I’m posting this comment response because it was too long for the comment section, as I continue to get emails from the therapist contingency asking about dopamine, not to mention the recent onslaught of concocted science regarding the organic or constitutional neurochemistry of drug addicts and how drug-seeking behavior is not only rational and justified but in fact just a “sincere” and no doubt heartwarming effort to achieve normal levels of certain neurotransmitters. Excuse for a sec me while I go beat my head against a wall. Plus I just read an article in the NYT propaganda machine about some poor 6-year old child on both adderall and the anti-psychotic, risperdal. Let me tell you that our doctors and elected officials who sanction this kind of poison as well as the parents who passively follow orders without a single neuron firing (no pun intended) are nuts, or at the very least grossly misguided and negligent.
Yes, indeed. Thanks for reading and reaching out. And you’re certainly right about the fact that addiction crosses all lines, as all drugs act on what neuroscientists refer to as the dopaminergic “reward” system of the brain. There are some rather distinct differences between the drug action of certain classes of drugs. Opiates, for instance, tend to produce greater degrees of physical dependence as they act on the mu and delta opioid receptors, as opposed to the localized kappa receptors, and essentially shower our CNS with relief, allowing for some pretty vicious physical withdrawal.
However, these bio-chemical details are actually what cloud the judgment of many clinicians, but that said, you’d be right, physically speaking, to tell your clients they are all addicted to dopamine. And of course, the statement will most likely be met with total indifference, or perhaps some feigned interest at best.
A larger problem are the scientific presumptions we make regarding treatment, such as the implied notion that a lack of dopamine must be met with a more dopamine, and even healthier actions that raise dopamine levels… when the truth is that increasing dopamine production is not a solution, and is actually one of the primary causes of addicts failing in recovery.
For one, it is exactly the wrong frame of mind, which is to continue to find ways to feel better in sobriety. It is precisely our addiction to comfort that must be dissolved in order to accept life as it is, on life’s terms, as a human being that suffers from time to time.
Two, it fails to address the crux of the mental component of addiction, the reason we cannot stay stopped, which we can refer to as the mental obsession. Addressing addiction scientifically fails to remove our condition of insanity, a condition that may sit latent for months, even years, and then suddenly we go and pick up again for no reason at all.
This is where you get all of that “relapse is part of recovery” bullshit, which fails to understand addiction or how to treat it. I became recovered suddenly as did hundreds of others I know personally. That is, as a result of taking a set of specific actions, the obsession disappeared, or rather, the mind was restored to sanity. None of us suffer from thoughts to use drugs or drink alcohol, and in fact we now repel those things which seek to push us away from God. Most clinicians do not understand that it is the mind, not the body that propels drug use. It is repeated thoughts and ideas that do not respond to ration or reason that cause an addict to pick up. It is not the body of an addict, his genes, or some fictional trigger outside of him. It is his broken and insane mind. There is a chip missing.
So the reason I’m okay is because the obsession is gone. As well, I choose to put my relationship with God above all else. And the reason why I’m not just sober but also successful in life is simply the result of hard work. Addicts who refuse to work hard (in all facets) will fail. Nothing outside of the addict is responsible for them becoming addicts, and nothing outside can fix them. Same is true for people who fail in general.
There are no grey areas. There is no “recovering.” We’re either okay or not okay. Sane or insane. Chip restored or chip still missing. Power or no power. Completely recovered or not at all. It is all or none for us given the condition of insanity, aka the broken mind.
So considering addicts are essentially preoccupied with self and self-comfort, the trick is to be okay without depending on some adjusted homeostasis, if you will – the condition of needing above-normal amounts of dopamine to be okay.
Finally, I personally would never work with with anyone who was smoking pot, let alone on suboxone. That combination guarantees your client is high as shit (which I’m assuming isn’t news to you), and therefore, nothing can be accomplished, in my view. I’ve read some parent bloggers who say that we must help medicate addicts while they undergo therapy and learn how to think straight, but the statement alone is so ridiculous on its face. There is no thinking straight when an addict is medicated. And even then, the mind of an addict is generally so warped and twisted that we must usually begin to act our way into right thinking and not the other way around, as CBT would have you believe.
My experience is that really bad addicts must have some sort of profound spiritual experience to fully recover, some sort of transformation or conversion, whether sudden or gradual. These experiences often defy scientific theory and yet, they are real. Many such experiences have been documented, as in William James’, The Varieties of Religious Experience