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What is Addiction?

Addiction Treatment Centers Information

The National Institute on Drug Abuse says, "Methamphetamine [crystal meth] is a very addictive stimulant drug..." In a classic sense, we agree that crystal meth is "addictive." But the following discussion needs to be made so we know what addiction really is.


Crystal meth changes brain and body chemistry. It temporarily takes the place of dopamine (the brains pleasure messenger) for about 2-7 hours per use. Cocaine has similar effects with less toxins and damage. However, cocaine does not replace dopamine as meth supposedly does. Cocaine does not allow the neurons to regulate levels of dopamine through a process of recycling excess levels. (This recycling excess dopamine is called the process of reuptake.) The drug allows the dopamine that is normally held in the neuron and "recycled," to now be released, causing a domino effect that result in the "rush." Race car drivers experience the same exact physical "addiction." With meth use, the dopamine is pushed aside and replaced with the drug, and supposedly (although this is NOT proven as of yet) damages the nerve endings, slowing physical and mood stability recovery after the drug is no longer used. (Preliminary studies suggest it takes months to get your "emotions back.")

When a seasoned race car driver gets into his (her) race car, there is very little difference in heart rate compared to his heart rate a day or so prior to the race. Yet he is traveling at 200+MPH, just inches from the other race cars. You would expect the "pleasure center" of the brain (the exact same parts of the brain that drugs effect) to be heightened and dumping dopamine by the buckets, yet it is not. How can this be?

When that particular driver began his career and had his first race at a NASCAR venue, his physical reactions (heart rate, dopamine flush, adrenaline, etc.) were very elevated. He sweat, shook, and experienced a "high" exactly like the crystal meth user does on his first "hit." Racers have been quoted saying: "it was like a spiritual experience" or "I saw life differently," etc. You hear the same quotes from drug abusers worldwide when talking about their first hit. As drug use continues, the need for bigger hits becomes a pattern until the brain is so accustomed to the substance that the brain chemistry compensates for the extreme levels of the drug. This is where a user needs so much of the substance to get the same feeling as he (she) did the first time they used that overdosing can become a possibility. They will never get that first hit "rush" back, hence the term "chasing the dragon." The brain will never let that happen as it is designed to limit "rushes" for self-preservation.

Now, back to the race car driver. With continued car racing that "high" they felt the first time they hit 200MPH decrease. The amount of dopamine flush goes down simply because the brain becomes habituated to the experience. The message to those same nerve endings become desensitized to the stimuli through continued use of those same nerve endings (same thoughts use the same path in the brain making a well worn trail, whether they are negative or positive, the brain chemicals do not know.) A brain scan of a crystal meth user actively high is nearly identical to someone in or just past orgasm, or during a fight or flight reaction, etc. Yet we usually don't consider people experiencing the fight or flight response as addicted? But if we do, and some researchers say they are addicted, then we as humans must be addicted to everything, negatively and positively, as the portions of the brain that get "addicted" deal with all the varied cognitive and emotional processes. Food, sex, drugs, or anything that affects the pleasure center of the cognitive portions of the brain has the potential to be classified as an addiction once the activity occurs more than once. The brain simply reacts and adjusts accordingly regardless of the activity. If the thought is repeated, then "addiction" has occurred.

AddictionThere is a reason for the brains purposeful desensitizing reactions, why it makes a worn path. As I mentioned, a desensitized neuron path lessens the wear and tear on the rest of the body (heart, blood vessels, muscle reactions and tearing, etc.) by allowing the path to not react with the same initial severity every time the thought or action repeats itself. In other words, a soldier or race car driver, if left in a state of consistent dopamine dump and adrenaline reaction would slowly self-destruct internally as this is the common fight and flight response. Yet the brain tells the body through this neuron memory desensitization, to "take it easy" with consistent "same" stimuli exposure. In other words the soldier becomes "addicted" to the fight from a strictly brain function reaction. As does the race car driver, as does the meth user. This is why a veteran race car driver has no appreciable increase in heart rate at 200mph as compared to his heart rate at 80mph. So, is "addiction" real in the classic negative sense, or is it a normal brain function for self-preservation? Please understand that America's preoccupation with addiction being abnormal is the same preoccupation with normal behaviors being deemed disorders. For example, my son is hyperactive. I love him for it. I was too. I got into constant fights in school, had more black eyes than I care to count and drove my father nuts, but thankfully I was not labeled as "abnormal" with diagnoses such as ADHD or ADD. I was, as many normal children are, "addicted" to thought, action and chaos with a capital "C." I also was never put on mood stabilizers and such. Rather, I was pushed to work hard, boxed to channel my excess energy, and was expected to perform in my life. The rest is history.

What drives our culture to create diseases is simple, pharmacy companies make tremendous profits, and we are a very advanced affluent quick minded society. We like pills to fix things fast so we can continue to remain competitive with each other and with the world. These are not necessarily bad things, but in some cases, our desire for expediency has out weighed the benefits. Sometimes working with peoples differences produces much better long term productivity and ultimately happiness as opposed to taking this pill to make the person "normal." Maybe, placing all people who do not fit into the fat portion of the bell curve should not be medicated back into it. Maybe those who are hyperactive, or emotional, or depressive, simply need to be guided to where their personal aptitudes and personalities fit. This approach may not be as simple as taking a pill; it may take far more care, patience and work. But in the long run new positive brain paths are open up producing consistent future behavior. Treatment with drugs such as mood stabilizers and amphetamines simply interrupt the normal brain function and do nothing to build new positive paths of behavior.

Because someone is extremely eccentric might mean they are genius. Maybe the person with an extremely low IQ can do jobs others would be maddened by. For instance, my nephew mows our lawns, and requests to do so, while all the other kids play. This is a gift he has. I personally do not know of any 12 year old that volunteers to work with a smile on his face. Not only that, but he is able to do this for five to eight hours straight and enjoy himself! Isn't that a gift? Yet, he could so easily be labeled as deficient, or even labeled with a myriad of disorders. He is a poster child for keeping kids away from mental health professionals and pills by helping the child develop to his full potential while reveling in their innate exceptional abilities. Simply put, our culture, as much as we claim to be forward advanced thinkers, we are not well equipped to handle people outside the "norm". We have lost sight of patience, caring and loving each other in exchange for rules, medications and "facilities."

Baldwin Research Instituteâ„¢, Inc. and its St. Jude Programs are about solutions. We need not add to the misinformation and emotionalism of the "negative addiction philosophy." We especially need to move away from the hysterical and well funded media campaigns that depict all people who try crystal meth (or other drugs) as shaking, schizoid, tweeked emotional wrecks and who will tear their own skin off. The negative definition is hard to let go of, but reality states that addictions are a normal brain function, and creating addictions that are beneficial is the answer to counteracting negative addictions. Sure there are the people who choose to do drugs until they are completely detached from society and even from themselves. This is a fact, but let us not forget that all people have the ability to stop hurting themselves. Most that fall into this tiny minority, less than 3% of the total world population, simply have not been taught that they can succeed, that there are other options in life.

The brain on a simple physical plane cannot differentiate between crystal meth, sex, car racing, jumping out of an airplane, playing with our children, etc. The brain works on a physical plane in chemical and electrical languages. But what is more important and more powerful than the brain's chemical reactions to stimuli is free will. Even if the absurd assertion that meth, for example, causes brain damage, which it doesn't, that does not predispose a person to relapse. Relapse is a belief, not a fact. Alcohol is a physically damaging drug – the worst drug of all (and the most researched drug by far.) Unquestionably, alcohol users develop severe psychological and physical dependencies. And, yet more people have moved on past their alcohol abuse with a simple decision to quit. Many hardcore alcohol abusers have endured great damage physically in the mood centers of the brain, yet their decision to stop, their exercise of free will, was far more powerful than the emotional and physical dependencies. This was proven when researchers took a street people "bottle gang" and placed them in a house. In this house they were given a certain amount of alcohol per hour. The rate at which they were given alcohol was in a timed proportion to keep them from experiencing acute withdrawal (Delirium Tremens.) But, the amount was also metered at a rate in which they would not be able to get drunk if they took the drinks as soon as they were handed out. Being that these men were physically "addicted" to the extreme, the researchers assumed that the addicted would drink the allotment of alcohol as soon as it was handed to them. After all and according to conventional wisdom, they were "diseased" beyond their control. Yet, this did not happen. Rather, the men collected their drinks. Even though some were on the verge of full blown delirium tremens, they saved their drinks for as long as it took to collect enough alcohol for all to get good and drunk. Then they downed their alcohol cache all together as they were accustomed to doing in the bottle gang. This proved that even the most "addicted" could control their usage, and that they still knew how to be social and enjoy themselves. This certainly demonstrated that addiction is a rather subjective term, at best. These men took their free will and put it to use for what they deemed enjoyable. This group of alcohol abuser derelicts was chosen because they epitomized "addiction." Yet, when it served their own purpose they exercised free will based on a future plan for enjoyment.

It is not by accident that our thoughts are on a plane that is not a part of the material world! Thoughts are on a plane we do not see in the physical sense and therefore are miraculous, in and of, themselves. Thoughts are driven by free will. They are completely immune to all circumstance and physical presence. How do you think the Jews survived the concentration camp experience? Everything around them was the epitome of hell on earth, yet many survived. They survived on thought (faith) alone. Thoughts do not live, nor are they created in the human condition, but rather are metaphysical miracles of design with which we shape our physical world! My first lesson from Jerry in 1989 was "Mark, I want you to accomplish something you cannot think of first." The point of this impossibility was profound. It put all the responsibility of my life directly on me.

The neurologist who argues that we can see a thought, or an addiction for that matter, via brain scans and the like, stammers when asked how the brain scan depicts the thoughts and emotions of a mother who wanders into her child's bedroom and watches her four year old sleep in warm peace. Does the brain scan show an image of love and deep joy? No, it cannot. It shows electricity, and chemical reactions glowing in certain areas of a dense mass of nerves and fleshy material. But no one except the mother feels and "sees" the image of love within. In reality it shows a machine at work that processes thought (first) which is then brought into a physical plane that we live in (second). The mother's feeling of love (thought) and her smile and possible tear of joy being the physical manifestations of that thought. Brain chemicals no matter how screwed up by drugs or alcohol does not trump freewill or thought. This is why our thoughts and beliefs have the ability to manifest into positive human experience and/or negative human experience. Without thought, the brain is useless. As a matter of fact, in the medical vernacular, a brain that has no thought is "brain dead," in other words you are dead. But what is a thought? No one really knows—yet we all have them. They are the embodiment of co-creation.

Why, then, should we believe that we are run by the physical? The so called "addiction experts" and counselors have it backwards. Our physical bodies do not dictate thoughts unless our minds accept these thoughts to be true (again, even that idea is thought driven.) That is why our cultural view of addiction causes addiction. It is the mission of St. Jude Retreats to reverse this trend, one life at a time. Our thoughts, that is our free will, dictates the brain's chemistry, no matter how damaged the brain might be. Thought is first, internal brain results second, (the brain scans are a good example of demonstrating the fact that a thought was created) physical action third, physical manifestation (ultimate product of thought) fourth.

The good news is that even damaged brain cells let go of their responsibility and rely on the remaining good cells left to conduct double duty. So even the freshly beat up crystal meth user's brain can still decide to heal itself through thinking differently, through thinking positively. In this process new positive "worn" neuron paths are exercised and become the new habits. All of this can occur while the old paths regenerate themselves back to a neutral state. Drinkers have been doing this for millennia. Certainly crystal meth users will do the same, and history will prove this right. They will be saying the same things about crystal meth in 10 years that they say about crack cocaine today. They will say, "Well we now know that crystal meth is not as damaging as we once thought, but now we have "thus and so," the new drug! And, this one is 10 times more addictive than crystal meth." This story repeats itself over and over in our culture.

Creative positive thoughts dictate healing. Retraining the chemical balance through positive productive thought is the reverse process of what negativity does on the chemical brain whether drugs are involved or not.

How do people suppose those in deep despondency in concentration camps were able to fully recover once released? While captives many became depressed and "addicted" to the negativity of their surroundings, yet many fully recovered after release. Humans were not created to be run by circumstances! We were built to create circumstances and reverse them, if warranted, no matter how far down the ladder we may have fallen. 888.424.2626

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