Anyone who has suffered from — or is currently struggling with — an alcohol or drug addiction has heard more times than they can count a piece of advice from well-meaning, but woefully misinformed family members and friends: “why can’t you just stop?” It is a sentiment and a source of suffering that Charles Popov is, unfortunately, all too familiar with.

From the outside, addiction can look like a lifestyle choice or an ordinary bad habit commented Charles Popov, who believes that there is a strong mind-body connection that determines overall health and wellness. However, from the inside, nothing could be further from the truth. Addiction is neither a choice nor a habit, it is a complex brain disease.

Nutritional counselor, Charles Popov claims that every day, people suffering with addictions from all walks of life are accused of not having the interest or willpower to break free. This type of thinking is not just categorically wrong and dangerous, but also offensive and inhumane.

The Chemical Basis of Addiction

While there is a myriad of ways that people become addicted to alcohol and drugs, the unifying theme in virtually all addiction stories has to do with a chemical in the brain called dopamine explains Charles Popov. Dopamine is responsible for transporting messages to and from the reward center in the brain and is the reason we feel good when we participate in activities that align with our will to survive (incentive salience) , such as eating and procreating.

However, problems arise when this reward center is excessively and repeatedly activated. To re-establish balance and equilibrium, the brain adapts by producing a lower amount of dopamine, or by reducing the number of dopamine receptors. This is a biological protective mechanism that is designed to keep us safe, healthy, and, in the big picture, alive. But what an individual suffering from an addiction experience is anything but positive. They are not getting the same feel-good reaction as they once did, which compels them to consume more alcohol or drugs, or elevate to more potent options that temporarily do the job — until a new normal is achieved, and the vicious cycle repeats.

While it is difficult to find any silver lining in the addiction epidemic, at the very least it has led to a number of promising treatment methods and therapies. For example, some addiction facilities use neurofeedback and biofeedback to understand and ultimately improve brain activity. Other potentially effective modalities include CBT, medication (particularly to help manage withdrawal), one-on-one counseling, and self-help groups.  

Helping Those Who Suffer from an Addiction

Individuals who suffer from addiction — which, again, is a disease and not a choice or a preference — should know that they are not alone, and qualified, compassionate help is available, commented Charles J. Popov. It goes without saying that the road ahead will not be easy. But each year, thousands of people break free of addiction, and reclaim and rebuild their lives. They just need to take the first step, which could mean making a phone call, sending an email, or reaching out to a family member, friend or their doctor and saying: can you help me? Those four words can profoundly change their life; and may even save it.

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