Is there a word like dopamine, which can be used to describe a substance that helps you escape/forget your troubles?


Sleep is my dopamine

Alcohol is my unknown word.

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    Source of comfort, or "comforter."
    – user 85795
    Jul 19, 2014 at 14:23
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    Also, you could use 'out'. It's colloquial, but I'd bet most would understand its use. Jul 20, 2014 at 5:48
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    'Dopamine' does not, and has never been used to describe 'a substance that helps you forget your troubles'. I'm not sure where you've seen it used that way - possibly on TV, where it's described by laymen as a neurochemical associated with pleasure, which is where you may have got confused. It's not just associated with pleasure either: a surfeit of dopamine is believed to be one aspect of schizophrenia, and most drugs used to treat it suppress particular dopamine receptor subtypes.
    – Pete855217
    Jul 20, 2014 at 6:26
  • @Pete855217 Who says schizophrenia and pleasure are mutually exclusive? A big reason dopamine is associated with pleasure is that stimulants inhibit dopamine re-uptake (creating a surplus), and perhaps not surprisingly, extreme stimulant abuse can produce schizophrenic symptoms. In any case, I agree with you that "Sleep is my dopamine" just screams "Look at me misuse big word I heard on TV", kind of like "Sleep is my cocaine" -- doesn't make much sense.
    – goldilocks
    Jul 20, 2014 at 17:00
  • @Pete855217, of course. Dopamine is a different thing, sorry I didn't make this clear in my question. I was just asking a similar word which as dopamine could be used to describe a substance that makes puts you in a happy mood, could be used for another substances that helps you escape your problem. Jul 20, 2014 at 21:07

11 Answers 11


Escapism comes close.

an activity or form of entertainment that allows people to forget about the real problems of life

Source: http://www.merriam-webster.com/

From Wikipedia:

Many activities that are normal parts of a healthy existence (e.g., eating, sleeping, exercise, sexual activity) can also become avenues of escapism when taken to extremes or out of proper context.

Also, avenue of escape is used colloquially.

Alcohol and other drugs provide an avenue of escape -- a way to elude the mundane -- the boredom and routine of everyday living, as well as a means to temporarily evade difficult issues and problems.

Source: "Counseling Addicts and Offenders: A Guide to Criminal Justice Counseling" edited by Paula M. Potter

You can even use escape itself.

A means of obtaining temporary freedom from worry, care, or unpleasantness: Television is my escape from worry.

Source: http://www.thefreedictionary.com

Additionally, I'm going to talk about a rare word which is used figuratively: nepenthe. As it is not a common word, you wouldn't hear it in everyday speech. The word first appears in the fourth book of Homer's Odyssey.

Wikipedia defines as:

... a medicine for sorrow, literally an anti-depressant – a "drug of forgetfulness" mentioned in ancient Greek literature and Greek mythology, depicted as originating in Egypt.

Figuratively, it means "that which chases away sorrow"; νη, ne, i.e. "not" (privative prefix), and πενθές, from πένθος, penthos, i.e. "grief, sorrow, or mourning"; so, literally, it means 'not-sorrow' or 'anti-sorrow'.

An example from "The Gilded Tongue: Overly Eloquent Words for Everyday Things" By Rod L. Evans:

For many people, alcohol is a nepenthe, used temporarily to escape their problems.

  • Wow nice, so much examples. I think nepenthe answers the question though it's not so euphonious. Jul 19, 2014 at 15:57
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    'Nepenthe': lovely word.
    – Pete855217
    Jul 20, 2014 at 6:30
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    In the sentence "alcohol is my ____" I'd use "escape" rather than "escapism". Jul 20, 2014 at 14:53

You could try painkiller, in an extended sense; but I prefer anodyne.

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    Anodyne! Best example and easier to remember. Jul 20, 2014 at 0:15
  • Great work: anodyne!
    – Pete855217
    Jul 20, 2014 at 6:26
  • Anodyne is what I would have said. +1
    – Robusto
    Jul 20, 2014 at 16:33

A Google search for "palliative" yields - edited for brevity:

"(of a treatment or medicine) relieving pain or alleviating a problem without dealing with the underlying cause.

synonyms: soothing, alleviating, sedative, calmative."

which seems a particularly good fit.

  • It's a poor fit: 'palliative' simply means 'relief without curative intent', nothing to do with pleasure.
    – Pete855217
    Jul 20, 2014 at 6:28
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    Neither have the subject of the thread: "Word for substances which help you escape your problems" nor the question itself: "Is there a word like dopamine, which can be used to describe a substance that helps you escape/forget your troubles?" anything to do with pleasure, so perhaps your bent that pleasure is the mere absence of pain bears a little closer scrutiny.
    – EM Fields
    Jul 20, 2014 at 7:20

I'm glad someone said nepenthe...I was thinking of Edgar Allen Poe's "The Raven":

"'Wretch', I cried, 'Thy God has lent thee

By these angels He hath sent thee

Respite--respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore!

Let me quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!'"

The narrator then goes on to ask whether there is balm in Gilead--a reference to a substance that was supposed to soothe all troubles. So I would go with, in addition to nepenthe, respite for everyday use, and balm of Gilead when you want to sound fancy.:-)

(On a less formal note, people often colloquially use the phrase "my drug", or in recent years, thanks to a PSA campaign, "my anti-drug". Don't know if that helps.:-))


Positive connotation: Elixir - a magical liquid that can cure illness or extend life.

Also positive: Panacea - something that will make everything about a situation better.

Negative connotation: Snake Oil - something that is sold as medicine but that is not really useful or helpful in any way.


Lethe: forgetfulness or oblivion, after the river in Hades in greek mythology.

(The connotation is, as far as I know, neither positive nor negative, more bitter-sweet and melancholic.)


Analgesic is another synonym for anodyne, painkiller, derived from the Greek ἄλγος (àlgos), "pain." Literally taken, algos means physical pain, although the word has been metaphorically used as "trouble, sorrow" since as far back as Hesiod. It is still used in modern Greek with both meanings.


Though I don't think these necessarily apply directly to the original question, they do play off nicely from some of the other answers like elixir and panacea. They all have some connotation of immortality, which I guess is a good way to eventually forget your troubles.

Ambrosia: Non-death-food, the food of the gods

Nectar: Death-overcoming, the beverage of the gods

Amṛtam: Immortality, nectar, soma

Soma: Juice, but who knows what this actually was

  • I don't think nectar has that meaning anymore. It just makes me think of a very thick juice. Jul 20, 2014 at 5:49

'nepenthe'-- generic term for drug or potion that makes one forget sorrows and woes. This is usually used in the singular and often figuratively: 'The firing of our old boss was a like a nepenthe for the whole staff'

  • This was given as an answer before.
    – ermanen
    Jul 21, 2014 at 21:34

soporific--substance tending to produce drowsiness and lack of awareness.


How about "vice", as in "Alcohol is my vice".

  • It may well be, but that is stressing a completely different aspect of it. Jul 20, 2014 at 16:31

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