How to treat drug and alcohol addictions – Part 2

Addiction
In my previous article on The Brain and addictions I mentioned that addictions are largely created by headmind obsessions allied to dopamine deficiency (caused in part by drug abuse itself). In this article I am going to start writing about how you can erase the addiction.

A thing to bear in mind when reading this is that my approach has nothing to do with Alcoholics Anonymous or it’s spin-off Narcotics Anonymous. I will write more about this on another occasion but bear in mind, for now, that I don’t believe the AA approach actually works for many people.

Unlike AA I don’t recognise the tem ‘alcoholism’ and nor do I believe that misuse of alcohol or drugs represents a disease. What I mean by an ‘addiction’ is out-of-control drug or alcohol use which has effects on your personal life you would rather not have. For example: legal prosecution, relationship breakdown, job loss, financial problems, personal degradation, etc.

One thing that is clear to me is that treating addictions is a complex matter. Although getting rid of an addiction can be straight-forward it is not necessarily easy.
As shown in the diagram my approach addresses five different factors:
1. The most important one is the Addictive Voice which resides in Headmind. I have referred to this subject before in my articles on Headmind. It is continually chattering on about the need to have a drink or consume some drugs now. It uses problems in each of the surrounding four zones as an ‘excuse’ for using. For example, it can tell you that you are feeling bad (Physical state) and you need a fix; or that you are so stressed you really need to get drunk now; or that life is so meaningless (Fulfilment zone) that all you have left is drugs; or that since you are right near your dealer’s Tube station etc. you might as well go ahead and have some. Switching attention away from that hypnotic message in your head is crucial to success.
2. I have already written about the Physical State Zone and you can read more about that here. In addition to dopamine deficiency as a problem, however, we also need to address feelings of anxiety, depression or boredom which the Addicitive Voice also uses as excuses to indulge.
3. The Stress zone relates to situations which trigger increased anxiety, tension or agitation. There is no reason why Stress should lead to misue of alcohol but the Hypnotic Inner Voice will use this as an excuse to indulge. Reducing stressors will reduce the power of the inner voice.

4. Nearly all the drug users and alcoholics I have ever met have been profoundly disatisfied with their lives. And most of those people, too, suffer from boredom. Unless you have a connection to Personal Genius and several important reasons to live then drugs and alcohol might have some powerful attractions for you.

5. The Danger zone refers to those most tempting situations in which you are most likely to get drunk or drugged up. They include your drinking buddies, your favourite bar, ‘that time of day’, having spare cash on you, a bottle of wine in your fridge, or keeping your dealer’s phone number on your mobile. Eliminating your triggers makes it harder for you to slide in to the zone, even when your Addictive Voice is clamouring for you to go and get involved.

Quadrant2Image

I will be writing more about how to solve each of these five issues in future articles.

 

 

 

The brain and addictions

Addict1

This is the start of a new series on addictions.

Addictions to alcohol, to heroin, to cocaine, to mephedrone, cannabis, ketamine and pain-killers. There are also addictions to (inappropriate) sex, gambling and to junk food. I have worked with all of these over the years and, initially, found them tough to work with. But I have found an approach that is successful, which I will share with my readers in a later article.

But firstly it is important to understand how addictions get established. In the brain.

Three key points to bear in mind before you read on are that addictions are created by a) changes in dopamine levels, b) obsessions created in Headmind in the pre-frontal lobes and c) a loss of emotional connection through Bodymind.

From one point of view – the Bodymind view – the brain is a superbly engineered chemical factory. Chemicals for growth, chemicals for energy creation, chemicals for digestion and metabolism, chemicals for defence against infection, chemicals for tissue repair, chemicals that activate the muscles, and chemicals for emotions, mood, sensation and so on.

Some of these chemicals are simple protein chains called peptides, which act as messengers to other areas in the body such as the immune system, while others are more complex, such as the hormones that lock to particular glands further down from the brain (adrenalin, for example) and the neuro-transmitters (such as dopamine) that work on the central nervous system within the brain itself.

Hold fast to the fact that all chemicals are ‘drugs’, just as all drugs are chemicals. Meaning, that they influence brain function. In that sense even oxygen is a drug.

Dopamine is an interesting drug because Bodymind uses it to tell you whether or not one course of action will be more satisfying than the alternative. For example, if you are faced with a choice between doing the garden now and watching tv your body might use dopamine to tell you to do the garden now if you have a passion for it or it might tell you to watch tv if one of your favourite films is on. In this connection it is important to bear in mind that dopamine mimics your passion. If your long-term desire is to write good blog articles then you are more likely to write one instead of going to the pub. The important point here is that a dopamine rush will support you when you decide to go for goals that are important to you rather than short-term distractions (but see below for some information on how this can go wrong as addictions develop).

The fact is that some Headmind-based obssessions (or ‘cravings’ if you will) – particularly those for alcohol, cocaine and heroin – disrupt Bodymind’s finely-tuned reward system.

Using hard drugs like alcohol triggers an explosion in Dopamine levels and when Bodymind notices this it damps down the production of Dopamine in order to restore balance. As Dopamine levels drop below the norm (typically the day after drug abuse) the person experiences tedium, apathy, lethargy and numbness. This, in turn, is interpreted by Headmind as a need to take more of the drug. Dopa Which leads to an escalating cycle of abuse-depletion-cravings-increased abuse and increased cravings. In time, this leads to a state in which the individual obtains no relief whatever from the original drug and goes on to try other drug combinations. Which is why many addicts are frequently addicted to two or more drugs at the same time.

The Brain scans reproduced here illustrate the difference in Dopamine depletion between four groups of addicts and normal controls. The reddish-yellow scans on the left are normal, while the weaker, greenish scans on the right are abnormal, showing up that Dopamine receptor activity is much reduced. In sex and gambling addictions the same phenomenon will appear on a slightly weaker scale.

Although these addictions have a catastrophic effect on the central nervous system they are reversible. Dopamine levels can be restored over a few weeks with abstinence. But to achieve that changes in thinking are required and a re-connection to Bodymind. And I will write about those when I describe the cure.

 

 


What everybody ought to know about Addictions

Crack-addict This is the first in two articles about Addictions. The next one – 6 ways to remove Addictions – will appear next week.

In order to eliminate an Addiction you first need to understand how it works. When you see how an Addiction controls you then you are in a position to exercise Awareness over it. From that position you can start to sabotage it.

Human beings can get addicted to almost anything: sex, drugs, rock ‘n roll, alcohol, food, weight loss, gambling, therapy, attention-seeking, shopping, stealing, wrist-slashing, surgery (think Michael Jackson), relationships and the internet. Most of what follows applies to Alcohol addiction but most of my observations equally well apply to other bananas.

The first thing to realise is that Addictions are actually obsessions. Obsessions work through tunnel vision, making the problem more important than it actually is. The key to breaking addictions is to break out of the inertia, habit and routine that comes with the addiction and connect back to Bodymind and the wider world.

Addictions are created and maintained in Headmind through a dominating Inner Voice. This Inner Control Freak can be incredibly powerful as well as seductive. It says things like:

‘Go on. You deserve it…’

‘Just the one won’t harm you…’

‘No one will know…’

‘The alternative is just too boring…’

‘You can’t make it through the night without a drink…’

‘It’s no use resisting you know you’re going to have one…’

The more you listen to the voice and follow its commands the stronger it gets. I call this ‘feeding the dragon’. The Dragon started off as a worm but grew and grew until it had you in its tentacles. Attention is its fertiliser. Disobeying it (or laughing at it/ignoring it) is its weedkiller.

If you do allow the Dragon to get a hold on you then your original liking will first turn into a habit. I have worked with many addicts over the past 20 years and it’s just weird how predictable they are. They will use the same beverages, in the same quantities, with the same people, at the same places, at the same times, every day of their lives. But it is easy to break a habit: provided you have something better to replace it with (see next article).

Once a habit turns into an Addiction (meaning that the Dragon has started to control you instead of you controlling it) at that point the problem becomes part of your Personality. Meaning that you start to define yourself as a person who is a slave to something else. This process is helped along by Alcoholics Anonymous and other ‘experts’ who use labels like ‘Alcoholic’, ‘Drug Addict’, ‘Sex Addict’, ‘Kleptomaniac’, ‘Bulimic’, ‘Narcissist’, etc. Labels like these can induce pathology and keep you in a bad place you no longer wish to be in. Drop the labels and change your personality and you will be free again.

The next thing to understand about an Addiction is that it’s not all in the mind. That there is a biological basis for the craving which is relatively easy to understand. So here goes.

When Bodymind notices that you are drinking in large quantities on a regular basis it also notices that the alcohol is depleting the brain of GABA – a neurotransmitter which regulates alertness. And when that happens it seeks to compensate by increasing GABA production. The net result will leave you feeling restless, agitated and uncomfortable. And Headmind – via your Inner Dragon – will interpret that problem as a cue for another drink….which means that, once again, you are feeding that Inner Dragon.

After a while even Headmind starts to realise that the Addiction is creating fresh problems. Like social exclusion, failed relationships, unemployment, crime, financial disaster, sexually transmitted disease, and persistent unhappiness. So it will start to worry about what happens next. But worry won’t solve anything – it just confirms your slavery. But more on that in my next article.