By Dr. John Larson
Corporate Medical Director, Gateway Treatment Centers
For many, addiction unwittingly begins with self-medicating, which is when a person uses substances, like alcohol, marijuana, cocaine or prescription medication, in an attempt to appease symptoms related to physical pain, social anxiety or depression.
For example, take social anxiety—in modest doses alcohol may initially produce a sense of relief because of the effect it has on brain chemistry. However, since alcohol metabolizes in the body very quickly, it soon loses its effect. Plus, as tolerance develops, drugs or alcohol will become less and less effective. Indeed, with regular, continued use of alcohol or other drugs of choice, the chemistry of the brain will gradually change, worsening feelings of anxiety when alcohol and/or drugs aren’t present—even if an individual is not in a stressful social situation.
Once the occasional drink…
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