3 min read

When are we going to start talking about addiction?

At the desk, 6:39 a.m.

I've been sitting here staring at the question. We read about it every day. This famous person or that famous person, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, died from their addiction. If you want the Biggest Loser, the conversation about food addiction is front and center in the battle against our growing epidemic of obesity. That's not to mention the more than 38,000 people killed in the Mexican Drug Wars and the Mexican Cartels fight to meet the United States pressing need for illegal drugs. And of course, we can't talk about the 4.5 million or more people displaced by push pull of the United States addicted populous - Grow more cocaine! We need cocaine! We're launching a war on drugs, you filthy drug growers!

When are we going to start talking about addiction?

All right. All right. Before we can really talk about addiction, we should take a gander at treatment. Take it from someone who worked in this system for more than 10 years, alcohol and drug rehabilitation is a scam. The success rate of the very very best treatment program in the world is a little more than 12% (some estimates are 20%, but that's a pipe dream). In patient rehab costs almost $3,000 a day with a standard stay of at least 28 days and their success rates are a lot less than 12%. To put it in other terms, if rehab was a drug, it would never ever be approved by the FDA. (What's the most effective treatment? AA/12-step recovery programs, mostly because a person has to choose to be there in the first place.)

The problem is that we don't understand addiction very well. Many of the well believed theories (people use to mask pain) turn out not to stand up to clear scientific scrutiny. Yes, when someone experiences a significant trauma, they use food or alcohol or drugs to mask the pain, to get through one more day. And, they usually stop.

Some research points to nutritional deficiencies. However, anyone who drinks or eats one thing and one thing only for a long period of time is going to have a nutritional deficiency. Certainly, great nutrition and specific supplements can help support a recovery effort but they aren't the reason.

What do we think addiction is?

Habit. Classical conditioning. That's what the best, brightest, smartest researchers believe. The truth is that people use drugs and alcohol or food because that's what they use. While other stressed people write in journals, go for walks, run with the dog, play with kids to relieve stress, they use drugs, alcohol, or food.

Feeling/Situation/Stimulus (good or bad) = Response (using drugs)

What is the most effective treatment for addiction? Entire life change so that when you are placed in specific situations you can choose a different response. Family intervention where every single member of the family gets on board with addiction support and treatment. Eliminate everyone person, place, and situation where you've used drugs and alcohol or food previously. Just stop seeing those people, forever.

But here's the real problem - once you've been using drugs and alcohol or food for a while, your brain changes. A food addict, for example, usually has clogged arteries to the brain. Their brains get less oxygen and blood which makes making good decisions difficult. Cocaine specifically affects the area of the brain that makes decisions. Hard to make a good decision about using cocaine when your brain is damaged in the decision making area.

And any change is very very hard. There aren't tricks or tips to making change work. It's just damned hard to stick to.

Is addiction hopeless? No, of course not. Addiction is a natural part of the human condition. Rather than experience life in it's most real and raw form, we'd rather numb the edges a bit. There's nothing more normal than that.

But first, we have to start talking about addiction! You'd be surprised at what simply talking about addiction can do to help. I'm not saying you should go around pointing out people's addictions like addiction police. Instead, when people talk about Whitney Houston, for example, you say, "Addiction is a terrible thing" rather than whatever the media excuse d' jour. If you're an author, include an addict in your list of characters.

Limit the time you watch television, cut back on what you eat, stop mindless web surfing, watch where and when you tend to fuzz out. Start with yourself.

Start talking about addiction.