Addiction is one of our most costly public health problems. What’s happening and what can we DO?
To start off Part 2 of this article, here’s just a partial list of contemporary Addiction Types on the MyAddiction.com website: Alcohol Addiction, Ambien Addiction, Amphetamine Addiction, Benzodiazepine Addiction, Caffeine Addiction, Cocaine Addiction, Crack Addiction, Eating Disorders, Ecstasy Addiction, Gambling Addiction, Heroin Addiction, Internet Addiction, Marijuana Addiction, Meth Addiction, Nicotine Addiction, Opioid Addiction, Hydrocodone Addiction, Methadone Addiction, Oxycontin Addiction, Percocet Addiction, Vicodin, Pornography Addiction, Prescription Drug Addiction, Ritalin Addiction, Sex Addiction, Shoplifting, Shopping Addiction, Smoking Addiction, Sugar Addiction, Teenage Addictions, Texting Addiction, TV Addiction, Video Game Addiction, Work Addiction, Xanax Addiction..
Whether it’s Love, Sex, or Alcohol, virtually all addictions share a similar profile. People who are addicted experience obsessive - compulsive cravings, desire or behaviors, producing harmful consequences, feelings of helplessness, powerlessness, shame and guilt over them and an increasingly out-of-control, unmanageable lifestyle.
Now, as you probably read in Part I of this article, Addicted to Love, or Sex and ADD, too?, the addictions are turning up in multiples. Research studies from UCLA revealed that 23 to 26% of males diagnosed as sex addicts were also found to suffer from adult ADHD. But more sex addicts – a whopping 67% -- felt that they had ADHD symptoms, more than were professionally diagnosed with the condition.
What could be contributing to so many interlocking problems?
1. Neurotransmitters. An imbalance in neurotransmitters, the nervous system’s chemical messengers secreted through the reward centers in the body. Dopamine, for example, works with norepinephrine to regulate reward reinforcement and motivation-to-action. Imbalanced dopamine leads to cravings such as caffeine, speed, cocaine, marijuana, sex, chocolate, tobacco, alcohol, aspartame, sugars and starches. Sound familiar?
2. Digestion. Digestion is 80% of our immunity. When the body doesn’t have the minerals, enzymes or good flora it needs to digest food properly, partially broken down food particles get absorbed through a weakened intestinal wall. This is called leaky gut. The body doesn’t recognize the food because it’s the wrong kind of fuel, and starts to attack what it perceives as foreign invaders, creating an autoimmune response and inflammation.
3. Probiotics. Beneficial bacteria in our soil and our gastrointestinal tract act like proactive antioxidants that transform and activate many nutrients, regulate hormonal and other processes, deactivate waste products and reduce inflammation.
They’re essential to good digestion and act as a protective buffer to support the body’s first line of defense by, among other things, actually crowding out the bad bacteria.
Many things, including antibiotics, sugar, alcohol, chemicals, acidity, stress, heavy metals, fluorine and bioengineered foods destroy or reduce friendly flora, producing what’s called dysbiosis.
4. Toxicity / Excitotoxicity. Other things contribute to more stress on our digestive and immune systems. The buildup of waste products from poorly absorbed food and bad bacteria depress cellular and other functions. Many chemicals, like additives and artificial sweeteners, deplete minerals like magnesium and zinc, and actually trigger or overstimulate nerve cells, which some practitioners believe is part of the hyperactivity and impulsiveness involved in ADHD and other addictive syndromes. Our modern diet is notoriously low in glutathione, an essential element that helps to detoxify cells.
5. Poor Nutrition. Many practitioners now acknowledge that addiction actually coincides with a condition of nutritional deficiency or starvation. In effect, like obesity, it is being overfed or overstimulated, yet undernourished. Whether it lays the foundation for or stems from the addiction, poor nutrition is made worse by consuming an imbalanced diet with too much high calorie, low nutrient junk food, too many processed starchy/sugary carbohydrates, inadequate protein and not enough vegetables.
6. Chemicals. Over 80,000 chemicals are used in the food and farming system, not all tested or listed on product labels -- a fact prompting many wary consumers to say, “If I can’t pronounce it, I don’t need it.“ But while our FDA/USDA/EPA are charged with protecting our health, manufacturers are required to do the “safety” checking, and disturbing health/environmental problems with everything from additives to pesticides, from aspartame to glutamate to glyphosate, lead us to ask: Is the fox guarding the hen house?
7. GMO’s? Americans now unknowingly eat 193 lbs of genetically modified foods a year, since they are not required to be labeled. With no safety testing and less than 10 years use, alarming problems are emerging in soil, animals, plants and humans from widespread usage of glyphosate on 100’s of millions of acres of corn, soybeans, sugar beets. While insisting they’re “safe,” why did the food and agricultural conglomerates just spend $45 million just to defeat California’s Prop 37, that would mandate labeling of all genetically modified food ingredients?
Normal psychological analysis, like most of medicine, takes a “one problem/one solution” approach. But what about the increasing rates of multiple addictive health problems now showing up involving both substances and behaviors? “We need a wider, more comprehensive approach to multiple addiction diagnosis and treatment,“ says Clinical Psychologist, Dr. James Slobodzien.
“Many progressive behavioral medicine practitioners have come to realize that although a disorder may be primarily physical or psychological in nature, it’s always a disorder of the whole person - not just of the body or the mind,” Dr. Slobodzien adds.
So what can we DO about it?
Consider some of these suggestions to keep from becoming another statistic in this rising tide of addictions sweeping our world:
*Nourish yourself. Eat fresh, whole, organic, when possible, food in season, ideally from around where you live. Jettison the addictive junk food, processed carbohydrates
*Choose a balanced lifestyle. Good food, good company, exercise, sleep, relaxation, being social.
*Don’t just bury your feelings. Hiding, spacing out or superseding your body’s natural signals when you’re under stress could be setting you up for trouble. Talk about or express your feelings instead of suppressing them. (Not on the dog.)
*Is it what you’re eating, or what’s eating you? Observe yourself, become conscious when you start getting “cravings” or those “just got to have” feelings. Be honest with yourself. Are you really hungry for that donut or deep down feel empty, upset or rejected?
*Avoid emotional eating. Read my comments as one of the experts on the panel:
When Food Is Love: 7 Expert Ways to Combat Emotional Eating
*Get Help. If you think, feel or know that you or someone you love is heading for an addiction, get informed, reach out.
Referral: call Nicole Browne, Pacific Hills Recovery Options, 949.207.7967
Professional: James Slobodzien, Psy.D., CSAC, is a Clinical Psychologist, certified mental health and substance abuse counselor specializing in substance and behavioral addictions.