Research & Resources

Using Substances to Cope with Social Anxiety: Associations with Use and Consequences in Daily Life

This study used daily-level methods to test whether days young adults used substances to cope with social anxiety were associated with greater alcohol and cannabis use and consequences, compared to days young adults used substances without the social anxiety motive. Researchers examined daily data from 257 participants ages 18–25. On days when participants used alcohol alone or with cannabis to cope with social anxiety, they reported drinking more and experiencing a greater number of both perceived positive effects and negative alcohol-related consequences broadly, compared to days when social anxiety was not a motive for substance use. Findings suggested that using alcohol and cannabis to cope with social anxiety increases the risk for elevated substance use and negative alcohol-related consequences among young adults, which consequently can lead to a cycle of drinking to ameliorate the negative effects of alcohol misuse. The perceived positive effects, such as forgetting about one’s worries or feeling more sociable, ultimately may lead to continued substance use as a coping strategy and, in turn, may increase the risk of future adverse consequences such as alcohol use disorder. Social anxiety coping motives may be an important intervention target for preventing future misuse of alcohol and other substances in this population.

This paper, “Using substances to cope with social anxiety: Associations with use and consequences in daily life,” was funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and published in the journal Psychology of addictive behaviors.

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