New approach will ‘starve addictions/nurture life’
The phrase “matter over mind” is awkward to say, let alone to think. “Mind over matter” flows much more easily. Yet our failure to recognize the biological origins of behavior may well doom many alcoholics and addicts to, at worst, repeated treatment failure, crime, and death; at best, with recovery, a sober life of depression and anxiety, not to mention illnesses stemming from excessive use of sugar, tobacco, and caffeine.
I recall with mixed feelings my years in the Air Force where I facilitated substance abuse inpatient encounter groups. The goal then was personal growth and awareness. Our assumptions? Increased awareness brings increased responsibility. Increased responsibility brings greater empowerment to avoid abusive substances. We were only partly right.
Newer research is showing that substance abuse problems are caused by biological imbalances that disrupt the normal workings of brain cells. Abusive substances compensate for the lack of specific neurotransmitters.
The problem is not fundamentally an emotional or psychological one. In order to become truly well, brain chemistry needs rebalancing. In one study, individually targeted nutritional intervention empowered an unheard of 80 percent of alcoholics and addicts to not only remain abstinent for two years, but to avoid what is commonly known as “white knuckle sobriety,” the feeling you are grasping a ledge on the 70th floor of an office building.
Gordon Lightfoot was right to pen the following: “Sometimes I think it’s a shame, when I get feeling better, when I’m feeling no pain.” What we didn’t know then is that the pain, while certainly influenced by psychological stressors, is fundamentally a biological problem, a problem that can in many cases be remedied with targeted nutrition to restore the proper functioning of the brain.
More of the same will get us more of the same here in Nevada County; that is, until effective, biologically based interventions are made available to those with substance abuse problems.
It appears as if we are becoming a model community for “meltdown,” a program that can save lives in the long run. Maybe it is time we became a model community for “starve addiction/nurture life,” an approach that would save lives now. Katie Couric, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
David Moyer of Penn Valley is a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, a clinical social worker, and an author who writes about nutrition and mental illness. His latest book is “Too Good to be True? Nutrients Quiet the Unquiet Brain – A Four Generation Bipolar Odyssey.”
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