Amarah's Corner: Prevention of Opioid Addiction, Part 2

There are three dominant brain systems in addiction: opioid attachment reward system, the dopamine-based incentive-motivation apparatus, and self-regulation. All are of the prefrontal cortex and stress response mechanism.

In the infant’s brain, natural opioids are released if the baby has happy, attuned emotional interactions. This endorphin surge promotes the attachment-relationship and development of the child’s opioid and dopamine circuity. Stress reduces the number of opiate and dopamine receptors needed to develop essential drives such as love, connection, pain relief, pleasure, incentive, motivation, and affects attachment quality.

Infants need consistent, secure interactions, otherwise maldevelopment occurs. “In experiments, loss of an important attachment appears to lead to less of an important neurotransmitter in the brain. Once these circuits stop functioning normally, it becomes more and more difficult to activate the mind. Humans need to hold and cuddle and stroke their babies. This will create bliss for the infant” Dr. Steven Dubovsky.

Studies of drug addicts repeatedly demonstrate extraordinarily high percentages of various childhood trauma including physical, sexual and emotional abuse. In the renowned research, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), 10 separate categories of painful circumstances including family violence, parental divorce, drug/alcohol abuse in the family, death of a parent, and physical or sexual abuse, were identified in thousands of people. The correlation between these figures and future substance abuse was calculated. For each ACE, the risk for early initiation of substance abuse increased two, to four times. Subjects with five or more ACEs had seven, to 10 times greater risk for substance abuse than those with none.

The ACE research concluded that nearly two-thirds of intravenous drug use is attributed to abusive, traumatic childhood events. The population surveyed was a healthy, stable one. A third or more were college graduates and many had some university experience. The Rocky Mountain Prevention Research Center will begin ACE research in the SLV soon. Please support their work.

The system where we live, function, and die, cannot be understood in isolation and is better understood from its physical and biological context. From an ecological perspective, the addiction process does not happen accidentally, nor pre-programmed by heredity. Addiction is a product of development in a certain context of the brain and continues to be environmentally maintained. Ecologically, addiction is a changeable, evolving-dynamic that expresses lifelong interaction in social and emotional surroundings within our internal, psychological-space.

Healing includes the internal psychological climate, teaming-up with behavioral psychologists, and the addict must work with his/her beliefs, memories, mind-states, and emotions. This is not a disease ‘cure’ but can create new internal/external resources with support that will help satisfy a person’s genuine needs. New brain-circuits can develop causing positive, adaptive response and behavior. 

Neuroscience research indicates that the brain remains use-dependent our entire lives, not just in childhood. There are two ways to promote healthy brain development. Both are essential to healing addiction: change the external environment and modify the internal environment. 

The Lancet, the New England Journal of Medicine, and other peer-reviewed journals, state that new cutting-edge programs and policies treating addicts have decreased human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), Hepatitis-C-Virus (HCV) and infectious diseases. If an addict can work and take care of self and family, we have less health care expenditures, less emergency room visits, and less criminal activity.

“The key to the transformational potential of bare attention lies in the deceptively simple injunction to separate out one’s reactions from the core events themselves,” Mark Epstein, psychiatrist and Buddhist meditation instructor.

“Much of the time, it turns out, everyday minds are in a state of reactivity. We take this for granted, we do not question our automatic identifications with our reactions, and we experience ourselves at the mercy of an often hostile or frustrating outer world or an overwhelming or frightening inner one. With bare attention, we move from this automatic identification with our fear or frustration to a vantage point from which the fear or frustration are attended to with the same dispassionate interest as anything else. There is enormous freedom to be gained from such a shift.”

Instead of running from difficult emotions, or hanging on to enticing ones, bare attention has the potential to dissolve the motivations that drive the addicted mind.

Painful early experiences program both the neurophysiology of addiction, and distressing psychological states, that addiction promises to relieve. A child can overcome sexual violation but will be debilitated if he/she believes they deserved, or caused, the abuse. A neglected child may be helpless, but the damage comes if the defining belief is that helplessness is real and permanent. The greatest damage done by neglect, trauma, or emotional loss is not the immediate inflicted pain, but the long-term distortions induced in the child’s development. Let’s begin preventing addiction by caring for the baby in the crib. ~Barbara Troy

Thank You, Dr. Troy!!

Remember, Jesus Loves you and JESUS IS LORD!