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Author: Shernide Delva
There are many theories on why some people struggle with addiction and others do not. Some say it is due to environmental factors while others point to biological changes in the brain. It will take more time to understand addiction entirely. However, each day researchers learn more about it. One of the theories being suggested is the attachment theory of addiction. This theory delves into addiction from birth and says that life circumstances lead children to develop a survival mechanism that encourages them to seek outside nurturement. If a child is not getting the attention they need, they attach to something that will fulfill that need. Could this attachment be related to addiction?
What is the Framework of Attachment Theory?
To understand the attachment theory of addiction, we must define it and understand how it works. The attachment theory states that children who do not grow up in a secure environment learn unhealthy attachment skills. Therefore, in treating addiction, it is critical that treatment provides a model of secure attachment, so individuals can understand how to respond to pain and discomfort other than acting out in addictive behaviors.
As humans, we have a longer period of dependency on caregivers, more than any other mammal. Not only do we need our caregivers for food and safety, but for emotional connection, affection and love. When we are infants, we naturally turn to our caregiver in times of distress. Babies cry, and they learn they have support when they need it.
Here is what it looks like when secure attachment does not happen: Baby is upset and turns to their caregiver for comfort and connection. However, instead of their needs being addressed, the baby is ignored, left alone or abused for having needs. Over time, this patterns results in the child learning not to turn to their caregiver in times of distress. The child will stop seeking care and comfort from their caregiver, and instead, look for ways to regulate and self-soothe from the outside world.
This period in life is where some researchers believe addictions starts to develop. As a child grows in this unhealthy attachment environment, they learn not to turn to humans for care and comfort. Instead, they seek alternatives. Addictions to drugs, food, and rituals around food like over- or under-eating become coping mechanism for replacing security a secure attachment would have provided.
The Internal Working Model
Furthermore, in infancy, a child learns necessary skills for survival and develops what the attachment theory calls an Internal Working Model (IWM). Our IWM helps us find out how to view the world and ourselves. A child’s IWM is dependent on their upbringing. The theory argues that a child’s attachment style has a significant impact on whether they will develop a substance abuse dependency.
To fully understand unhealthy attachment, you should first understand secure attachment. Secure attachment is when a caretaker shows awareness of a child’s emotions and quickly attends to the child when they are distressed. The theory suggests that when a child is properly taken care of, they feel free to explore the world and acquire independence because they develop a sense of certainty that their caretaker will be there if anything goes wrong. They rarely feel uncertain or insecure in their independent journey because they know they have a caretaker there if needed.
However, if the attachment system a child has growing up is deficient, the child will struggle with emotional regulation as an adult. Children raised in an insecure environment grow up learning to blame themselves when they are unable to provide for their emotional needs on their own. Instead of developing security in a healthy manner, they will use addictive substances or behavior to define comfort and safety. The use of addictive substances and behaviors will lead to continued dysfunction and continued addictiveness.
Treating Addictiveness through Attachment-Oriented Therapy
Recent studies positively confirm a link between insecure attachment and substance dependence. Fortunately, there is hope. “Attachment-Oriented Therapy” or AOT is a way of “eliciting, integrating and modifying styles represented within a person’s internal working model.” (Flores 2004). The therapy works to shift the internal working model an addict has acquired to self-sooth since childhood.
The point of the therapy is to teach those struggling with addiction how to regulate their emotions and feelings, so they avoid seeking outside sources as a means of managing their emotions. Addicts learn how to explore the deeper problem of why exactly they use their addictive behavior to escape their emotional pain and where this method of survival was rooted.
AOT is rooted in providing a way for individuals to explore themselves from the inside out. Attachment theory states that a model is necessary for patients to understand how to stop seeking answers on the outside and learn to heal. By providing a haven for addicts to learn to feel and express emotions, a better solution can be found.
Learning how to regulate emotions and self-sooth are skills that we develop from infancy. Therapies like AOT help in reestablishing methods of secure attachment. If you struggle with managing your emotions, seeking help is the first step. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.
Author: Justin Mckibben
Alcohol abuse is a problem more than common in our world today, and more often than not it results in disastrous forms of disease that can completely alter the quality of an individual’s life, sometimes bringing that person’s life to an abrupt end.
Most people are familiar with some of the risks associated with alcohol abuse and with the illnesses that can result from prolonged alcohol abuse, such as cancer, cirrhosis of the liver and kidney damage. But what about all the other issues that can be created with long-term alcohol abuse that people frequently wouldn’t think to connect to alcoholism or abusing alcohol?
There are several other health problems you might not know are directly linked to alcoholism, so here are 6 of those alcohol abuse related diseases you might not know.
Anemia is a condition that develops when your blood lacks enough healthy red blood cells or hemoglobin, which is a main part of red blood and binds oxygen.
Alcohol abuse can cause the number of oxygen-carrying red blood cells to be abnormally low, thus causing anemia. Anemia can trigger a list of other symptoms, including:
- Shortness of breath
These symptoms occur because organs in the body aren’t getting what they need to function properly.
- Cardiovascular disease
Binge drinking is a huge issue when it comes to alcohol abuse, and both can cause platelets to become more likely to clump together into blood clots, which can lead to heart attack or stroke. In a landmark study by Harvard researchers in 2005, it was found that binge drinking doubled the risk of death among people who initially survived a heart attack.
Cardiomyopathy is a potentially deadly condition which can also be caused by alcohol abuse. With cardiomyopathy the heart muscle weakens and eventually fails, as well as heart rhythm abnormalities such as atrial and ventricular fibrillation, which creates chaotic twitching in the heart’s main pumping chambers (ventricles), causing rapid loss of consciousness and even sudden death.
Dementia is not a specific disease, but term that encompasses a varied range of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other thinking skills severe enough to reduce a person’s ability to perform everyday activities.
As people age their brains shrink. It is considered normal to happen on average at a rate of about 1.9% per decade.
However, alcohol abuse speeds the shrinkage of certain key regions in the brain, resulting symptoms of dementia. In addition to the nonspecific forms of dementia that result from brain atrophy, alcohol abuse can also cause nutritional deficiencies that elicit other forms of dementia.
It may not be much of a surprise to some that alcohol abuse is often associated with with depression, because it is a depressant, but the debate about which came first, the drinking or the depression, still exists.
One theory is that depressed people turned to alcohol in an attempt to cope with emotional pain. But a large study from New Zealand showed that it was probably the other way around, meaning alcohol abuse actually leads to depression, with some research showing that depression improves when those who abuse alcohol actually sober up.
Gout is an extremely painfully illness caused by the formation of uric acid crystals in the joints. It is a form of arthritis that is described as sudden burning pain, stiffness and swelling in the joint.
Although a lot of cases are largely hereditary, alcohol abuse and other dietary factors are also said to play a role in those who develop cases of gout. Alcohol also seems to aggravate existing cases of gout, so one way or the other alcohol abuse is a risk factor.
- Nerve damage
The nervous system is involved in everything the body does, from regulating breathing to controlling muscles and sensing heat and cold, so serious nerve damage is a pretty big deal. Damage can occur to nerves in your brain and spinal cord, but nerve damage can also occur in the peripheral nerves located throughout the rest of your body.
Alcohol abuse can cause a form of nerve damage known as alcoholic neuropathy, which can produce a range of devastating symptoms which include but are not limited to:
- Painful pins-and-needles feeling or numbness in the extremities
- Muscle weakness
- Erectile dysfunction
Alcohol is toxic to nerve cells, so of course alcohol abuse will sometimes lead to alcoholic neuropathy. Alcoholic neuropathy also happens because nutritional deficiencies attributable to alcohol abuse compromise nerve function. So again, not only can alcohol abuse cause these issues, but heavy drinking can exacerbate pre-existing issues with nerve damage.
While physicians around the world can give you a laundry list of the diseases and other effects of alcoholism or alcohol abuse, it is still incredibly beneficial for individuals who have drinking or drug problems to seek specialized treatment for lasting recovery. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
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Author: Shernide Delva
There has been an influx of media attention on the heroin and painkiller epidemic which is now at record numbers. The focus in the media has been on the rise in overdose fatalities from heroin and prescription painkillers. Overdoses have more than tripled in the last decade and the numbers continues to rise at alarming rates. While raising awareness of the opioid epidemic is necessary and much needed, we still cannot take our attention away from the drug killing Americans the most: alcohol.
The biggest threat to Americans remains to be alcohol. Americans are dying from alcohol abuse at numbers that exceed anything we’ve seen in the past 35 years. The CDC estimates that in just the last year, over 30,700 people died from alcohol-related causes, including alcohol poisoning and cirrhosis of the liver.
In a little over a decade, the number of Americans who have died from alcohol have risen by 37 percent. In 2014, more people died from alcohol-induced causes than from painkillers and heroin combined, says the CDC.
If you think these numbers are high due to alcohol-related accidents, you are wrong. These numbers do not even include deaths caused by alcohol like drunken driving incidences, and murders committed under the influence. If we were to count those deaths, the death toll would be up to 90,000.
Why do these numbers continue to climb? Researchers conclude it is simply because Americans are drinking more. The statistics prove this conclusion:
- Americans who drink at least once a month rose from 54.9% to 56.9%.
- 51.9% of women reported drinking at least monthly in 2014, up from 47.9% in 2002.
- Binge drinking by women is up to 17.4% from 15.7% in 2002.
All in all, binge drinking is the major culprit. People who drink the most are at the highest risk for alcohol-related death. According to past research by Cook, the top 10% of American drinkers consume close to 74 drinks a week on average. Drinking at this rate is linked to a range of health complications, including cirrhosis, cancer, brain damage, drunk driving and other accident fatalities.
For more moderate drinkers, the health effects of alcohol remain less clear. The research and data from moderate drinking has been all over the place. Some data suggests moderate alcohol consumption; around one-to-two drinks per day may actually be healthy.
However, there is a gray line when it comes to moderate to harmful drinking. A recent study revealed that when used alone, alcohol was the deadliest recreational substance, followed by heroin and cocaine. For this reason, many are urging public health officials to shift focus away from the dangers of drugs like pot and LSD and focus more on educating people about the dangers of drinking.
Alcohol is a dangerous substance that when used in excess, can cause serious health consequences. However, since alcohol remains more accessible than any other drug, it increases the risk of abuse. Alcohol is a socially accepted drug and has played a role in our culture for so long that many do not even realize they have a problem until it is too late.
Alcoholism is a serious disease and if you feel your drinking is getting out of control, do not wait to be a statistic, get treatment today. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
Magnets may be the next solution to treat drug addiction. According to a new study, transcranial magnetic stimulation has been shown to reduce cravings in cocaine addicts. The treatment has been used for decades for treatment-resistant depression, yet a number of studies have found the treatment to be effective for a number of other disorders.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation or TMS in the past has been used to treat OCD, Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy and migraines; however the results have been mixed. Now, a growing body of research supports that TMS may have applications for various kinds of addictions and addictive behaviors such as alcoholism, smoking and binge-eating. So far, most of the studies have been on a small scale however results have been generally positive.
Optogenetics Light Therapy
Two years ago, Antonello Bonci, a researcher at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, published a study in the journal Nature. The team stimulated the rats brains with a new technique called optogenetics. Optogenetics is a fairly new biological technique which involves the use of light to control cells in living tissues. Optogenetics introduces light-sensitive proteins into the brain and activates the proteins with light beams. The light activates the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain most associated with addiction. Interestingly, after the treatment, the rats showed less interested in cocaine.
Shortly after the results were release, a newspaper in Italy published an article about the work. Turns out, a man whose son struggled with cocaine addiction and suicide thoughts saw the article and pondered if the same treatment could help his son overcome his cocaine addiction. He went to researchers at the University of Padua in Italy who agreed that that work sounded promising.
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Treatment
In collaboration, Bonci and the doctors in Padua led a new study that looked at the effect of TMS on cocaine cravings. Subject received treatment using a small figure eight-shaped magnetic device placed near the skull which delivered painless pulses to the brain for five consecutive days. Afterward, the magnetic treatment continued once a week for three weeks.
The study enrolled only 29 subjects but the results generated exciting results in the addiction treatment community. Out of the 13 subjects who received the all-TMS protocol, 10 showed “significant improvements” in reducing the drug craving.
“I have met with these patients, I have seen them, I have seen their families,” said Bonci. “They are alive, they are well…something has clearly happened to these people.”
For now, no one truly knows how TMS works. One theory is that is stimulates the production of certain neurotransmitters like dopamine. Perhaps it enhances neural connectivity. When it comes to addiction, another theory is that is “scrambles” the brain’s craving signals.
Furthermore, we still do not know if TMS will be just as effective when tested on larger and more diverse populations. Like we mentioned, this study was very small, yet promising. One criticism is that the study used mostly Caucasian men and that the participants were “treatment seekers” who were motivated to get better. There needs to be future studies that are more diverse and focus on different types of people.
“This is a pilot study—we have a lot of work to do,” Bonci said in regards to the results. “I think that we will know, in just a few years, if this will become an accepted treatment [for a variety of addictions].”
Bonci plans to launch larger, more placebo –controlled, double blind studies in the future to confirm his results. Until then, there continues to be a growing number of drugs aimed at reducing cravings and the neural reward for using. However, many of these drugs have side effects. TMS would be a treatment that would be largely free from side effects. The only side effect known is the occasional headache.
What do you think? Could light and magnets be the answer to combating addiction? Either way, the more options we have to treat addiction, the better. The time is now to take advantage of all the latest forms of treatment available to help you overcome your addiction. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.
Author: Shernide Delva
Author: Shernide Delva
Growing up, maybe you were athletic or maybe, like me, you were just plain clumsy. Either way, if you suffered a concussive bump on the head as a child, you could be at a higher risk to abuse alcohol as an adult. That’s right; a study just discovered the two are correlated. Recent research suggests that women who suffered a concussive bump in the head during childhood abused alcohol more as adults.
The research on mice found that females with a mild close-brain injury were more likely to misuse alcohol in adulthood and associate drinking with reward and pleasure. In the study, mice received a concussive head injury at 21 days, which is comparable to between 6 and 12 years old in human years.
Physiological tests suggested that the head injury was not related to changing how alcohol was processed. Instead, it changed how the female mice associated alcohol with pleasure. Research were motivated to find out exactly how female mice linked alcohol to potential award.
In the experiment, mice were placed in a box with visibly different patterns covering separate different sections of the floor. Over 10 days, researchers injected the mice with alcohol in specific sections of the box and with saline in other sections.
Then the researchers allowed the mice to walk back and forth between boxes. If they preferred alcohol, they would stay on the side of the box associated with alcohol consumption. Female mice who suffered brain injury spent 65 percent of their time in the box linked to alcohol. The researchers concluded that there must be something about the way reward and pleasure is processed in the mice regarding alcohol.
The Effects of Enrichment
The scientists wanted to see if enrichment would reverse the effect of alcohol on the female mice. In studying the effects of enrichment, the colleagues put the female mice that were more attracted to alcohol in cages with running wheels, toys, and tunnels providing a new experience every week for six weeks. When the mice were tested in six weeks for alcohol intake, the enriched environment has completely blocked the female’s increase in drinking. It also reduced damage in their brains by about 40 percent.
They found out the effect of alcohol abuse was reversible as long as the female mice began living in a more enriched environment. The environment even reduced degeneration of parts of the axons, and nerve cell body of the brain.
The enriched environment was to mimic follow-up care after a human brain industry, explained by lead author of the study Zachary Well:
“The best therapy for a childhood brain injury is everybody getting great medical care and rehabilitation, regardless of socioeconomic status,” he said. “People with juvenile head injuries are already at risk for memory problems, difficulty concentrating, poor learning and reduced impulse control. If we can prevent alcohol misuse, chances for a good life are much better.”
So the question still is whether it’s possible that brain injury you experienced during you juvenile years would make you more prone to heavy drinking later on. Alcohol is already associated with traumatic brain injury. More than a third of concussion patients are intoxicated at the time of their injuries
Weil states that his researchers hope to determine more about whether those prone to heavy drinking are then prone to traumatic brain injury as an adult:
“There is some evidence that if you have a brain injury, you’re more likely to drink. But nobody has looked at the time of the injury and nobody has looked at sex differences.”
The results for females are particularly concerning because the two populations increasing in traumatic brain injury are elderly adults and young women. These are not just athletes, Weil said, there is more research needed to understand why the injury effects are different between men and women.
Until more research is done, we won’t have any solid answers of whether or not brain injury we experience as a child makes us more prone to alcohol problems. Regardless, if you are abusing alcohol, it’s time to take control on your life. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135