A Cure For Addiction?

alcohol

Straight from the Journal of Neuroscience.

There may be a way to switch off the urge for compulsive drinking, according to a new study led by scientists at The Scripps Research Institute.

“We can completely reverse alcohol dependence by targeting a network of neurons”

Long story short, the National Institutes on Health (NIH) and on Drug Abuse (NIDA) sponsored these studies and the results tell us a number of things:

1. Yes, addiction is a brain disease
2. There are very specified circuitry of the brain that is responsible for it.

The findings, published in the September 7 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience, built on previous studies showing that frequent alcohol use can activate specific groups of neurons. The more a person drinks, the more they reinforce activation in the neuronal “circuit,” which then drives further alcohol use and addiction. It appears that the brain carves a special pathway between alcohol and reward.
I refer to this specified path as “The Beast Brain” – All the pre-cognitive instincts that assure survival (the need to breathe, nourish, shelter, sleep, drink, and ensure the continuation of the species) are part of the Beast brain.

In lay terms, we are our own biochemistry. Certain chemicals in the brain reinforce something we do repeatedly. Addictions are the result of circuitry gone wrong, causing compulsive use (reward) despite negative consequences.

TSRI Research Associate Giordano de Guglielmo, who was the study’s first author, spearheaded the experiment using alcohol-dependent rats. They were able to discover, and then alter, a very specific collection of neurons that were activated by alcohol. The rats gave the researchers a new window into how these circuits form in human brains, where alcohol-linked neurons are harder to identify and then injected them with a compound that could were able to inactivate only alcohol-linked neurons.

RatsnETOH“I was surprised to see these rats completely cease their compulsive alcohol drinking,” a change that lasted for as long as the rats were monitored.

“We’ve never seen an effect this strong that has lasted for several weeks,” said George. “I wasn’t sure if I believed it.”

They also appeared to be protected from the negative physical symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, such as shaking.

The new research also shed light on the differences in the brain between more casual binge drinking and addictive consumption. In the rats that were drinkers but NOT addicted, switching off the alcohol-linked neurons had little effect on future drinking. In the non-addicted users, the brain seemed to switch-on a new group of neurons, as if the brain’s path from alcohol to reward was not established.

Edited for readability 

Source: “Recruitment of a Neuronal Ensemble in the Central Nucleus of the Amygdala is Required for Alcohol Dependence.”

Researchers included Elena Crawford, Sarah Kim, Leandro F. Vendruscolo, Molly Brennan and Maury Cole of TSRI; Bruce T. Hope of the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA); and George F. Koob, currently on leave from TSRI to serve as director of the NIH’s National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).  This study was supported by the NIH (grants AA006420, AA020608 and AA022977), the NIDA Intramural Research Program and the TSRI Pearson Center for Alcohol and Addiction Research.  Authors of the new paper include The Scripps Research Institute’s Olivier George (left) and Giordano de Guglielmo.  Title: Recruitment of a Neuronal Ensemble in the Central Nucleus of the Amygdala is Required for Alcohol Dependence, Journal of Neuroscience,  published September 7, 2016

What Do All Addictions Have in Common?

Dopamine – the brain’s primary motivation-neurotransmitter

Any form of drug addiction involves the production of dopamine.

“Brain Design By Cogs And Gears” by MR LIGHTMANThe brain’s dopamine pathways serve as a built-in reward system. By creating sensations something akin to desire, yearning or wanting sensations, its primary purpose is to motivate us to pay attention to the activities deemed important to survival. And when we do the thing it wants us to, we feel – well… “Ahhh!” … Rewarded.

Our Survival Instincts have been on board since the beginning. I like to call this part of the brain the Beast-brain, because it acts without conscious thought. It’s the part of the brain that creates discomfort when there is a “need” – food, air, water, sleep, shelter, and sex.

The development of the prefrontal cortex – the part of the brain responsible for decision-making and critical judgment – tends to confuse us as to just how primal these instincts really are.  After all, we think of these things as a desire for eating, having a nice drink, taking a deep breath, getting a good nights rest, keeping warm, and bonding (sex).

But think about it – why do people sometimes drown? It’s because the need for air is so strong that we take a breath, even when we “know” we cannot. And I would never eat insects, yet if I were starving on a deserted island, my survival instincts would have me eating all kinds of odd things!

And the brain doesn’t just insist on survival. It records and archives how its needs, or “wanting’s,” were satisfied the best, creating very detailed dopamine neuropathways about these events.

Addictions and Cravings

RatsnETOH

What scientists have finally proven is that certain chemicals, once inside the brain, can activate the mind’s dopamine pathway circuitry, virtually hijacking the mind’s perceived priorities for survival. By creating a false instinct, as strong or stronger than the true survival behaviors, experiments with rats have demonstrated that they will choose cocaine over water and food… all the way to their death!

But rats aren’t like people, you say, and of course you are right. But what scientists have found is that addictions have somehow landed in the survival-instinct part of the brain. It is the common thread in all chemical addictions – including cocaine, heroin, meth, nicotine and alcohol.

Remember that this part of the brain is pre-decision making – the Beast Brain. You can only hold your breath for so long before this part of the brain will gasp for a breath. And an addict can only resist the desire for his or her preferred chemical for so long before the beast-brain will override reason and find him or herself searching. Craving.

Drugs of abuse feel good to the user. After taking the drug for a while, the feel-good parts of the brain need to take more of the drug to get the same good feeling. Before long, the brain and body must have the drug to just feel normal. And finally, the user feels sick and awful without the drug. Addiction.

Addiction is “a permanent priorities-disorder and is a disease of the mind.” (John R. Polito,  Freedom from Nicotine – The Journey Home)

 Although this may seem harsh, there is no longer any question to its truth. He goes on to say:

“The good news is that knowledge is power, and we can grow smarter than our addiction. Full recovery is entirely do-able for all. In fact, today there are more ex-users in the U.S. than there are users.

While the first few days may feel like an emotional train wreck, each passing day the challenges grow fewer, generally less intense and shorter in duration. Recovery leads to a calm and quiet mind where addiction chatter and wanting gradually fade into rarity, where the ex-user begins going days, weeks or even months without once wanting their substance.”

If you know someone who is addicted, I hope this article has helped you understand a little better – that it’s not about bad choices, weak character, or that they simply don’t care enough. It’s more about a misunderstanding – the brain believes it needs the substance. And it’s the part of the brain that has no interest it what the person actually wants.

If you are addicted to a substance, get some help. It’s very hard to go at it alone.

Motivation and Addiction – What goes Wrong?

Why do people with addictions seem to “choose” their substances over you? Or family? Or work?
Once addicted, the brain works differently. Watch this short explanation. It’s worth it!

sadness1
https://youtu.be/hg09_-89caY

 

Why Do People Become Addicted?

Worth Reading from off the web! By  ~ 5 minutes read

why do people get addictedWhen discussing an addiction or dependency, most standard beliefs center around the continued repeatability of use of a substance and/or behavior, in which the user loses site of the ramifications of his/her actions. The user can become so attached to substances or an action (pornography, gambling) that the instant gratification of the moment far overrides the consequences.

It is like having a little voice on your shoulder telling you everything will be fine–go ahead–just one more. Someone who is fighting an addiction or dependency is fighting both urges from the outside world and a battle with voices inside of themselves.

Negative Reinforcement: I am Worthless Because You Say I Am

Many of my clients have suggested their addictive behaviors began with the need to escape or numb from the world around them. They understood the consequences of their addictive behaviors, but the pain—through either anxiety or depression—was so intense they could not seek any other alternative.

To someone overwhelmed in the moment, long-term recovery seems as difficult and tedious as climbing a mountain. On the other hand, their addictive behaviors can be instantly satisfying.

All of the judgment and opinions from friends and loved ones in fact become reinforcement to continue. To a certain extent, it is socially acceptable to use alcohol, gamble, or shop when emotionally stressed, as long as you don’t cross certain social norms. When a user does violate those norms, the reaction of others reinforces the feelings of weakness, worthlessness, and being out of control. So, he thinks, I might as well keep using.

As Robin Williams once stated in Weapons of Self-Destruction: “As an alcoholic, you will violate your standards quicker than you can lower them.”

When talking about any kind of addiction, it is important to recognize that its cause is not simply a search for pleasure, and that addiction has nothing to do with one’s morality or strength of character. Experts debate whether addiction is a “disease” or a true mental illness, whether drug dependence and addiction mean the same thing, and many other aspects of addiction.

Pleasure Principle: This is Your Brain on Drugs

 The brain registers all pleasures in the same way, whether they originate with a psychoactive drug, a monetary reward, a sexual encounter, or a satisfying meal. In the brain, pleasure has a distinct signature: the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the nucleus accumbens, a cluster of nerve cells lying underneath the cerebral cortex. Dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens is so consistently tied with pleasure that neuroscientists refer to the region as the brain’s pleasure center.

All drugs of abuse, from nicotine to heroin, cause a particularly powerful surge of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens. The likelihood that the use of a drug or participation in a rewarding activity will lead to addiction is directly linked to the speed with which it promotes dopamine release, the intensity of that release, and the reliability of that release.

Even taking the same drug through different methods of administration can influence how likely it is to lead to addiction. Smoking a drug or injecting it intravenously, as opposed to swallowing it as a pill, for example, generally produces a faster, stronger dopamine signal and is more likely to lead to drug misuse.

Is it a wonder that a depressed individual would seek out this pleasure—any form of relief from the darkness that surrounds their soul?

Diagnostic Criteria for Addiction

Based on the criteria by the American Psychiatric Association (DSM-IV) and World Health Organization (ICD-10) an addiction must meet at least three of the following criteria:

  • Do you use more alcohol or drugs over time?
  • Have you experienced physical or emotional withdrawal when you have stopped using? Have you experienced anxiety, irritability, shakes, sweats, nausea, or vomiting? Emotional withdrawal is just as significant as physical withdrawal.
  • Limited control. Do you sometimes drink or use drugs more than you would like? Do you sometimes drink to get drunk? Does one drink lead to more drinks sometimes? Do you ever regret how much you used the day before?
  • Negative consequences. Have you continued to use even though there have been negative consequences to your mood, self-esteem, health, job, or family?
  • Neglected or postponed activities. Have you ever put off or reduced social, recreational, work, or household activities because of your use?
  • Significant time or energy spent. Have you spent a significant amount of time obtaining, using, concealing, planning, or recovering from your use? Have you spent a lot of time thinking about using? Have you ever concealed or minimized your use? Have you ever thought of schemes to avoid getting caught?
  • Desire to cut down. Have you sometimes thought about cutting down or controlling your use? Have you ever made unsuccessful attempts to cut down or control your use?

Many people with addiction issues who I have spoken to shared how they had a high tolerance, and could drink more than peers when in their early stages of drinking. At the time, one who could chug the beer and down the shots and still be able to stand was regarded in high esteem. Many clients have told me, though, as life went on, having a high tolerance for booze became a curse as it became a thirst that could not be quenched.

Relapse and Recovery

Symptoms of addiction include tolerance (development of resistance to the effects of alcohol or other drugs over time) and withdrawal, a painful or unpleasant physical response when the substance is withheld.

Many people who are addicted deny it. They often emphasize that they enjoy drinking or taking other drugs.

People recovering from addiction can experience a lack of control and return to their substance use at some point in their recovery process. This faltering, common among people with most chronic disorders, is called relapse. To ordinary people, relapse is one of the most perplexing aspects of addiction. Millions of Americans who want to stop using addictive substances suffer tremendously, and relapses can be quite discouraging.

To appreciate the grips of addiction, imagine a person that “wants to stop doing something and they cannot, despite catastrophic consequences,” says Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. “We’re not speaking of little consequences. These are catastrophic. And yet they cannot control their behavior.”

Many in the addiction recovery field suggest that it takes more than just “not using” to fully recover. Recovery needs to come from the heart and the way one perceives him or herself.

The following are important points your clients in recovery should know:

  • Check into your values; what’s important to you. What are the things that mean more to you than remaining addicted.
  • Develop and practice the skills you need to manage your life without relying on your addiction
  • Learn how to control addictive urges through mind management techniques
  • Find and appreciate the rewards that come from a “sober” (non-addicted) lifestyle
  • Build and appreciate personal relationships and turn to positive communities for support and companionship
  • Find your purpose and plan a future that leads to accomplishing your life goals
  • Mature into a new, non-addicted you — a person who simply and naturally rejects addiction in all forms

“I am spinning the silk threads of my story, weaving the fabric of my world…I spun out of control. Eating was hard. Breathing was hard. Living was hardest. I wanted to swallow the bitter seeds of forgetfulness…Somehow, I dragged myself out of the dark and asked for help. I spin and weave and knit my words and visions until a life starts to take shape. There is no magic cure, no making it all go away forever. There are only small steps upward; an easier day, an unexpected laugh, a mirror that doesn’t matter anymore. I am thawing.” Laurie Halse Anderson, Wintergirls 

Image courtesy of Naypong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net       Why Do People Become Addicted? | Psych Central Professional.

 

 

 

Making Amends

Part of the Twelve Steps in addiction recovery requires absolute honesty and personal responsibility for the ways that one’s addictions and behaviors have harmed others before becoming sober (Steps 4, 8, and 9). These moral lapses come in the form of lying, manipulating, stealing, blaming, or just plain acting like a jerk to kids, friends, and family! In becoming aware of all moral compromises made in connection to using, and then making the appropriate amends, sobriety is strengthened. The cobwebs of remorse, shame and guilt, that so often lead to relapse, are removed. We learn to forgive ourselves, too, and can experience true freedom from the past.

But you don’t have to be recovering from addictions to get something from the 12 steps. It is, after all, a spiritual program in and of itself.

Making Amends – and The Work of Byron Katie

In a process called The Work, Byron Katie teaches to make an Amends List (like in steps 8 and 9) following these steps:

  1. Make a list of all the people, dead or alive, that you harmed.
  2. Starting with an easiest one, write a letter describing three ways you have hurt him/her.
  3. Make a sincere apology for the past harm. Be sure to watch your language for signs of defensiveness, blame, or excuses.  Remove the words — “if”, “but”, “should” or “because.” Do not make any excuses for what you did.
  4. Make a sincere request for forgiveness and let him/her know you are willing to make it right. Expect nothing from the person whom you are asking forgiveness from. It’s your life you are cleaning up.
  5. Now tell him/her three things they gave you that you are grateful for and thank them.
  6. Read the letter you wrote and as if you have written it to yourself.  i.e., replace the other’s name with your name. Try reading it out loud for maximum benefit.Turning this letter around to you provides the opportunity for deeper self-understanding… which ultimately leads to self forgiveness. Be gentle with yourself as you discover your own innocence.
  7. If you think it will serve and not cause more harm, mail the letter to the person you wrote it to, or share it face to face. It’s up to them whether they decide to read it; don’t expect them to read it, to be grateful, or to be forgiving. This is your life you are clearing up, not theirs.

The turnaround helps you see how your actions have hurt you. Remember – you were doing the best you could at that time.

Forgive yourself. It’s your life. If you don’t turn it around, who will? You’re the one!

Now hug yourself and tell yourself that you love you!

6 Common Fears in Addiction Recovery – and How to Face Them

category – Worth reading from Off the Web: ADDICTIONS CORNER

By
~ 3 min read

6 Common Fears in Addiction Recovery - and How to Face ThemFear is normal at every stage of recovery. Everyone enters rehab with some trepidation, even if they’ve been in and out of treatment for years. Likewise, most people leave rehab full of worry. What will happen when they leave the one place they know they can stay sober? How will they cope when the feelings they’ve been medicating come flooding back?

When you think about how the average person responds to a horror movie or passing a traffic accident, it is clear that, in some cases, fear actually draws us in rather than repelling us. Fear makes us alert to danger; it helps guide our decision-making process. But too much fear can be paralyzing in life and, in addiction recovery, can be a precursor to relapse. Here are some of the fears common among people in recovery, along with suggestions for facing them:

#1 Fear of Sobriety

Getting sober means replacing your primary coping mechanism – drugs and alcohol – with new, unfamiliar ones. The process can be uncomfortable, particularly for someone who is afraid of feeling in general. Will all of the hard work be worth it? Will sobriety be boring, sustainable? Staying stuck in this fear generally means staying stuck in addiction.

What to Do: Nelson Mandela said, “The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” Rather than running from it, feel the fear and then take one step forward anyway – go to rehab, meet with a therapist or attend a support group where other people in recovery share their success stories. Once you try it, you may find that sobriety is not as scary as you once thought.

#2 Fear of Failure

Whether you have one day sober or 10 years, recovery presents challenges. There are times when you’ll doubt yourself and get pushed outside of your comfort zone. There are times when you will fall short of a goal. At this point, you can either conclude that you don’t deserve it or have what it takes, or you can try again.

What to Do: Many addicts are perfectionists who have difficulty accepting mistakes and taking strategic risks. True, about half of recovering addicts relapse at some point. But the other half doesn’t, and if you relapse and learn from it, you haven’t failed at all. Others have succeeded in spite of fear, and so can you. According to the Partnership at Drugfree.org, more than 23 million people in the U.S. have recovered from drug and alcohol problems.

#3 Fear of Success

The flipside of the fear of failure is the fear of success. Most people don’t consciously self-sabotage, but they have a deeply held belief that they don’t deserve to succeed and, in so believing, never really put forth their best effort. Feeling doomed from the start, many allow self-doubt and fears of what others think to keep them from trying.

What to Do: Fear is an emotion that is based on something we cannot control: the future. Instead of fretting over what might be, practice being mindful of the present. Feel the fear and breathe through it without resisting it or trying to change it – and then notice how the fear begins to dissipate.

#4 Fear of Rejection

Worried that they may be abandoned by the people they love or judged by others, some people refuse to admit that they have a drug problem or reach out to others for support. Yet without taking these steps, there can be no recovery.

What to Do: Fear of rejection can be overcome by pushing yourself to work a recovery program even when you don’t want to. Attend sober social gatherings, lean on family members and talk to people at support group meetings. Research shows that the simple act of putting your fears into words taps into the parts of the brain responsible for logic and emotional regulation, decreasing fear and anxiety.

#5 Fear of Losing Your Identity

After months or years of being fixated on drugs and alcohol, who are you if you aren’t an addict? What are your hopes, desires and values? These are some of the most difficult questions in recovery, and the answers may change over time.

What to Do: In recovery, you have a unique opportunity to redefine yourself. Spend some time thinking back to who you were before you started using drugs and revisit old interests. Also try something new, such as volunteering or taking a class, so you have a chance to develop new passions. Each of these steps will not only help you maintain your sobriety, but also move you closer to the ultimate goal of figuring out who you are.

#6 Fear of Perpetual Misery

Lurking in the minds of most recovering addicts is the question: What if I do the hard work of recovery and am still miserable? After drugs flood the brain with dopamine, some people find it difficult to feel pleasure from normally enjoyable activities. Others get clean and sober only to find that they still feel angry and depressed. Also known as “dry drunk,” these individuals erroneously believe that getting sober is where the hard work ends.

What to Do: Some of the damage inflicted by prolonged drug use will be repaired the longer you stay sober. Just as important as stopping the use of all mood-altering substances is actively engaging in a program of recovery. Only by investing in yourself and your relationships can life in recovery be truly joyful.

David Sack, M.D., is board certified in psychiatry, addiction psychiatry and addiction medicine.

Original: 6 Common Fears in Addiction Recovery – and How to Face Them | Addiction Recovery.

What are you stuffing?

hamsterStuff

“New Weight-Loss Trick Revealed!”

 Do something for me – will you? Close your eyes and slowly bring a few fingers from your non-dominant hand to your lips, and gently touch. Leave them there for a few seconds. 

The very first emotionally soothing act since leaving the womb was touching your lips and tasting nourishment. Our initial experience also taught us to “marry” eating and emotional soothing. It’s an imprint that continues to sooth us throughout life.

And what about pacifiers? They cleverly distract us from our needs, thus creating another mouth/anticipation-that-your-needs-will-be-met coupling. But I’ll get into addictions another time.

If you struggle with weight chances are you are unconsciously stuffing your feelings. You are trying to gratify a need or want that you don’t know how to get met otherwise. When you begin to understand what prompts you to use food as a way to fulfill other needs, you journey into a deeper, more respectful place within yourself. Rather than instantly changing your relationship with food through a new diet (which you may know doesn’t last), get to know yourself.

Are you stuffing anger? Learn about Assertiveness. Not only do you have a right to your opinions, wants and feelings, you have a right to express them. Are you avoiding a decision? The belief that one wrong move can mean a disaster can be paralyzing. Learn how to accept the possibility of making a mistake. I find that most are repairable. Do you feel a need for control? Over what? Is it true that you need this? Maybe you need to learn about authentic responsibility. Pick up some tips from a book about Codependency.

I strongly recommend journaling to better understand yourself. Meet yourself. Listen with compassion. Then get objective. The solution is there.

Therapy can be instrumental, in fact, it can be invaluable. We often need a witness other than ourselves to delve into the unknown aspects of Self. Get the help you deserve, privately and confidentially.

The “secret new weight-loss trick”is finding ways to better satisfy all your hungers — physical and emotional.

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