Allostasis and Addiction

The term addiction, in medical terminology means a psychiatric disorder manifested by unusual craving and compulsive indulgence of certain activities like drug addiction, alcohol addiction, gambling, video game, crime, money work addiction, overeating, nicotine or pornographic addiction. In fact there is no end of the list but since these substances or activities always brings negative impact on individual and social life; so they are specially earmarked. Addiction can also be described as a compulsive obsession and create excessive psychological dependence in addicts on their individual preference.

However, the term addiction is used commonly to mean psychological dependence and usually attached to drug or substance abuse problems. But it is also used for problems like compulsive overeating or alike; though medical communities do not recognize them as problems of addiction. There are addictions that are not substance related; like gambling and computer addiction. In these sorts of cases addiction means a recurring compulsion felt by individual to engage in some particular activity without considering its harmful consequences.

Different forms of addiction
In United States, the term “addiction” is not used in Diagnostic and Statistical Manual Disorders (DSM -IV TR) instead it uses “substance dependence” for physical dependence, abuse of or withdrawal from any substances or drugs. The section Substance dependence states “…. When an individual persists in use of alcohol or other drugs despite problems related to use of the substance, substance dependence may be diagnosed. Compulsive and repetitive use may result in tolerance to the effect of the drug and withdrawal symptoms when use is reduced or stopped. These, along with substance abuse are considered substance use disorders……..” Terminology is divided between psychiatrists and physicians; as former call this problem or disease as psychological dependence or addiction and the later as physical or substance dependence.

Now there is trend to distinguish between physical dependence characterized by withdrawal symptoms and psychological dependence manifested by “compulsive, uncontrolled use” with no harm being suffered by user or any one. Clinically it is termed as “compulsive” but not necessarily addiction.

There is a lesser known factor called pseudo-addiction. This occurs when a patient seeks drugs after being treated with that for longer period. This reflects psychological dependence or addiction but sometime it may happen so that the patient might have been under treated as well. Such cases are numerous when patients are treated with opiates drugs to relieve them from pains. Treating them adequately tends to remove such dependence. More studies are required for the effectiveness or substitutes of addictive drugs like opiates.

Allostasis : What is it?
When a person is inclined to drug or substance addiction, he or she then appears to enter a new state called allostatic state departing from normal levels of change in ordinary condition. Allostasis is a process of maintaining stability while changing behavior and physiological features. Drug addiction causes harm to the addict’s brain and body due to pathological state caused by damage known as allostatic load. The result of allostatic load is a state of constant depression stemming from allostatic changes. This forces the drug abusers to seek drugs before their brain and body returns to normal allostatic levels; thus producing a constant state of stress. It is observed that the presence of circumstantial stressors induce acute drug seeking tendencies.

Allostasis is a new concept proposed by Sterling and Eyer in 1988. This is a process that establishes the stability in an emergency and occurs endogenously in our physiological system to maintain balance. The word allostasis and homeostasis derived from original Greek words; “homeo” means “same” and stasis means “stable”; so homeostasis means “remaining stable by staying the same”. So with the word allostasis; in Greek “allo” means “variable” and statis means “stable”; so allostasis means ” remaining stable by being variable”. Allostasis is a process to achieve stability through physiological or behavioral change and this can be done by altering HPA axis ( hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis) hormones, cytokines, autonomic nervous system or many other systems and they are generally short term.

The process of allostasis is fundamental and this helps organisms to adjust or adapt actively to predictable or unpredictable events of life. Allostatic loads refer to the cumulative cost; the allostasis body pays to regain stability. Allostatic overload may result in serious pathophysiology. There are two types of allostatic overloads proposed which result in response of followings:

Type – I: This is when allostatic overload is caused due to increased demand of energy exceeds the supply and that result in emergency life history stage. When perturbation passes normalcy restored decreasing allostatic load.

Type – II: Allostatic overloads occur when demand of energy increases with social conflict or any type of social dysfunction. In these cases the normalcy restored by secretion of glucocorticosteroids and activities of other allostasis mediators like CNS neurotransmitters, autonomic nervous system, inflammatory cytokines wax. However if allostatic loads remain chronically high then pathologies develop. It is something like this, if a dehydrated individual continue to be stressed despite being helped then he fails to reinstate the body function. This will result in wearing out of individual’s body. Though human body is adaptable but fails to bear allostatic overload for a very longer period without hazards.

The adaptogens may come in help to curb allostatic load. Adaptogens are herbal or pharmaceutical substance; they are non-toxic in regular doses and produce defensive response of nonspecific nature to stress. They restore normalcy in HPA axis. Adaptogens are new class of metabolic regulators for homeostatic and allostatic changes, toning down the hyperfunctioning systems activity or increasing hypofunctioning systems.

Allostasis and Drug Addictions
Drug addiction or substance dependence is a chronic disorder manifested by a compulsive tendency to take and seek drugs or substances to manage the levels of compulsion and desires brought on by allostatic overload. Continuous increase of intake raises the hedonic level and overtakes the individual by a negative emotional state when without them. Allostatic changes helps to identify the effects and causes of drug addiction in the neurobiological and neuroadaptive systems. The reward system of the brain in the event of drug addiction implicates some key elements of amygdale basal forebrain macrostructure. The change in stress and reward system of the brain appears to maintain stability in allostatic state in contradiction to homeostatic state; so this shows the development of susceptibility and recurrence of addiction. The allostatic state of longer abstinence is the most useful target for treating drug addiction through pharmacological and behavioral therapies. When dealing with recovery from addiction it’s important for the patient to be cognizant of the brain functions occurring and by being fully aware of how the component of allostasis relates to ones addiction.

Addictions, Causes and Control

Addiction or compulsion, both can be a devastating problem, but one is due to substance abuse and the other quite often caused by anxiety related problems.

The unfortunate symptoms of addiction are the fact that whatever the cause is, it completely takes over the sufferers life. When controlled by alcohol or drugs the afflicted person’s whole existence is controlled by that substance.

The most important factor is where the next fix is going to come from and in a lot of cases where is the money going to be found to pay for it. This can mean that belongings have to be sold, bank accounts overdrawn and eventually crime committed. Families are broken up and jobs lost. Self esteem disappears and before long homes are gone.

The person loses all sight of what they once were and were hoping to be. Or maybe that was the problem. A common cause of substance abuse is when an active or competitive life is suddenly curtailed. As in the case of many sportsmen who when retiring from their chosen field suddenly feel lost, the adrenaline rush is gone, there are no more goals to be reached, the training is unnecessary, so what is the point.

Unfortunately, this can be the point of no return and the result can be illness, prison or even death. But for some when everything has been lost and there seems no hope something takes over and they say, ‘no more’. How the road to recovery is taken varies, but sometimes the hard way can be the best.

Cold turkey or complete abstinence can be a dangerous but efficient way to deal with the addiction. It is hard and painful but once completed can give that person a reason to try to rebuild their lives. If they manage to get through that period, there is no reason why they cannot go on to climb out of the mire and lead a better life.

At this point, the person must have a new goal in their life otherwise it is too easy to fall back into the addiction cycle. This is where many people fail, if they are beings that need stimulation to survive, then they must look for a new purpose in life, new goals and achievements.

It is hard but is possible as many successful people have proved. Some true entrepreneurs have such backgrounds and have gone onto great things. If a person has the strength and determination to overcome Addictions and compulsions then surely they have the right attributes to do anything they want.

Using CBT As an Effective Means of Addiction Counseling and Therapy

Life is not always a bed of roses. There are times when we have to face many challenges, trials and tribulations. This makes the task of facing up to life rather tough and challenging too. Sometimes these challenges are in the form of addictions that people contend with and find it very tough to come up trumps against.

Addictions can get quite debilitating sometimes. There are some folks who get so dependent on habits like taking drugs or alcohol, or perhaps even being addicted to sex that normal life becomes quite tough on them. You may have seen some people being so addicted to drugs or alcohol that they ruined their health as well as family life. Such people need help, and urgently, which could be in the form of CBT or Cognitive Behavior Therapy. CBT is extremely helpful and has seen to be very effective in helping people kick off various kinds of addictions that they may have got entangled with.

The basic premise on which CBT is based on is the fact that we are creatures who are guided by our thoughts. Thoughts are the source from which emotions and actions spring up in our life. If you dwell on this, you will realize that this is quite true. When you feel sad or perhaps angry, you would know that thoughts would be at the root of such emotions, as we think first and then we feel or act. After all, we are thinking beings and not mindless zombies or robots.

CBT helps addicts to analyze their behavior patterns and addiction induced actions, so that they can isolate those thoughts that make them prone to addiction. It is true that an addict to drugs or alcohol is feeling some lack, which is prompting him to indulge in addiction to fill that need. With CBT, the trained therapist would be able to help the addict understand as to what are the specific situations and thoughts that act as triggers forcing the person to give in to addiction.

Using CBT, it would be possible for the patient to replace negative and addiction causing thought with positive and wholesome thoughts that can slowly but surely cause less dependence on the addiction. Thought replacement is a very powerful technique that CBT is able to very effectively induce. This helps the addict to kick the habit that is so harmful.

Addiction and the Brain

How can he be so selfish? He can clearly see how much pain he’s causing – why doesn’t he care? I can’t take the stress any longer. He’s destroying all of our dreams. Our lives have become Hell. Isn’t he tired of living this way?

These are the typical thoughts that run through your mind when you love an addict. You can’t understand why he continues on such a destructive path. Why does he make so many bad choices? Why does he cause so much pain to his family and loved ones?

You get so angry because he obviously doesn’t care. You blame him for being weak. But this isn’t because he doesn’t care, and it’s not because he is weak – he is sick with the disease of addiction. all of the blame, guilt, and arguing in the world won’t change it. He needs help.

You expect him to ask for that help eventually. To seek it out once he hits “rock bottom”. You believe if you keep pointing out his mistakes, reminding him of his failures, and laying on the guilt, he will snap out of it and come to his senses. Unfortunately, for many addicts, it takes a tragic turn before they will reach out for help on their own. And, sometimes, not even then.

What science is now understanding, thanks to the technology of brain imaging, is that addiction is a brain disease. Addiction hi-jacks the brain, so that the addict’s brain no longer functions normally. Due to the changes in the brain caused by drugs and/or alcohol, the addicted brain believes it needs the drugs for survival (even over food). This is why the addict continues to drink or use drugs even in the face of devastating consequences.

In order for positive changes to take place, the family needs to understand addiction. The first step to helping your loved one is gaining knowledge. It’s difficult to help another person if you don’t understand the problem. By learning as much about addiction as possible, families can help their loved ones to recovery.

There are many myths surrounding addiction. Here are five of the common myths:

Myth #1 – Addicts are bad, immoral, or degenerate.

The truth – Evolving research is demonstrating that addicts have a brain disease. The person suffering with addiction will often times do things that society considers bad, immoral, or degenerate in order to feed the addiction.

Myth #2 – The addict lacks willpower.

The truth – this is an old belief. Addiction negatively affects the area of the brain called the dopamine system which in not under conscious control.

Myth #3 – Addicts should be punished, not treated.

The truth – The brain disease of addiction causes impaired control over the addicts use of drugs. Addicts need treatment.

Myth #4 – Addicts can not be treated with medication.

The truth – New medicines are being developed to help patients curb their cravings. These medications reduce the chances of relapse.

Myth #5 – Addicts need to hit bottom before they are ready for help.

The truth – The sooner an addict gets into treatment the better.

Addiction is a treatable disease, but it must be faced head on. You don’t have the power to take addiction away from your loved one, but you do have the power to give him a good push toward help. You can get educated on addiction, talk to doctors, and find a good treatment program.

Don’t forget the importance of building your own mental and spiritual strength. There are many support systems available to help you along the way; family recovery groups such as Al-Anon, your church, a counselor, trusted friends, and the list goes on and on. You don’t have to face this alone – help is out there if you’re willing to accept it.

There is a stigma attached to addiction, especially when it involves illegal drugs. Because of this stigma, many families have a difficult time reaching out for help. Feelings of shame, embarrassment, and failure are common in the addict household. But it’s time for families to let go of this shame. Addiction is a treatable disease.