Relationship between substance abuse and panic attacks

David A. Katerndahl, Janet P. Realini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


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. Copyright (C) 1999 Elsevier Science Ltd.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)731-736
Number of pages6
JournalAddictive Behaviors
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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