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The self-medication hypothesis (SMH) has evolved out of the in-depth psychodynamic study and treatment of individuals with addictive disorders. The SMH addresses some of the main psychological reasons why individuals become dependent on addictive drugs and attempts to explain the powerful compelling nature of addictions. There are two principal aspects of the SMH: (1) addictive drugs relieve human psychological suffering and (2) there is a considerable degree of specificity in an individual’s drug of choice. Namely, over a period of time in experimenting with drugs, including alcohol, individuals who are addictively vulnerable discover that a particular drug relieves painful feeling states that predominate and are problematic for them.

The SMH has focused on three main classes of addictive substances: (1) opiates, (2) depressants, and (3) ...

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