I had the pleasure of attending a workshop in Austin last week, given by Texas Star Recovery. I heard 3 excellent talks and one interesting panel discussion. The keynote speaker was Carlton Erickson, Ph.D, Director of University of Texas Addiction Science Research & Education Center…He has recently written a book “The Science of Addiction”. Here’s what I learned from Carlton:
1) What we call addiction today is really dysregulation of the brain’s mesolimbic system.
2) Addiction is really a misnomer, nonscientific and confusing.
3) There are actually two drug problems – abuse and dependence – abuse is
intentional and voluntary, dependence is pathological and not under control – it is a brain disease. Dependence says “I can’t stop without help.”
4) People with a brain disease really need help!
5) Recovery can be defined! it is a) a voluntarily maintained lifestyle
characterized by sobriety b) personal health and c) citizenship.
Erickson says (with apologies to Dr. Erickson for this primitive explanation)
that dependence occurs because of neurochemical dysregulations of the neurotransmitter systems. Interestingly, a person’s drug of choice reveals vulnerable brain chemicals (or neurotransmitter systems). For instance a person who prefers LSD, can be shown to be vulnerable in serotonin; He says, “physiologically some people ‘need’ alcohol,nicotine, cocaine, etc.” The problem apparently occurs at the cell level, therefore, treatment has to occur at the cell level.
Actually, the brain dysregulation is the disease – the addiction is only a symptom.
We are not really sure what causes the neurotransmitter systems to become dysregulated. Perhaps genetic vulnerability, exposure to the drug and other aspects of one’s environment all come into play. But the bottom line is that it is a brain chemistry disease and addicting drugs match the transmitter system that is not normal.
What is most interesting is in terms of treatment. Traditional 12 step programs, behavioral counseling, medications, and even talk therapy appear to change brain chemistry and all seem to work at the cell level somehow! What Hope!
The second speaker, Dr. Jason Powers, Corporate Medical Officer TRS Behavioral Inc. spoke on meditation. There are many,many studies on the benefits of meditation. Powers reminded us that meditation changes brain chemistry as well. Hence our 11th step “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve conscious contact with God as we understood Him praying only for knowledge of His will and how to carry it out” had a lot of inherent wisdom in treating addiction – or “brain disease”.
The third speaker was Shelley Uram, MD, Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Arizona College of Medicine. Dr. Uram was entertaining as well as informative. The gist of her talk was that trauma work changes brain chemistry…YAY!
I will share more about her talk in my next post…..
LET THE TRANSFORMATION BEGIN!
If you are suffering from brain dysregulation (i.e. addictions, maybe I can help. I have over 15 years of experience helping people with all kinds of addictions! you can contact me at 210.287.4002; or visit my website at www.stephanieecke.com.