Saturday, September 15, 2018

Learning About the Science of Addiction

I happen to be one of those people who likes to learn lots of stuff. I like to read books, watch "how to" videos on YouTube, and am a big fan of TED Talks. That doesn't mean, however, I've ever been considered an outstanding student or that I was ever the head of the class. In fact, far from it! I just enjoy learning new things.

For folks in recovery from drug or alcohol problems, learning about how addiction and recovery works is really important. And yes, that means you need to do a little research. (Yikes!). But to be educated about the science of addiction and recovery can be really enlightening, and is an integral part of maintaining good, solid recovery.

My work with clients (as well as my own experience) has taught me why this is so critical and important: When people in recovery understand that addiction is not so much about a lack of willpower, but rather is a chemical process with negative consequences at work in the body and brain, they can begin recovery without the paralyzing burden of guilt and shame so often experienced by people trying to get clean.

The science is solid. People who become addicted to drugs and alcohol have changed their brain chemistry. And while they may have made some bad choices early on in their drug and alcohol use, at some point it was no longer a choice. And this was not due to moral weakness or lack of willpower, but rather about a chemical and physiological change that occurred in the brain, requiring help to overcome. That's the matter in a nutshell.

While there are many ways to learn about the science of addiction and recovery, here are three good places to start:

  1. Books on Amazon. I did a search for books using the term "addiction science" and it produced over 9,000 results! That should keep you busy for a while.
  2. Check out the SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) website: SAMHSA is a government agency that seeks to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America's communities. Lots of good information is available on this site.
  3. Another good website is the one for NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse) Specifically the following article entitled Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction on that website is excellent, and a good place to start: :

Accepting the fact that addiction is not so much about a lack of willpower, but rather is a chemical process with negative consequences, can be freeing and empowering for the addict or alcoholic, allowing him or her to move forward free of of guilt and shame.

What do you think? Say more about that and feel free to leave a comment.

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