For example, someone without a history of trauma might have a shot of alcohol after a tough day. Someone with a troubled past might drink a bottle instead.
Ongoing stress in adulthood can also change brain chemistry, and that can result in lowered self-control. The chemistry is complicated, researchers say, and it involves some chemicals rising while others are blocked. But the result is easy to understand: A person under extreme stress is physically incapable of making good decisions consistently. A person like this has a lack of ongoing self-control, and that can lead to experimentation and continuous dangerous drug use.
Abusive substances can also just seem like really good, temporary solutions. A few martinis could calm your speeding heart, and the dopamine pumping from your brain can make you feel a sense of control that’s eluded you all day. Downing pain pills can blunt the activity in your mind, so you’re less likely to examine your mistakes from every angle.