May 3, 2023 – “Our findings show that on a drink-for-drink basis, those with anxiety and depression experience more symptoms related to alcohol use disorder. If addiction were a competition, those with anxiety and depression would have a significant head start,” said Matt Kushner, PhD, a professor at the U of M Medical School. 

Internalizing disorders — like anxiety disorder or a major depressive disorder — commonly co-occur with AUD. Approximately 20-40% of people with an internalizing disorder have AUD, compared to 5% of the general population. Previous studies have shown people with internalizing disorders become dependent on alcohol more quickly than others, even at similar levels of use. 

In this study, the research team analyzed data on 26,000 adults from the National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol Related Conditions and compared AUD-related symptoms in people with an internalizing disorder and those without, accounting for alcohol intake and other factors.

The study found anxiety disorder and major depressive disorder predicted more alcohol-related symptoms—even when level of drinking is held constant. This is an example of the ‘harm paradox’ effect—or the negative consequences from a given level of substance use within a certain group that exceed those experienced by people outside that group.