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What can affect my response to drugs and alcohol?

Howard J. Shaffer, PhD
Addiction Medicine
Although objects of addiction can have profound effects on the brain, the brain itself exerts some control over how it allows itself to change. Your mindset and expectations when you're using a psychoactive substance or engaging in a rewarding activity—what psychologists call your "set"—can have a significant effect on how you respond to the experience.

For example, just believing that you'll experience an effect from a drug—even if you don't actually take it—can alter your behavior. This well-known placebo effect even applies to pleasure-enhancing substances, as evidenced in a series of experiments with college students. The students were put into a mock barroom setting and served what they believed were alcoholic beverages. In fact, only some of the students were drinking alcohol, while the others were drinking placebo drinks. Nevertheless, students who had drunk no alcohol behaved in just as inebriated a manner as those who had.

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