Addiction was thought to only affect those that are weak-willed. But the thing about addiction is that it does not discriminate. It affects the poor and rich, the successful and unsuccessful, medical doctors and homeless transients. Very few are immune to addiction and its detrimental effects.
The last 50 years of research shows that addiction causes functional and structural changes in the brain. Researchers also find that the body is “thrown off” as a result of addiction. As a result, those that struggle with addiction often start to crave snack foods, have poor adrenal function and an overall decline in health. But if the underlying biochemical issues are addressed, in theory, this could lead to a substantial change in an individuals behavior.
Because most addicts have depleted and malfunctioning neurotransmitters in the brain, restoring it, offers substantial hope.
Dr Bernard Gesch from the University of Oxford found that behavioral problems in youth offenders contributed greatly from a biochemical deficiency that needed to be restored. Once treated with correct nutrition, criminal offenses reduced by 25 percent.1
Dr. Grant, Medical director of Tully Hill Hospital reported 83 percent success in treating people with addictions by addressing the biochemical deficiencies. Dr. Grant and colleagues discovered that certain nutrients restores the imbalance that continues to fuel addiction. Once it is fixed, behavior improved.2
When the brain has a chemical imbalance, it not only affects the chemical composition of the brain, but also throws off other brains structures as well. Neuroscience calls the brain a “Team of Rivals” because it is a multiple structured system in which different structures “fight” against each other for dominance. For the brain to operate properly, it must be at balance.3
Addictive behaviors involving drugs or pornography work on the emotional system. While the rational brain structure competes to warn the individual of the consequences of such behaviors.4
Because of this imbalance, addiction becomes a pathological problem in which the user’s brain starts to become largely dominated by emotional and impulsive “needs,” over the rational consequences. Addicts often seek the short-term emotional benefits of the addictive experience over the long-term negative consequences.5
This also explains why addicts experience a great deal of ambivalence. An addict is often juggling between two options, “should I quit, or shouldn’t I?” Many times, an addict will break commitment after commitment to the point that family members are fed up. Unfortunately in an addict’s mind, drug-taking starts to gain high motivational value because it staves off withdrawal and provides a respite from negative emotions and cravings.
Change doesn’t really come down to the strength of one’s will, but the motivational factors behind it.
Addict’s may be well intentioned to keep a promise or a commitment to quit, yet when they go without their drug of choice, they experience life without their drug that ushers all sorts of feelings, including depression, anxiety, sickness, inadequacies and frustration, which drug-taking can quickly eliminate, if only for a short time.
To explain this further, addicted animals display exaggerated emotional behavior. In one study, rats pressed a lever hundreds of times just for one dose of a drug. Animals will stop eating and relinquish all normal behaviors just to obtain their drug. This exhaustive effort increased when stress is induced, such as by foot shock.6
Similarly, stress to an addict is like adding fuel to the fire. Successful treatment must include evidence-based coping skills to cope with the pressures of living an abstinent life.