic attacks.

Alcohol Withdrawal Signs

The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can be severe. Withdrawal from alcohol can quickly become life-threatening if the patient does not receive immediate medical supervision.

The greater the addiction to alcohol and the more prolonged the dependency, the worse the withdrawal symptoms will be.

As alcohol levels drop in the brain, damaged neurons react uncontrollably, leading to severe panic attacks, hallucinations, and even seizures.

Opiate Withdrawal Signs

The symptoms of withdrawal from opiate drugs such as Heroin, Morphine, Oxycontin, Dilaudid, and Methadone have many symptoms:

  • Severe anxiety
  • Panic
  • Irritability
  • flu-like symptoms
  • runny nose and eyes
  • difficulty sleeping
  • heaving sweating
  • excessive yawning due to the inability to sleep

The withdrawal symptoms from opiate drugs are physically uncomfortable, but rarely become life-threatening.

Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Symptoms

The group of drugs known as benzodiazepines includes muscle relaxants, anti-convulsants, and sleeping pills. Examples of popular benzodiazepine drugs include Valium, Librium, Halcion, Xanax, Diazepam, Klonopin, Ativan, Serax, Centrax, and Tranxene.

The withdrawal symptoms for benzodiazepines are very similar to the withdrawal symptoms for opiates. The most commonly associated withdrawal symptom reported with benzodiazepines is severe anxiety, panic, sleeplessness, depression, irritability, as well as muscular aches and pains.

Burning Tree Offers a Solution for Panic Attacks from Drinking and Drug Use

At Burning Tree, we know that long-term solutions require long-term care.

Our inpatient rehabilitation program specializes in treating patients with co-occurring disorders, so you receive therapeutics found in only the top rehabs in the country.

On-site staff of professionally trained addiction specialists carefully monitors all phases of the detoxification process, ensuring patient safety and well-being at all times.

When detoxification is complete, treatment continues. Treatment addresses the entire need of the person:

  • Twelve Step study
  • Discussion groups
  • Private and group therapy
  • Life skills training
  • Nutritional counseling
  • Yoga classes
  • Community service, and more.

More About Burning Tree

We have four programs to help the alcoholic or addict who still suffers.

We started our journey in 1999 with Burning Tree Ranch. It is dedicated to people who have had several attempts at sobriety and have failed.

The Ranch is a long term program, which means it’s 8 to 14 months of residential treatment. It also has a year of transitions to help the chronic relapser re-engage into society.

Renewal Lodge, just outside of Austin, blends the ancient practice of mindfulness with the 12 steps. It’s a 30 to 90 program.

Burning Tree West is a young adult program with a collegiate track. It’s in Arizona.

We recently partnered to reopen Awakenings Hill Country. It’s a women only facility in Fredericksburg, Texas that specializes in trauma recovery while helping women recover from substance use disorder with a focus on the 12 steps.

Renewal Lodge, Burning Tree West and Awakenings Hill Country accept major insurance providers in the United States.

Call 855-779-7966


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