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Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Alcohol, Memory and External Stimuli

Alcohol is everywhere and it is addictive. It the most commonly used mind altering substance on the planet, and is also abused more than any other drug. Despite the fact that alcohol can lead to addiction and cause serious life threatening health problems, alcohol is legal for adult consumption in every major western country. Abstaining from alcohol use after years of drinking can be difficult, often requiring substance use disorder treatment and/or the use of the 12-step model of recovery.

Recovering from an alcohol use disorder requires eternal vigilance if one is to avoid relapse. If you are in recovery for alcoholism, or know someone who is, it is likely you've heard the saying: “putting down alcohol is the easy part, not picking it back up is the more difficult task.” Those words could not be further from the truth, even setting aside the fact that alcohol withdrawal is no walk in the park.

Unlike other drugs commonly abused, alcohol is unique due to the fact that it is a legal drug. Practically everywhere you go, whether out for a drive or attending a sporting event, it is nearly impossible to not be bombarded by alcohol advertisements or people drinking on any given day. For those trying to recover from alcoholism, the aforementioned sights can trigger one to want to drink—a slippery slope that can lead to a relapse.

A new study has sought to understand how alcohol affects memory, with regard to how humans respond to external stimuli, ScienceDaily reports. In fact, little research has focused on how mind altering substances affect “learning or memory for drug-associated stimuli on humans.” The findings were published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

The cues in question, include images of both alcohol-related beverages and neutral beverages, such as:
  • Beer Bottles
  • Liquor Glasses
  • Water Bottles
  • Soda Cans
The researchers found that one’s sensitivity to “alcohol's positive rewarding effects” are more likely to remember “alcohol-related environmental stimuli” encountered when they were intoxicated, according to the article. They may be more susceptible to more intense memory associations with alcohol-related stimuli—putting them at greater risk of relapse.

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