What to Know About the Hereditary Aspect of Addiction

You may have heard the saying, “Addiction is a disease, not a choice.”

That doesn’t mean it’s like the flu and that anyone can catch it if they’re around a bottle of whiskey long enough. It means that some people are more predisposed to addictive tendencies and behaviors when it comes to drug and alcohol use than others are.

Researchers estimate that genetics alone account for 40-60% of someone’s chances of becoming addicted. It’s not a moral shortcoming, and it’s not as simple as a “bad habit” to break.

Here’s what you need to know about the hereditary aspect of addiction.

Digging into the DNA

DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, maps out and controls the production of every cell in our body. If we zoom in on a strand of DNA, we would see a series of gene sequences that make biological choices for us.

These sequences also control the production of specific proteins in our body, and how well they function. How these proteins function can determine a person’s vulnerability to addiction. Take the neurotransmitter, dopamine, for example.

Certain proteins in our DNA can shape how our body manages dopamine levels in the brain. We get a hit of dopamine whenever we do something accomplishing or exciting, like finally finishing your taxes or biting into a chocolate lava cake.

Dopamine and the Protein PSD-95

Researchers in a 2004 Duke University Medical Center study found that the protein PSD-95 had a strong correlation with a mouse’s tendency to become addicted (or not addicted) to cocaine. Mice with normal amounts of it were better able to navigate and learn a maze than mice with lower amounts of it.

This could be because they felt some sense of accomplishment (read: felt a hit of dopamine) as they learned the lefts and rights of their path. Dopamine drove them to finish the maze.

Mice with low amounts of PSD-95, however, were both less likely to learn their way through the maze and more likely to become addicted to cocaine. Drugs like cocaine, morphine, heroin, nicotine, and alcohol mimic pleasure-boosting neurotransmitters in the brain like dopamine.

Therefore, mice—and people—compromise their brain’s ability to produce healthy levels of dopamine by replacing it with hits from a drug. After continued use, it can reshape the neural pathways in your brain to the point where you no longer feel okay without the drug present.

You can see how quickly this becomes a problem for people in families with naturally low levels of PSD-95, and therefore compromised dopamine management.

Replacing Biological Systems with Drug Use

Thousands of years ago, the pleasure-centers in our brain were imperative for things like identifying high-calorie food to help us survive. In a modern world where things like fast food have become streamlined, we no longer rely on these pleasure-centers for survival, though they still function the same. Our brains have not evolved even close to the rate that our technology and society has.

By taking advantage of these pleasure systems, eventually addicts convince themselves they can’t avoid the discomfort of depression or anxiety without hitting their drug of choice. It’s biologically backed by their own body.

Down the road, long-term drug use can lead to impaired cognitive abilities, memory loss, anxiety, paranoia, depression, and a higher risk for dementia and strokes.

Fight Addiction with Treatment, Not Willpower

Addiction is a purely neurobiological condition. No amount of willpower can convince your brain that this drug isn’t the gasoline it needs to start its engine. While anyone can stop after the first hit, the drug is already priming the brain for a second.

For some people, it primes the brain all too well, until the tenth hit is no longer a choice.

If you think you’re struggling with addiction, schedule an appointment with us today to start working towards the best version of yourself.

What to Know About the Hereditary Aspect of Addiction

You may have heard the saying, “Addiction is a disease, not a choice.”

That doesn’t mean it’s like the flu and that anyone can catch it if they’re around a bottle of whiskey long enough. It means that some people are more predisposed to addictive tendencies and behaviors when it comes to drug and alcohol use than others are.

Researchers estimate that genetics alone account for 40-60% of someone’s chances of becoming addicted. It’s not a moral shortcoming, and it’s not as simple as a “bad habit” to break.

Here’s what you need to know about the hereditary aspect of addiction.

Digging into the DNA

DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, maps out and controls the production of every cell in our body. If we zoom in on a strand of DNA, we would see a series of gene sequences that make biological choices for us.

These sequences also control the production of specific proteins in our body, and how well they function. How these proteins function can determine a person’s vulnerability to addiction. Take the neurotransmitter, dopamine, for example.

Certain proteins in our DNA can shape how our body manages dopamine levels in the brain. We get a hit of dopamine whenever we do something accomplishing or exciting, like finally finishing your taxes or biting into a chocolate lava cake.

Dopamine and the Protein PSD-95

Researchers in a 2004 Duke University Medical Center study found that the protein PSD-95 had a strong correlation with a mouse’s tendency to become addicted (or not addicted) to cocaine. Mice with normal amounts of it were better able to navigate and learn a maze than mice with lower amounts of it.

This could be because they felt some sense of accomplishment (read: felt a hit of dopamine) as they learned the lefts and rights of their path. Dopamine drove them to finish the maze.

Mice with low amounts of PSD-95, however, were both less likely to learn their way through the maze and more likely to become addicted to cocaine. Drugs like cocaine, morphine, heroin, nicotine, and alcohol mimic pleasure-boosting neurotransmitters in the brain like dopamine.

Therefore, mice—and people—compromise their brain’s ability to produce healthy levels of dopamine by replacing it with hits from a drug. After continued use, it can reshape the neural pathways in your brain to the point where you no longer feel okay without the drug present.

You can see how quickly this becomes a problem for people in families with naturally low levels of PSD-95, and therefore compromised dopamine management.

Replacing Biological Systems with Drug Use

Thousands of years ago, the pleasure-centers in our brain were imperative for things like identifying high-calorie food to help us survive. In a modern world where things like fast food have become streamlined, we no longer rely on these pleasure-centers for survival, though they still function the same. Our brains have not evolved even close to the rate that our technology and society has.

By taking advantage of these pleasure systems, eventually addicts convince themselves they can’t avoid the discomfort of depression or anxiety without hitting their drug of choice. It’s biologically backed by their own body.

Down the road, long-term drug use can lead to impaired cognitive abilities, memory loss, anxiety, paranoia, depression, and a higher risk for dementia and strokes.

Fight Addiction with Treatment, Not Willpower

Addiction is a purely neurobiological condition. No amount of willpower can convince your brain that this drug isn’t the gasoline it needs to start its engine. While anyone can stop after the first hit, the drug is already priming the brain for a second.

For some people, it primes the brain all too well, until the tenth hit is no longer a choice.

If you think you’re struggling with addiction, schedule an appointment with us today to start working towards the best version of yourself.

“Am I An Addict?” 5 Signs You Should Seek Help

When we speak about addiction, we tend to think of drugs and alcohol. But there are many seemingly benign activities that can become an addiction for some people. For some, watching porn is an activity done once in a while for fun, while others watch for hours every day alone. Some people shop only when they need something, others spend more than they can afford chasing a certain feeling that shopping gives them.

Whether it’s chemical substances, social media, sex, video games, food, or anything that forms dependence, all can become a negative influence in our lives if a line is crossed. If you are concerned you may have developed an addiction, here are 5 signs you should seek help.

1. The Activity Has Become a Priority

Family, work, and social activities with friends – these are the things we give priority to in our lives. But when other activities or pursuits become such a priority that we push aside our time at work or with family and friends, it’s a sign there could be a problem. A dangerous priority can be recognized not only by how much you’re doing something, but also by how much you’re not doing other things.

2. Reward Response
We all take pleasure in doing certain activities. Gardening, dancing, or watching our favorite movie can make us happy, and that’s natural. There is a problem when you start to feel good or happy only when involved in your addiction. You may even begin to notice you feel particularly bad when not doing the activity.

3. Compulsion
Do you start out thinking, I’ll just eat a little, or smoke a little, or do whatever for just a little bit, but then find yourself doing the activity for longer periods of time than you planned? Do you become angry when something or someone tears you away from the activity? Do you feel you have to hide the amount of time or money you spend on this activity? If so, this is a sign you may have a problem.

4. Anxiety
One of the clearest indicators of an addiction is the anxiety felt when not doing the activity, or when even thinking about having to give up the activity. The higher the level of panic you feel about giving up this activity, even for just one day, the stronger the addiction is.

5. Isolation
Isolation is perhaps the biggest behavioral change associated with addiction. To an addict, it becomes necessary to withdraw and hide their behavior from loved ones. Akin to isolation is a loss of interest in healthy hobbies or activities you once enjoyed. If you used to enjoy hiking with friends on the weekend, but now all you do is sit around the house getting into bidding wars online, it’s time you speak to somebody.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction and would like to explore treatment options, please get in touch. I’d be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

The Signs of Opiate Addiction

The Signs of Opiate Addiction

Watching your local news or checking your social media feed, you’ve probably heard about the opioid epidemic, the nation’s current public health crisis. As death tolls from the crisis continue to rise dramatically every year, this is not an issue to be taken lightly or ignored.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, over 42,000 people died from an opioid-related overdose in 2016. Nationwide, 45 states have seen a 30% increase in opioid overdose from July 2016 to September 2017.

What Are Opiates?

Commonly prescribed to alleviate severe pain, opiates include prescription pain killers such as oxycodone, Dilaudid, codeine, hydrocodone, and fentanyl, among others. The illegal street drug heroin is also classified as an opiate. Opiates are highly addictive, and it’s possible to become addicted to them unintentionally.

Signs of Opiate Addiction

As someone begins to abuse their opioid prescription, they will develop a tolerance to the drug. They will need increasingly larger doses to experience the same benefits. As their tolerance grows, they will become physically dependent on the drug; they will experience the unpleasant feeling of withdrawal when they aren’t taking it. If the opiate abuse continues, they will develop a psychological dependence that will cause cravings for the opiates, at which point they are in the throes of opiate addiction. Below are some signs to look out for if you suspect a loved one may be abusing their prescription.

– Drowsiness: Nodding off at inappropriate times, or appearing drowsy or sedated is a sign of physical addiction to opiates
– Change in sleep habits: As a person abuses opiates, they may sleep for longer periods of time. If they’re experiencing withdrawal, they may be unable to sleep.
– Weight loss: Opioid addicts tend to lose weight due to metabolic changes brought on by drug abuse.
– Mood swings: Irritability, dramatic shifts in mood, or emotional outbursts.
– Social withdrawal: An addict may isolate or socially withdraw. They might also start spending less time with family, and more time with people you don’t know.
– Flu-like symptoms: Opiate withdrawal can cause flu-like symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and fatigue.
– Doctor shopping: An opiate addict will go to several doctors in order to obtain multiple prescriptions. Multiple prescriptions will result in extra pill bottles; an addict may attempt to hide them in the trash.

Finding Help

If you’re concerned that a loved one may be abusing their prescription, speaking to an addiction specialist or health care professional is an important next step. They can provide you with the referrals and direction necessary to ensure that your friend or family member receives the appropriate help as quickly as possible.

Are you or a loved one struggling with opiate addiction and need help? Call me today and let’s schedule an appointment to talk.

3 Busted Myths About Recovering Addicts

Addiction is complex. And because of this complexity, there tend to be a lot of opinions, and yes, even myths surrounding it.

In my practice, I have spoken to many addicts and loved ones of addicts, and I have found the same questions come up over and over again. Unfortunately, I am also aware that these myths and questions stand in the way of many people seeking treatment.

I would like to put some of these common myths about addiction recovery to bed once and for all.

Myth #1: I Can’t Afford Treatment

It is an absolute shame that so many people believe they can’t afford to seek help for their addictions. True, recovery can be expensive, but there are always low-cost options.

The cost of treatment typically depends on the program, and each program will have varying payment options. If you have insurance, you can always call facilities in your area to see if they accept your plan.

If you don’t have insurance or your particular plan is not accepted, you have several recovery options:

Stabilization programs – These are low-cost programs that run from between two to six weeks in an inpatient recovery facility following detox.
Self-help 12-Step programs – These are free programs that follow a 12-step holistic approach to recovery, focusing on surrender and making amends with loved ones.
Health Insurance Marketplace – State government low-cost insurance plans where coverage varies by state.

If you have any questions about recovery costs, you may contact Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to learn more.

Myth #2: I’ll Be Fired If I Go to Rehab

This is one of the most common myths. The reality is, if you have a substance abuse problem, it has more than likely become apparent to your boss and coworkers. By not getting treatment you may very well lose your job.

In my experience, management is generally supportive of an individual’s efforts to get better. Many employers even offer employee assistance programs (EAPs) for those struggling with substance abuse. Check with your boss or HR to see if this program may be available to you.

Another option is to check into the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This act provides 12 workweeks of job-protected, unpaid leave in a 12-month period for “a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of his or her job.” Qualifications for this coverage are determined by employers who will take into consideration how long you’ve worked for the company.

And finally, if you do not have access to EAPs or FMLA or discretion is very important to you, you may want to consider using vacation time for your recovery process.

Myth #3: Recovery Will be Quick

Let’s get one thing straight – there is no quick fix to substance abuse. Recovery is a process that continues even after you complete a program. Getting clean takes commitment from both you and your loved ones. In many cases, this will be the hardest thing you ever do, but doing it will be rewarding for your life and health, and the life and health of your family.

It’s important that you have some sort of aftercare in place before you leave your treatment facility. Aftercare can mean group therapy, individual therapy, a 12-step program, a sober house, or a therapeutic community. Individuals who engage in aftercare programs have significantly better outcomes.

If you or a loved one is considering a treatment program and would like to explore therapy options for your aftercare, please get in touch. I would be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help you and your family recover.