How do you greet readers after being gone for so long? I wondered “Did you miss me?“, and came to the conclusion that I was not present enough in your lives to allow you to miss me. Thus I know how to rectify your absent feelings of joy in regards to my return.
I shall give you a post the likes of which you have never seen….
Or maybe you will have seen something like it and call me a liar.
Which to that accusation I say…
“Don’t call people names; it is uncouth, you Recalcitrant, Facebook Addicted, Mostly Hairless Primate.”
I’m sorry you had to hear that with your eyes, but it was for your own good. You know I don’t want to hurt you. Sometimes you just need to hear some hard (read: true but, beside the point unless you are not a primate) truths.
See, I have already accomplished my goal of obfuscation (to render obscure, unclear, or unintelligible.) You are most assuredly unsure as to what this post has to do with addiction.
Addiction is a very complex subject (duh).
There are many types addiction, they can blend and mix in wondrous fashion (strange word choice). I will stick to a few basic cases of addiction, certain types of drugs, viewing screens, certain foods, certain actions. So now that I have been slightly vague, let me be abundantly clear. I am talking about alcohol (it is a drug), heroin, nicotine, barbiturates, ecstasy, TV, pornography, Facebook, sugar related food items, coffee, gambling, risk taking.
Now many of you are aware or even familiar with the twelve step program. It is the most commonly used method of breaking addiction. Its goal is to help those who use it regain control of their lives. Another important thing addicts keep in mind is that they are always addicts. They may be sober but there is no such thing as a cure.
This is where it gets interesting, so there are different ways of being addicted. You can have a physical dependency (like you see with caffeine), psychological dependency, a combination of the two, or an epigenetic restructuring of your nerve cells. When addressing addiction, it is important to identify how someone is addicted, not just to what. Throwing the 12 step program at everything is equivalent to using sunscreen to prevent every type of burn.
“But Doctor Bizhair!!!” you say, “your comparison was between repairing damage and preventing something, why are you comparing apples and oranges?”
Could you please stop interrupting me with perfectly relevant questions, Dear Reader?
It is making me start to question whether or not you are just blindly accepting what I say. Are you using critical thinking? Are you? How you disappoint me. I wanted you to just accept what I was saying, but I guess I will need to go further in depth, such is your punishment for being curious and taking a bite of that quince.
So yes, I am comparing apples and oranges, which are both sweet fruits that grow on trees. Sure they are different but as far as things go, they are more similar than they are different.
My point was to not use a one size fits all method, that’s it.
And now I’m going to say my piece about a blanket method which should be used in everyone.
Based on this research (insert research),one could come to the conclusion that a certain hormone is important, and so the presence of friends and family is important (pets can be family). Not just from a motivation perspective. But from a neuro-chemical perspective.
I am going to be talking about a single hormone and its relation to addiction and the potential to help get past addiction.
The hormone that I refer to is known commonly as “the love hormone”, OXYTOCIN. It is released during certain situations but could be more accurately be described as a trust hormone.
There is a huge, I mean YUGE amount of science that is currently working on this. And you know that I love all of my readers, which is why I am going to dumb it down for you so don’t have to spend hours reading the papers, to leave wondering what language you just attempted to convince yourself you understood.
Now that I have insulted you by calling you dumb,
(Side note, why does dumb mean dumb? It is a terrible insult. Dumb means you can’t speak. Your problem is you can’t read scientific documents without 20 wikipedia pages opened. Thought for food.)
I can begin explaining the relationship. Addiction from a scientific standpoint is rather cool, at least in how an action or a substance can radically alter the brain. Without getting technical, addiction rewires the brain’s pleasure/reward system. It then hijacks your mind to focus on the pleasure/reward system as if it is needed for survival. I suppose it is actually rather insidious. But only certain types of stimulation are capable of doing this. I already listed some common ones, so don’t make me do it again. It needs saying even if it has not already been said, addiction affects a lot of lives. It is destructive, and worst of all it is hard to tell where the addiction ends and the person begins. Those with addictions often times cannot control themselves because its really hard to fight survival instincts. People love to blame others for their weakness, then judge them as if they are somehow superior. The sad fact is that some people have brains more likely to become addicted. So this is important, all jokes aside.
There is however promising research showing that oxytocin can be used to help undo the restructuring caused by addictive behaviors and substances. It causes the neurons to become sensitive to the drugs (a good thing actually), which might allow brain chemistry to be restored to a more natural equilibrium. And this is really cool and sciencey. But I spent all this time talking so that I could help you help others, not get into the chemistry and neurobiology (even though I want to). I want you to have the power to help others. This is where it is important.
We tend to shun drug addicts and anyone with an addiction. Which is where we get it critically wrong. Sending people to clinics can help somewhat, but returning to surroundings that re-enforced additions leads to relapse. So instead of changing environments, we can do a simple thing.
The current research shows that injected oxytocin can begin to help undo the chemical reprogramming. This is great, but until an approved treatment comes around this is no help to the average person (most likely in your life).
Oxytocin isn’t just released during birth, sex, touching, and monogamous bonding. It is also released in social settings. Friendly social settings. It is that simple. You can help re-rewire someone’s brain by being a friend and not shunning and judging them for an initial bad choice.
That is all it takes, don’t be a jerk (PG friendly term), if you have a friend, try to be there for them. I understand there is a point where it is too draining to continue. But stagnation is the enemy of soberness. Do not let them wallow. If you have a big group of friends, use them to support the person. The worst thing you can do is shun them. Also if you are doing things that cause them to relapse, maybe you should get others to help them, or stop doing those things. Of all the things that AA gets right, the group and sponsor are definitely in the right vein. Also pets can help to because petting a dog (or cat) for 5 minutes can increase your oxytocin in a measurable way. For those with addiction, tell your friends, it will be hard and embarrassing but they can help.
Please Remember: Friendship is Magic
Post Rant Script (PRS)
I graduated with a BS (you know what I mean) in Chemistry with a focus in biochemistry, and I love Wikipedia. I use it as a starting place for many chemicals and ideas I have never heard of. So if you open 20 wikis when reading, I applaud you. It means you care about learning.