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Triggering the reward pathway in the brain

answered 09:10 PM EST, Wed October 22, 2014
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anonymous anonymous
I don’t have a drinking problem but I have had meth and cocaine issues in the past. These days whenever I have even a half a beer I get the cocaine itch and 2 or 3 times out of ten if I have a few beers it will end up in a cocaine binge. I don’t want to quit drinking in fact I am a restauranteur so with wine and spirits on my menu it is almost impossible for me to not drink at all. I am just getting too old to be doing this to my body. I don’t even like cocaine that much anymore that is the sad thing – I just need it. I won’t drink with people I use cocaine with. I think that helps a bit. Is there anything else I can do to separate?

Jennifer Hamilton Says...

Jennifer Hamilton J. Hamilton
LCSW, CADC

Even though alcohol is not the substance your brain prefers, it does activate the brain reward pathway. This pathway by passes the prefontal cortex, or "judgement" center of your brain. In other words, your brain goes on a sort of auto-pilot, not bothering to consult you about what it wants to do. Another much easier way of saying it is that alcohol is a "trigger" for you. Like any "trigger", we can deny permission to the brain to have what it wants, but it gets harder and harder as the alcohol also affects your judgement. You may know something is a bad idea, have few drinks, and it seems like a great idea. For some people this trigger happens with as few as one drink. If you are not willing to abstain from alcohol, you could experiment with how many you can have without being triggered. You also need an "emergency plan" for when you do want to use cocaine, perhaps a friend you call, like a sponsor of sorts. It is your life and you can live it the way you choose, just be willing to deal with the consequences of your choices on your body. One more thing, if your line of work makes it more likely that you want to drink because you are around it, perhaps that is a sign alcohol holds a greater importance to you than you realize, even if it is "just" psychological dependence. Thanks for the interesting question.

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Page last updated Oct 22, 2014

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