“…by chemically blocking stress hormone receptors on neurons, we prevented stress from causing increased drinking behavior.”
~Dr. John Dani, PhD, Professor of Neurological Sciences, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania
According to a new study published in Neuron, acute stress can alter your brain on a neurological level and cause you to drink more alcohol.
Researchers discovered that specific neurons within the reward center of the brain that usually moderate alcohol intake are “flipped” after acute stress. In effect, your brain mistakenly incentivizes continued drinking.
It is believed that the ability of those neurons to switch on or off may be a biological trait that evolved to help humans overcome physical injury or trauma.
This study only furthers the accepted concept of addiction as a disease of the brain, linked to many causal or contributory factors – genetics, trauma, environment, peer pressure, personal habits, the co-occurrence of other mental illnesses… and stress.
It also highlights a biological reason why people feel the urge to “self-medicate” with drugs or alcohol when they feel overwhelmed. But unfortunately, that self-medication can turn to abuse, dependence, and ultimately, addiction. That risk is magnified for people who have a genetic predisposition to a substance use disorder.
This study also shows why it is important to learn new coping mechanisms. One of the most important skills learned during substance abuse rehab is how to substitute positive behaviors for maladaptive, self-destructive ones.
Lasting Recovery, the premier outpatient addiction recovery program in San Diego, specializes in helping people struggling with alcohol and/or drugs regain their sobriety and their balance. Some stress-reduction treatment strategies include:
- Trauma processing
- Behavioral modification
- Individual psychotherapy
- Peer group counseling
- Holistic options
If you or someone you care about has a problem with alcohol, illicit drugs, marijuana, prescription medications, or inhalants, contact Lasting Recovery today and speak confidentially to an intake specialist.