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Addiction; Healing vs. Cure

Updated on October 23, 2016
Dependency usually begins as the brain's way of "self-medicating."
Dependency usually begins as the brain's way of "self-medicating."

A Holistic Approach

Dependency (my preferred description) is not a disease, but a symptom of something that needs your attention. Dependency begins with a brain chemistry imbalance and a harmful coping behavior for deep unresolved painful issues. Dependency has biological, emotional, and spiritual components. If all are not addressed, relapse is probable. Curing dependency requires treatment of all the above components, tailoring treatment to each individual. Addiction, however, is a disease. Unfortunately, the two are often confused.

Healing is not always curing. We can heal addiction and cure dependance. Cure does not mean having to call a sponsor every day for years to stay sober, fighting cravings indefinitely, which is why traditional group meetings don't work for most people. They are "one size fits all" and do not address broken psyches nor broken spirits. They do not help patients discover the unconscious original reason for self medicating. Healing does not manifest itself through force, humiliation, fear, nor dependency. We heal ourselves when we are empowered with the knowledge that we are the masters of our own behaviors. Another word for this is called "responsibility", responding to ones ability. The Universe, or God, is certainly a powerful resource for healing and I use it in my practice, but we are not puppets with no responsibility for our behaviors. To believe that dependency has complete control over us strips us of our inner power. God loves us enough to give us free will and does not make us do anything. Without free will, life makes no sense. Rather than asking God to "take this addiction away," ask, "help me know the first thing I must do to heal my addiction." We first have to work with the brain.

Physiological Causes

Addressing chemical imbalances in the brain that lead to physiological addiction is just as important as counseling. A simple blood test or in-depth questionnaire is all that is required to see which of the four major neurotransmitters, dopamine, acetylcholine, GABA or serotonin, are deficient. These neurotransmitters determine our feelings, thoughts and behaviors. When they are deficient, our emotions and thoughts change, which affects behavior. A knowledgeable holistic doctor prescribes specific supplements and amino acids to help re-build deficient neurotransmitters. An addicted brain is going to be deficient in at least one neurotransmitter. Most people who are dependent are deficient in vitamin D3 and NAC (N-Acetyl Cysteine), including smokers. Both govern cravings (vitamin D also builds the immune system).

After time deficiencies in brain chemicals can lead people to self-medicate. Caffeine is a common example of self-medication. Ever feel the need for that morning jump start? Need a boost from coffee or cola? That "need" can be a deficiency in the excitatory neurotransmitter dopamine. People who are depressed often lack sufficient dopomine, so they self medicate with risky behaviors and/or stimulants. Cocaine is an extreme form of self-medication. Cocaine mimics dopamine. Unfortunately, the brain becomes fooled by the cocaine and reduces its own ability to make natural dopamine. With this increased deficiency in dopamine, the brain creates a demand or craving for more and more cocaine. Production of natural dopamine continues to decrease until its production burns out completely. Hallucinogenic mushrooms work similarly on acetylcholine, ectasy on serotonin, marijuana and Quaaludes on GABA.

Smoking cigarettes helps some people think better because it mimics acetylcholine, another excitatory neurotransmitter. People who crave alcohol or carbohydrates are often deficient in GABA, which is calming, like a tranquilizer. Just because it is legal or a prescription, the outcome is the same; the brain is fooled by the drug. When deficiencies are severe, sometimes a prescribed medication is needed but should only be short term. However, when they are taken over a period of time without correcting the deficiencies, the problem is exacerbated. After a while, the person becomes ill, sometimes chronically. Memory and a sense of well being are affected, or all sorts of aches and pains begin to manifest or get worse.

There are blood tests that can determine biochemical deficiencies. If you do not have insurance coverage, they can be expensive, a couple to few hundred dollars. An assessment similar to Dr. Braverman's, which is a series of questions, takes about a half hour. In my experience, the outcomes of both are nearly the same.

Self-medicating derives from a desire to relieve pain, physical or emotional
Self-medicating derives from a desire to relieve pain, physical or emotional

Prescription Drugs Misuse, Abuse, Overdose & Diversion Video

Psychological, Emotional, Spiritual Componants

The most important path to curing dependency is to understand why you started the addictive behavior. Why did you start drinking, drugs, gambling, etc.? What was it in your life that you did not learn to cope with? That made you feel helpless? What was the original reason? Remember, dependency begins as self medication, a way in which to cope. The key to cure lies in the answer, which lies deep within the unconscious mind.

Without the answer to why a person started self-medicating, that deep reason continues to lurk beneath the surface with its power of dependency. The drug of choice temporarily relieves the pain when no positive alternative is known. For example, "Jane", a shy fifteen year old who suffers from deep emotional turmoil she does not know how to relieve, is at a party and drinks some wine. Because the drink calms her, she has another. After a third glass, she is more talkative and having fun. For now, she forgets her pain. Two things happen. First, alcohol fools the brain into thinking it's GABA, the calming neurotransmitter, so it slows down the production of natural GABA, which was already deficient. Ever had "one too many?" You fall asleep quickly but wake up too early and cannot get back to sleep. That is because the alcohol wears off but the production of natural GABA has been diminished. However, the excitatory neurotransmitters are going strong! Second, Jane becomes "anchored" to, or associated with, alcohol equaling relaxing and feeling better. A pattern of negative behavior begins, psychologically and physiologically. The GABA deficiency she already had becomes worse. The brain, in turn craves alcohol because it has created receptors for it.

To cure dependency one has to discover the true essence of their soul and find their life's purpose, for which spiritual counseling is valuable. This type of counseling looks within for answers to "why am I here?, who am I?, why did this happen?" Spiritual counseling helps us understand who we are, why and where we are meant to be. It helps us learn to connect with the Higher power that created us.

What Causes Deficiencies?

Deficiencies are caused in several ways. Some may be from birth, others are from toxins, even second-hand smoke. Hormones also affect neurochemicals. Because synthetic hormones or hormones from different species, such as Premerin, are configured differently from natural hormones, they have dangerous affects on biochemicals in the body and the brain. But because synthetic hormones can be patented and natural bio-identical hormones cannot, they are preferred by pharmaceutical companies. These hormones are also found in certain foods, which is why it is good to buy organic whenever possible.

The old saying "you are what you eat" is true. What we eat directly affects the brain. Carbohydrates is a fancy word for sugar. They make you feel sleepy and add to the waistline. Stress can make you crave carbohydrates to help you feel calm. Coffee can give you a boost, but too much causes a rebound effect, raising dopamine at the expense of your GABA and serotonin, the two calming neurotransmitters. We feel tired after Thanksgiving dinner because turkey is high in trytophan, which converts to serotonin. It does also contain the amino acid needed for dopamine production.

A good balanced and healthy diet, which includes as much organic as possible, exercise and supplements, feeds the brain, therefore makes you healthier. When the brain is healthy, the usually follows. Rather than focusing on just the physical, remember to take good care of your emotional needs as well. It is important to reduce the stress you can and exercise and meditate to counter the negative effects of stress you cannot reduce. As the ancient Oriental physicians said, "the body is simply the solid part of the mind."

Amazing Treatment Help

There are two medications that are amazing for people who really want to cure dependency. They work by  diminishing and even eliminating cravings, which greatly improves therapeutic outcome.

Suboxone (buprenorphine HCl/naloxone HCl dihydrate sublingual tablets) is a narcotic medication indicated for the treatment of opioid dependence.  It is available only by prescription, and must be taken under a doctor's care as prescribed. Vivitrol is naltrexone Extended-Release Injectable Suspension. It is FDA approved for alcohol dependency but can also work with other addictions, known as "off-label use". What is good about Vivitrol is that, unlike Suboxone, which is taken under the tongue, Vivitrol is a once per month injection, so it cannot be diverted.

Suboxone and Vivitrol work on the neurotransmitters. However, even though patients describe these drugs as "a miracle,"  they only suppress withdrawal symptoms and cravings as long as they are being taken . They in themselves do not cure addiction or dependency. But, without suffering severe withdrawal symptoms, the path to healing is far more realistic. After a time, the doctor in charge will begin helping the patient ween off Suboxone or Vivitrol.

Acupuncture is another proven treatment for addiction. Auricular acupuncture, where pins are placed on the outer part of the ear, is the most efficient.  And because it is done on the ear, it can be done in groups, which makes it more affordable. Of course, it does not have to be done in a group, however, especially in the beginning, a few to several times a week is best. A treatment only takes between 20 to 40 minutes and relieves cravings. 

Healing self-defeating behaviors

There are many helpful therapies and no single one is best for everyone. To help us understand patterns of self-defeating behaviors, NLP (Neuro-linguistic programming) and hypnosis are great. Connecting to the Higher self and one's Creator helps a person learn to look within, without fear, for their own answers. We all have the answers inside; we just need to know find them. Some people are afraid to revisit the past, but how do we know what to avoid or change if we fear looking at our past? This is why we study history. Once we learn that the painful past is just the past, we are able to heal those events and they lose their power over us. We cannot heal what we refuse to see. We can learn from past pain and re-frame it into growth in order to move forward fearlessly. We are the sum of all of our past experiences.


Dependency is a symptom of something that needs attention, usually a combination of a biochemical and emotional imbalances. And because dependency is a combination of biological, emotional and spiritual components, then the best path to curing dependency is by treating the whole person, not just "addiction." 

Acupuncture ear needles


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