Recent studies raise questions regarding use or abuse of alcohol by phobics, and about compatibility of behaviour therapy and benzodiazepine use. In this study 40 patients, referred with mainly anxiety-related problems to a nurse behaviour therapist, and a comparison group of 40 psychiatric nurses completed a self-administered questionnaire assessing use of alcohol, sedative drugs and tobacco, and their perceived anxiolytic effectiveness. The paper confirms earlier findings that the patients, in general, drank less than the general public. They also drank less than the nurses, but used more sedative drugs and were heavier smokers. Alcohol was an unreliable anxiolytic. A few patients, including two agoraphobics, drank heavily and did not enter treatment made conditional on stopping drinking. Implications for case management are discussed.