The Science of Integrative Addiction Recovery
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New science shows that addiction, like other conditions in the brain, can be healed.
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For decades, the accepted belief in the addiction treatment community, including the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) and National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), is that 1) addiction is a chronic and incurable disease, comparable to other diseases as such as asthma, diabetes and hypertension, and 2) that the addiction treatment is a life-long symptom management program that includes some combination of pharmaceutical drugs, behavioral and cognitive therapies.
What if this belief, well-meaning as it is, is incomplete or even wrong? What if a person can be healed of the disease of addiction? Scientific discoveries in biology and neuroscience have provided new data that show we can change our DNA, create new neural networks and grow new brain neurons throughout our lifetime. The study of epigenetics shows us that our genes are not locked into a predetermined and unchangeable blueprint at birth. If you change your beliefs, you can re-inform your own DNA to heal and shape your own biology and create the life you want. This means the old adage “once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic” may not be true.
Recent studies in neuroscience are also challenging and disproving the old paradigm that the brain is a fixed and hardwired organ and that it is limited to a set number of neurons in one’s lifetime. Alberto Villoldo, Ph.D and David Perlmutter, M.D., F.A.C.N., in their book Power Up Your Brain, provide compelling new scientific data about neuroplasticity and neurogenesis.
Neuroplasticity shows that the brain can rewire itself and create new neural networks, which allows us to overcome traumatic instinctual and emotional responses as well as adapt to brain injuries. Neurogenesis means that the human brain has the ability to create new neurons throughout a person’s life and allows for the possibility of healing neurodegenerative disorders preciously considered incurable such as Alzheimer’s. A brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protective brain hormone, is important in the creation of the new neurons, as well as protecting existing neurons. External stress caused by drug abuse and environmental toxins as well as internal stress has been scientifically proven to be a cause of brain degeneration. Science has proven it is possible to increase the levels of (BDNF) through non-pharmaceutical, holistic interventions. This means that the brain, like other organs in the body, can regenerate itself.
Following a specific regimen that includes, among other things, meditation to alter brainwave activity, supplements that feed the brain and focused mental activity, a person can alter their brain hardware.
We have been documenting changes in the brain activity of clients of our integrative Addiction Recovery program through the use of brain mapping technology. Today, in addition to the feedback we receive from our clients and their loved ones about the effectiveness of our program, this technology is providing evidence to support the fascinating new science of addiction recovery.
So, if we look to the past, we may accept that addiction is a chronic, progressive and incurable disease. If, however, we continue to look at the data being generated in the fields of epigenetics, neuroplasticity and neurogenesis, we may find that addiction, like other conditions in the brain, can be healed.