Illicit drugs

Illegal Drugs That Cause Anxiety

illegal drug abuse is a widespread issue with devastating consequences for individuals and society. While the immediate allure of euphoria and altered perceptions might tempt some into experimentation, the hidden dangers of illicit drugs lurk just beneath the surface. One significant side effect that plagues many drug users is anxiety.

Some drugs have the potential to trigger or exacerbate anxiety in susceptible individuals. Drug-induced anxiety can occur as a side effect of various medications, including prescription drugs and illegal substances.

Symptoms of Drug-Induced Anxiety:

  • Heightened Anxiety: Individuals may experience intense and persistent feelings of worry, fear, or unease that are disproportionate to the situation.
  • Panic Attacks: Some drugs can lead to the sudden onset of intense fear or discomfort, accompanied by physical symptoms like a racing heart, sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, and a feeling of impending doom.
  • Restlessness: Users may feel agitated, restless, or on edge.
  • Insomnia: Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep due to anxious thoughts or feelings.
  • Irritability: Individuals may become easily irritated or have a decreased tolerance for frustration.
  • Muscle Tension: Physical symptoms like muscle tension, tightness, or trembling, which can manifest as jaw clenching or trembling of the hands.
  • Nausea or Upset Stomach: Some individuals may experience gastrointestinal symptoms as a result of anxiety.
  • Avoidance: Avoiding situations or places that trigger anxiety, leading to social isolation or a narrowing of daily activities.
  • Hyperarousal: Users may feel constantly alert and vigilant, as if they are always “on guard.”
  • Paranoia: In some cases, drug-induced anxiety can lead to feelings of extreme suspicion or distrust of others.

It’s important to note that the severity and specific symptoms of drug-induced anxiety can vary depending on the type of drug, individual factors (such as genetics, past experiences, and mental health history), dosage, and the duration of drug use.

In this comprehensive article, we will explore several illegal drugs known to cause anxiety and delve into the mechanisms behind their anxiety-inducing effects.

List of Illegal Drugs That Can Cause Anxiety

The following illegal drugs are known to cause anxiety:

Methamphetamine (Meth)

Methamphetamine, a potent central nervous system stimulant, can induce intense feelings of energy and euphoria. However, the abuse of meth is also associated with a range of negative side effects, including anxiety. Meth triggers the release of excessive amounts of neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine, leading to heightened arousal and agitation. These effects can quickly escalate into panic attacks, paranoia, and a persistent sense of dread.


Cocaine is another powerful stimulant that provides short-lived bursts of euphoria and heightened alertness. Like meth, cocaine floods the brain with dopamine, leading to intense pleasure and increased anxiety. The drug’s stimulating effects often lead to restlessness, anxiety, and nervousness, which can become increasingly pronounced with frequent and escalating use.

MDMA (Ecstasy)

MDMA, or ecstasy, is a synthetic drug that alters mood and perception, commonly used at parties and music festivals. While users initially experience feelings of warmth and emotional connection, the drug can deplete serotonin levels in the brain, leading to a severe “comedown” or crash. This crash is often accompanied by intense feelings of anxiety, depression, and emotional turmoil.

Synthetic Cannabinoids (Spice, K2)

Synthetic cannabinoids are chemically engineered substances designed to mimic the effects of marijuana. However, their potency and unpredictable nature make them far more dangerous. These drugs can lead to severe anxiety, panic attacks, and paranoia. The brain’s cannabinoid receptors are flooded with synthetic compounds, causing an overwhelming and disorienting high that can quickly turn nightmarish.

LSD (Lysergic Acid Diethylamide)

LSD is a potent hallucinogenic drug that alters sensory perception and cognition. While LSD does not directly cause anxiety, its hallucinatory effects can be unpredictable and overwhelming, leading to a “bad trip.” These experiences can trigger profound fear and anxiety, as users lose touch with reality and their surroundings.


Heroin, an illegal opioid derived from morphine, depresses the central nervous system and produces feelings of euphoria and relaxation. However, it can also lead to intense anxiety, particularly during withdrawal periods. The fear of withdrawal symptoms can drive users to continue their drug-seeking behavior, perpetuating a vicious cycle of anxiety and addiction.

Phencyclidine (PCP)

PCP, or “angel dust,” is a dissociative drug that can induce hallucinations, distorted perceptions, and erratic behavior. These effects, combined with the drug’s stimulating properties, can lead to severe anxiety, agitation, and a loss of touch with reality.


Illegal drugs have the potential to unleash a host of negative effects on the human mind and body. One of the most prevalent side effects is anxiety, which can range from mild unease to debilitating panic attacks. Understanding the link between illicit drugs and anxiety is vital in addressing substance abuse issues and promoting healthier choices in society.

Educational campaigns and evidence-based interventions are essential in combating the allure of illegal drugs and raising awareness of the potential consequences of their use. Moreover, providing access to addiction treatment and support services is crucial in helping individuals break free from the cycle of drug abuse and anxiety.

As a society, we must continue to prioritize prevention, early intervention, and comprehensive treatment approaches to address the complex issue of illegal drug use and the anxiety it may induce. By focusing on education, mental health support, and compassion, we can strive towards creating a safer and healthier future for everyone.


Dr. Oche Otorkpa PG Cert, MPH, PhD

Dr. Oche is a seasoned Public Health specialist who holds a post graduate certificate in Pharmacology and Therapeutics, an MPH, and a PhD both from Texila American University. He is a member of the International Society of Substance Use Professionals and a Fellow of the Royal Society for Public Health in the UK. He authored two books: "The Unseen Terrorist," published by AuthorHouse UK, and "The Night Before I Killed Addiction."
Back to top button

Adblock Detected

Please consider supporting us by disabling your ad blocker