Substance Induced Panic Disorders

By: Salome Delport

When you are an infant, you believe that your body and the outside world are entirely one entity. This means that you do not have a sense of your own self, and therefore no boundaries. Once you reach childhood, you have come to realize that you are your own person, contained in your own skin. You are given boundaries to what you can do, and what you feel, depending on occurrences and experiences in your life.

In the teenage years, and even adulthood, life can become difficult. Everyone experiences ups and downs, and moments when they do not feel very happy or comfortable in their own skin. Just the experience of life itself may not be so pleasurable. Oftentimes people are exposed to recreational drugs. Some may be introduced to it by friends, some may even feel pressured to try a recreational drug by their peers and others may seek it out themselves from curiosity or even boredom. In many circumstances these drugs will be well-received, mainly because of the feeling of euphoria that accompanies them. But then there is also the feeling of the loss of boundaries. Everything is possible! Suddenly those bad feelings are gone, and reality has lost its edge. The user will feel like they can do whatever they want!

With the use of hallucinogenic drugs such as LSD and Magic Mushrooms, the user's perceptions on reality will change greatly. The user could even feel that they are not human, and can picture themselves actually being a cartoon character, or being able to communicate with the pot plant next to them! Many people may find this warped reality and altered consciousness enjoyable, and will relish in the feeling. On the other hand, there are people who will have a negative experience on these hallucinogenic drugs.

Instead of enjoying the experience of the altered reality, they will be frightened. The loss of their control will send them into a panic, and not even so much the loss of control, but the loss of their reality. Even when the effects of the drug have worn off, the person may suddenly spiral into a panic over something small, fearing that they are going to lose their reality again. The will have a memory in their mind of that feeling of the loss of their reality, and will strongly believe that it could be possible at any time. There are many of these kinds of people in the world - those who hate not being in control, and cannot accept the warped reality that these hallucinogenic drugs will give you.

There are other recreational drugs, such as cocaine, ecstasy and speed, which will cause panic disorders for another reason. Whereas with the hallucinogenic drugs, the fear is caused from a worry about the loss of control and reality, these "upper" drugs will cause a panic disorder because of the chemical effects on the brain. These drugs make your brain release serotonin in large amounts, and the effects of usage can cause damage to the brain's optimum functioning. The increased adrenalin can lead the body into a panicked state. The flooding of energies can be alarming to the user, as well as the increased emotional sensitivity. If a negative event occurs whilst the user is on one of these upper drugs, they may be unable to handle the extreme fear or anger they may feel.

The problem with panic disorders caused by recreational drugs is the fact that sufferers are very likely to shy away from treatment. They may be ashamed or embarrassed. How would they explain to a professional that the reason they are experiencing these panic attacks is because of their substance abuse? This is especially the case with a teenager, or someone who would have to seek out a parent for help. It can be a vicious cycle, because the sufferer may then take more drugs to numb the feelings of fear and panic that they are feeling.

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