You are not an alcoholic or an addict. You are not incurably diseased. You have merely become dependent on substances or addictive behavior to cope with underlying conditions that you are now going to heal, at which time your dependency will cease completely and forever.” – Chris Prentiss, The Alcoholism and Addiction Cure
Sometimes I feel helpless when I think about how devastating the addiction epidemic has become in America. As a society, we’ve turned our heads away from substance abusers, writing them off as being undeserving of our care and time. We focus our attention on the other more important problems, thinking to ourselves, “Why can’t these addicts just stop?”
Well, I’ll tell you why they just can’t stop. In my article, The Top Reason Most Drug Addicts Never get Clean, I stated that individuals who used to abuse substances often still view themselves as “addicts trying to stay clean.” I believe this identity is the most powerful reason most of them end up relapsing.
A more beneficial identity would be to view themselves as “people that used to abuse substances, recovered, and would never even think about using again.” In my article, The Second Biggest Reason Most Drug Addicts Never get Clean, I stated that individuals new to sobriety can’t cope with life because there are too many things to focus on and worry about. In active addiction, procuring and using their drug of choice is always their main focus, and this one thing is so consuming that they don’t tend to focus on or worry about much else.
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Biochemistry of Chemical Dependency
Why do they give their drug of choice so much attention, energy, and power? The third biggest reason most drug addicts never stay clean is biochemistry. Something dreadful happens after the substance abuser has been using their drug of choice for a while. Their brain chemistry changes. They need that particular substance.
Drugs are so amazingly powerful. Our bodies weren’t meant to handle these concentrated substances, so after a period of continuous use, brain chemistry can short-circuit. It actually rewires itself in a disastrous way. In a healthy individual, water, food, shelter, defending from predators and sex are at the top of their survival hierarchy of needs. In chemical dependency, the brain short-circuits and reorganizes this ladder of importance. It places the drug at the top of the list. Their newly rewired brain literally makes the following powerful connection: DRUG = SURVIVAL.
Why does the drug now equal survival? It’s because drugs act on the midbrain (unconscious), which is the primitive part that deals with survival. The Olds Experiments of the 1960’s confirmed this. The researchers believed that drugs acted on the prefrontal cortex (conscious), which is the logical part that deals with personality expression, decision making, and moderating social behavior.
They injected cocaine into mice in the prefrontal cortex over and over, and the mice never became addicted. After poking all over their brains, they made an important discovery. When they injected cocaine into the midbrain, the mice would continue to press the lever to receive more of the drug, even when the ground beneath them was shocking them to death, and all they had to do to survive was stop lever pressing and move away.
Humans can become addicted in the same way the mice did. That’s why they keep getting arrested, overdosing, getting their children taken away, and ending up in hospitals or rehab facilities. It’s not because they’re scumbags intrinsically. In actuality, they’ve become a victim to their own malfunctioning brain, and the primal drive to seek out and use more drugs causes them to put everything else in their life at a distant second or lower. Luckily, their brain chemistry can be restored to optimal functioning with the following three interventions…
It saddens me that the majority of addiction treatment facilities don’t pay attention to this important aspect of addiction. Most treatment centers provide counseling, support groups, and addiction education, but do nothing to address the physical aspect of addiction. Eliminating sugar, caffeine, nicotine, alcohol and all other drugs is of paramount importance. Reducing or eliminating refined carbohydrates and processed foods is also a high priority. Eating healthy, organic whole foods in combination with adequate water intake can eliminate toxicity and restore vitality to the unbalanced individual.
Sometimes substance abusers’ biochemistry is so out of balance that proper nutrition alone is not enough to make a fast recovery. There are many natural supplements that can help restore neurotransmitter production in the deficient individual. Certain amino acids, herbs, vitamins, and minerals can improve brain chemistry and mental health.
3. Other Alternative Treatment Modalities
As I stated above, traditional addiction treatment consists of counseling, support groups, relapse prevention, addiction education, and sometimes even medication. There are a small minority of rehab facilities that have ventured outside of the box and implemented alternative modalities, which refer to treatment interventions that are complimentary to the core treatment approaches. Nutrition and supplementation fall under this treatment category.
The following list of alternative treatment modalities can also help the biochemically unbalanced individual make a faster recovery: massage therapy, music therapy, exercise, yoga, tai chi & qigong, surfing, neuro-linguistic programming, hypnosis, meditation, equine therapy, guided visualization, Native American sweat lodge ceremony, reiki energy healing.