Treating Addiction by Healing the Brain
For addicts to recover they must overcome the damage wrought on the brain by drugs and alcohol. This healing, done at the cellular level, contributes greatly to lasting sobriety. Addiction is progressive and chronic; treatment, to be effective, must start from the inside and be centered in long-term healing. Even after drug and alcohol use stops, individuals feel plagued by lasting symptoms of a brain chemically altered. Biochemical repair provides the tools needed for healing.
In the brain, drug or alcohol use disrupts the intricate system of neurons, neurotransmitters and synapses which regulates everything from thoughts to emotions to sensations. High-level thinking and decision-making only happen when communication occurs unhindered between different parts of the brain. Chemicals in the brain such as serotonin, dopamine and glycine, known as neurotransmitters, keep a delicate balance between strong impulses and thoughtful decision making. Dopamine plays a role in human survival by rewarding the brain with feelings of pleasure for life-staining behaviors like eating and sex. The amino acid glycine is a neurotransmitter that provides balance by moderating impulses.
The “high” in drug and alcohol use is actually a prolonged flooding of chemicals such as dopamine in the brain. Brain chemistry is altered as the brain tries to adjust to the unnatural prolonged flood of neurotransmitters the drugs cause. For example, a typical release of dopamine is followed by blocking of the dopamine, but drugs bind to the receptors and prevent that blockage. Brain function and even the elemental structure are changed by prolonged use.
Over time the brain, seeking homeostasis, adjusts to the presence of the drug, and more and more of the drug is needed to compensate. When the drug or alcohol is gone, the individual is left suffering as the brain can no longer function as before. Drug and alcohol use alters brain chemistry and damages cells. The ramifications of these changes ripple through the whole body, every aspect of life, and make it difficult for the individual to function. Regulation of sleep, emotions, impulse control, and even automatic functions such as breathing, heart rate, and sensory processing are damaged. Memory, cognitive function and concentration suffer.
Getting clean is half the battle, the other half is overcoming the lingering symptoms of altered brain chemistry, including depression, insomnia, and anxiety, which lead to relapse.
Gone are the days when addicts were considered weak or lacking willpower, we now know that these cravings stem from imbalances in brain chemistry.
Biochemical repair addresses the deficits and excesses in the brain, providing relief and promoting healing. The process begins with a medical team made up of physicians, nurses, and nutritionists evaluating lab tests, health histories, and information gleaned through discussions with the individuals seeking treatment. This customized approach ensures each person receives specific, effective treatment. People often feel immediate relief from symptoms. More importantly, the relief is enduring.
In biochemical repair, IV therapy and oral supplements deliver the needed amino acids, minerals, essential fatty acids, and vitamins that help create balance in the brain. Zinc and magnesium, two minerals essential to brain health can be provided if needed. Specific amino acids, such as GABA, identified by the medical team provide missing brain chemicals necessary to health. By using these natural means, the underlying causes are addressed not just the symptoms. The relief provided by biochemical repair frees the individual to concentrate fully on their recovery with a clear head.
A complete addiction treatment plan includes talk therapy, life-skills classes, nutrition counseling, family counseling, and biochemical restoration. Long-term sobriety is threatened by the vestiges of drug and alcohol use—constant cravings, insomnia, anxiety, depression. Conquering these symptoms can only be done by targeting the underlying causes resulting from imbalances in brain chemistry. No additional drugs are used to get off drugs, instead the brain is supported to heal and repair naturally. Biochemical repair holds the key to individualized and effective addiction treatment.
Joe Eisele, CACIII, NCAC, is a nationally certified alcohol and drug therapist with specialized training in intervention techniques from the Johnson Institute. Joe had been treating addictions in Colorado, USA for over 34 years. He is the clinical director of InnerBalance Health Center in Loveland, Colorado.
- The Next Generation in Brain Recovery and Neuroregeneration, Timothy M. Marshall Ph.D., Carol L. Henricks M.D., Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, Vol 22, No 2
- How We Get Addicted, Michael L. Lemonick, Time, July 5, 2007