Can You Get Over an Addiction?

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Addiction may often be an attempt at self -regulation through self medication. It could be legal or illegal based on what society thinks is OK to crave or seek these substances. Remember addiction is a medical issue not a legal one.

Based on an article “Can You Get Over Addiction?” by Mia Szalavitz the author of Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addiction. I have thought for decades that the patients who have become addicted to a particular substance is based on a genetic and developmentally programmed brain environment that is lacking in a certain vital neurotransmitter.  

They crave some drug or substance to make them “whole” again.  For instance, people with ADHD and OCD tend to become “addicted” to marijuana….. not heroin or speed. Marijuana provides the neurotransmitter norepinephrine which is  is lacking in people with ADHD.  Schizophrenics tend to choose drugs that suppress dopamine (which they have too much of)

Addiction may often be an attempt at self -regulation through self medication.  It could be legal or illegal based on what society thinks is OK to crave or seek these substances.  Remember addiction is a medical issue not a legal one.   

According to Ms Szalavitz the motivation for people to become “addicted” includes:

  1. Using substances that work better and without so many side effects than the “legal” drugs they are given.
  2. Addiction is not a degenerative problem that causes brain damage nor is it evidence of a criminal mind.
  3. Addiction is a learning disorder that involves motivation, how we process information and it hinges on the physiology of how we approach and feel reward and punishment
  4. Addictive brains are genetically and developmentally hard wired and they work through fundamental parts of the brain that react abnormally
  5. The parts of the brain that play a role in addiction also play a role in anxiety, motivation, reward and punishment.

Szalavitz contends that our brain areas that deal with motivation and pleasure and those that mediate decisions and help set priorities work together to determine what we value in order to ensure we attain critical biological goals: namely survival and reproduction.  In essence then, addiction happens when these brain systems are focused on the wrong objects: a drug or self- destructive behavior like excessive gambling instead of a new sexual partner or a baby.

This perspective  Szalavitz proposes suggest that addiction does not diminish intelligence nor does it completely eliminate free choice. I.e. people do not shoot up in front of the policeman. Addiction is more understandable and treatable when you approach it as a learning disorder and a physical illness rather than as a characterological disorder.

“Once we learn that addiction is neither a sin nor a progressive disease, just a different brain writing, we can stop persisting in policies that don’t work and start teaching recovery. “Punishment, moralizing, shaming are not the way to cure a medical condition!!

This Health cast was written and presented by Dr. Kathy Maupin, M.D., Bio-identical Hormone Replacement Expert and Author, with Brett Newcomb, MA., LPC., Family Counselor, Presenter and Author. www.BioBalanceHealth.com.