Recently The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) changed the definition of “addiction.” Addiction, no longer viewed as a simple disease, is now a “primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry.”
In other words, addiction is now a brain disorder, not driven by personality or psychological processes, but an unbalanced, disorganized brain that is seeking balance.
Many professionals are concerned about the implications of the new definition. Some believe that it does nothing to decrease the stigma of addiction. Though de-stigmatizing addiction may have been part of the intent of the change in definition, it is the least important aspect of it.
The fact of the matter is if our intention is to assist addicts in overcoming their addictions, then we need to place our attention on the causal point — a dysfunctional brain. Thus far, placing our attention on personality and psychological factors has helped only a small percentage of addicts. Even the most effective interventions, like 12-step processes or residential treatment programs have only minimal to moderate long-term success rates.
In our experience, the most effective strategies combine supportive processes like 12-step programs, short-term medication regimens, psychotherapy, family education and more.
Recognizing that addiction’s roots are brain-based helps us to understand the depths of the problem, enabling an opportunity to design even more effective strategies. In the case of addiction (and many other emotional and physical afflictions) it is best not to take an either/or approach, but instead a both/and approach.
Along with traditional treatment options there are some alternative strategies that our clients have found helpful in getting to the underlying energy associated with addiction.
We will only briefly describe them here. It is for you to investigate them further should you have interest. One methodology is contained in a book by Michael Brown titled The Presence Process. The other is a new technology called Brainwave Optimization.
The Presence Process
The Presence Process is a self driven process that enables you to work with trapped emotional energy that inhibits your authentic self from emerging and creating the need for self-medicating behaviors. It is a gentle and noninvasive process that does, however, require a strong commitment. We have had several clients who have found The Presence Process a most powerful and beneficial means to significant changes.
There are now several different new neuro-technologies that can be very helpful with addiction and other mental health issues. One noninvasive approach is Brainwave Optimization, which enables the brain to observe itself in an optimized condition, leading it to change to a balanced and harmonic state. We have witnessed individuals with recalcitrant mental health conditions improve dramatically with the use of this technology, lowering the need for medications, freeing themselves to live more fulfilling lives.
The above processes can be helpful for all mental health conditions and many physical problems. It is important to note that before embarking on either, the addict may be required to undergo conventional treatment options to stop substance abuse.
The Presence Process is available through most book retailers and an audio version is available through Namaste Publishing. Information on Brainwave Optimization can be found at www.brainstatetech.com. Keep in mind that most alternative strategies are not supported by rigorous research. As always, an appropriate mental health and/or medical consultation should be received prior to utilizing any form of treatment.— Ed Bloch, LSCSW, and Jena Bloch, LCMFT, are directors of the Life Enrichment Center in Lawrence.