The Role of the Subconscious Mind in Addiction

The Subconscious Mind and Addiction

Your subconscious mind always listens to what you tell it – and it believes you. If you tell yourself you’re afraid, your subconscious mind responds. If you tell yourself you’re tired or happy your subconscious believes it. When a recovering addict gets through the physical withdrawal phase but later returns to their drug of choice, often the subconscious mind is blamed. To better understand the role the subconscious plays in addiction, we need to start by understanding what the subconscious mind is, and how it works.

The Biggest Part of Our Brain

The conscious thinking part of our brain makes up only 17% of the total brain. The rest is subconscious. The brain receives approximately 2,000 bits of information per second, and most of it is routed to the subconscious. The role of the subconscious is to process information that you don’t have the capacity to process consciously. It automates certain actions and allows us to act in the world instead of being bogged down by processing an infinite amount of incoming data.

Have you ever lost power in your house? If your power is out for a few hours and you enter a dark room, you might have reflexively flicked on the light switch. That’s your subconscious mind doing its job.

The Subconscious Mind and Addiction

The more you understand how the subconscious mind operates, the easier it is to see how it applies to addiction. Drugs are either stimulants or depressants; they wake us up or dull us down; either way, the subconscious mind can interpret them as a benefit. Take a drug a few times, and your subconscious mind will start to form conclusions and incorporate them into your subconscious reactions. The result is every time you feel stressed, or tired, or suffer from withdrawal, you subconscious pops up and tells you to reach for that drug. It thinks it’s being helpful because the association of the negative effects of the drug has not been communicated to the subconscious.

Tell Your Subconscious a Different Story

Because the subconscious can only react to stimuli and what you tell it, you can, in fact, use your subconscious mind to battle addition. Remember the subconscious mind operates with associations. Feel sad, have a drink. One way to hack your subconscious mind is by feeding it different associations. Feel sad, go on a walk. Write it down, say it out loud, and command it. “If I feel sad then I will go on a walk.” Change the associations through repetition and affirmations and your subconscious mind can start working for you and aid in your recovery.


Are you or a loved one struggling with alcohol or other drugs? Call us to speak confidentially with a recovery expert now: (901) 521-1131 or visit our website

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