Alcohol and Addiction

man with an alcohol addiction

​Alcohol is prevalent in society, but so is alcohol addiction. I am fascinated by the habitual component of the human brain. In a way, it’s the least “human” part of us, because it operates more like a machine. 

For my writing career, my books have solely focused on good habits. That’s because creating good habits is remarkably simple process—repeat a behavior until it becomes part of who you are. Bad habits, however, are far more complicated to deal with.

The first issue with bad habits? They vary from mild annoyance to life-threatening addiction, even within the same behavior.

Alcohol is the third-leading cause of preventable death in the United States (source). Some people have no alcohol problem, others a minor one, and others die from it. Those varying levels of severity make it extremely challenging to present a one-size-fits-all protocol for dealing with it. Added to this, people develop bad habits and addictions for different reasons. But I saw a video the other day that really got me thinking.

Physical Addictions

In this video, which I highly recommend to anyone who has or knows someone with an alcohol addiction, the speaker shares her struggle with Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). She tried many times to stop drinking, but her success was fleeting. Then she found the Sinclair method. This may sound like a commercial at this point, but it’s far more important than that. 

The Sinclair method is simple. Take a pill called naltrexone​ one hour before drinking, and then drink. Naltrexone is an “opioid antagonist,” which basically means it prevents or reduces euphoric sensations in the body by blocking off opioid receptors. Thus, when you take that drink (or drug), you don’t feel the euphoric sensations you typically feel. You’re left with just the taste of the alcohol, or the sensation of the needle in your arm in the case of drugs. Take the reward away, and the game changes.

As Claudia Christian puts it, “It was a miracle. The wine just sat there as I ate my dinner. I took a couple of sips and I went… ‘meh.'”

Popular Thought on Alcohol and other Addiction Treatments May Be Wrong (In Some Cases)

There is a stigma with addictions. There may always be. To those who don’t struggle with alcohol addiction, it’s an alien concept.

“What do you mean you can’t stop? Just don’t drink.”

Of course, it’s rarely that simple. 

Everyone’s brain chemistry and genetic dispositions are unique. As other people struggle with soda addiction, I remember I went from drinking it almost daily to never drinking it. It was easy. And yet, I’ve struggled with other behaviors that soda addicts wouldn’t.

And then you have people like Claudia, who said addiction was in both sides of her family. She was likely born an addict, only she didn’t find out until later, when she exposed herself to the drug.

Popular thought for addiction treatment always starts with the mind or lifestyle. You have to think differently about the behavior. You have to focus on other areas of your life. You have to want other things more than your addiction, like health and wellness. You have to meditate. While those things can certainly be helpful, and have surely worked for some bad habits and even addictions in some people, they could be a red herring for others.

Mental and lifestyle changes never worked for Claudia because that was never her problem. She wanted to quit more than anything. She said she would have “sold her soul” for it. She said she spent $30,000 on a retreat for it.

In the end, the only thing that worked for her was a physical intervention. She needed a direct, drug-induced intervention between her drug of choice (alcohol) and her brain. She had to change the relationship in a way the brain understood. Because for all of her desires for a better life, and you know, not dying, her brain didn’t care. It wanted that feeling. It needed it like Gollum needed the Ring of Power.

I’m quite possibly the most anti-pharmaceutical person I know. I believe in the healing power of the body, and I’m annoyed that many drugs only treat symptoms. While others devour tylenol and advil like they’re candy, I will have to be a 9/10 on the pain scale to even consider looking at the bottle. I understand that drugs can be necessary, even if they only treat symptoms, I’m just saying I don’t ever take them unless absolutely necessary.

There is, however, one class of drugs I heartily approve of. There are some drugs that help the body to heal or protect itself. They’re things like vaccines (I’m getting my first shot today). Vaccines basically introduce viruses to the body without the actual virus. Thus, when you meet the actual virus, your body can shut it down before it wreaks havoc.

I’ve also been taking sublingual allergy drops for cat, dust mite, and grass pollen allergies. These drops contain the allergens in precise amounts, and I put them under my tongue to be absorbed into my bloodstream. Over time, my immune system sensitivity to these non-threats decreases. It has worked well. I’m about a year into it.

Addiction may be another category where pharmaceutical intervention is the way. For physical substance addiction, Naltrexone may be the best or only viable path to recovery, and I think that’s worth talking about, because it can literally save lives. It saved Claudia’s.

Watch Claudia’s talk here on YouTube.


Stephen Guise

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