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The Addicted Brain: Why We Abuse Drugs, ... > 9. Stress, Social Status, and Drugs

9. Stress, Social Status, and Drugs

“After the war, I was a hopeless alcoholic. But with help, I’d been clean for five years—not a sip of alcohol. Life was going so well for me. And then, the recession hit. Traumatic memories of the war returned, I lost my job, and now I’m about to lose my home because I can’t pay my mortgage. I’m so stressed out with trying to make ends meet that I’ve started drinking again.”

The more stress we experience, the more likely we are to use drugs. Although stress could have been included in the last chapter on vulnerability, its many interesting aspects warrant that a chapter be devoted to it. A dictionary definition of a stressor is a stimulus that is disturbing, like fear or pain, that alters normal bodily responses. When we are stressed, we are often tense, alert, and prepared to “fight or flee.” Stress produces important bodily changes that produce and reinforce the state of alertness and readiness. It is a complex response that has evolved in our bodies because it is important for our survival. However, it is a demanding response, and, as you know, unremitting and chronic stress can be emotionally and physicall....


  

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