Mind & Brain Staying Sober Better understanding of how alcohol alters brain chemistry reveals mechanisms for beating dependency By Andreas Heinz THIS IS A PREVIEW. Buy this digital issue or subscribe to access the full article. Already a subscriber or purchased this issue? Sign In MICHAEL NEMETH Getty Images Former alcoholics have a tough time resisting the urge to drink in two particularly trying situations. Analysis of what is happening in their heads under these circumstances is greatly improving neurobiologists understanding of how chronic alcohol use changes the brain. And their findings suggest measures that could help people abstain. The following case illustrates one of the most tempting situations. Hank had been dry for several weeks thanks to a radical withdrawal program, but a simple walk past Petes Tavern on any given night almost erased his will to abstain. During the daytime he did not feel a craving for alcohol, but when he passed the bar in the evening--when he saw the warm light through the windows and heard the glasses clinking--he would be sorely tempted to run inside for a beer. Addiction researchers call this phenomenon "conditioned desire." If a person had always consumed alcohol in the same situation, an encounter with the familiar stimuli will make the feeling of need for the substance almost irresistible. Then, even after years of abstinence, consuming a single drink can set off a powerful longing to imbibe more and more. X "Staying Sober" is available in the following issues, please make a selection below April/May 2006 - $7.95 Add to Cart Intoxicating: The Science of Alcohol - $9.99 Add to Cart THIS IS A PREVIEW. Buy Digital Issue or subscribe to access the full article. Already a subscriber or purchased this issue? Sign In Buy Digital Issue $7.95 Add To Cart Browse all subscription options! Subscribe ADVERTISEMENT Scientific American is a trademark of Scientific American, Inc., used with permission © 2015 Scientific American, a Division of Nature America, Inc. All Rights Reserved.