Sunday, September 29, 2013

Change and Dealing with the Reptilian Brain

When someone begins the study of addiction and the biology and the science of addiction, one of the first things that we learn is that addiction is a disease of the brain. There are many things that we still do not know, principally why some people become afflicted with addiction and others do not. We have learned that virtually all people who have severe addictions also have suffered severe trauma, occasionally emotional trauma, physical abuse or a traumatic brain injury. However, not all people who suffer from trauma also suffer from addiction. So the question is "why do some 'get it' and not others?" We do not know exactly what causes it either. However, there is a lot that we do know.
We do know which parts of the brain are affected by addictive behaviors and chemical substances. So, for example, in the case of the alcoholic or drug addict, we know that the chemicals act on the brain stem or the reptilian part of the brain. This is the area of the brain that controls our animal instincts for food, fight or flight and pro-creation or sex. Thus, the first addictions and perhaps the roots of all addictions are food addiction, sex addiction and fear.
Now here is the part where the interventionist is the most important in getting someone to accept help for their addiction. With addiction, the brain is satisfied temporarily when the addict gets his or her high from alcohol or drugs, the high from cake or sweets, or the latest sexual conquest or winning horse at the track. But soon the beast needs to be fed. When family or friends say, you need to change. What happens to the addict's brain? It hears "no more alcohol, drugs, gambling, compulsive eating or sex, etc" and goes into "fight or flight" out of fear. I have had interventions where many people fight verbally or occasionally and once with a gun. I have had a few who take flight on foot or in a car. But it is all fear overriding reason. What needs to happen is that the addicted loved one needs to hear "HOPE - FREEDOM - SAFETY SECURITY NEEDS MET IN ANOTHER WAY - A HEALTHIER SUSTAINING WAY." This is done through acknowledging the fear and addressing it in a non-threatening way and appealing to the basic response of "Here is how your needs will be met now."

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