Applied Addiction Neuroscience: A Matter of Life and Death

Addiction neuroscience has been informing us for years now about the connection between the mind and the body. Emerging from the research, wellness practices are the key to preventing addiction or surely the key to relapse prevention when addiction is present.

It’s a great time to be alive when new discoveries through addiction neuroscience research can be applied to real-time life and become the new common sense. But with a mind-body-spirit disorder like addiction and our slow-to-change culture, sometimes common sense is not so common.

The time has come to further emphasize the importance of integrated wellness practices because well, we’ve got an epidemic of addiction on our hands and to put it more bluntly, because people are dying.

A Critically Important Distinction

To paraphrase some time honored and wise AA literature content, we stand at the turning point in our understanding of addiction treatment, (and health care in general for that matter) and half measures surely have proven to avail us less than great outcomes. Addiction recovery requires a foundational, holistic and integrated approach because that is what we are; holistic, integrated beings living in and part of our environments, programed for health and thrival.

The common sense that continues to be not so common–and the critically important distinction is this; if long-term addiction recovery is ever to be realized in a more critical mass way, we’ll have to begin teaching people holistic and integrated principles from day one and not as some “alternative” track that works for some people–or to be used on a time–trial basis.

The research is in; find and implement evidence based practices in the realm of exercise, diet and cognitive skills. The specific types of practices are not as important as doing them regularly–as long as they provide the desired end result: Maintaining/managing wellness.

Addiction neuroscience makes this critical distinction crystal clear by showing us that addiction relapse can be triggered by any combination of eating, moving or thinking poorly–or lack of a sound practice for each. For example, we cannot possibly think our way out of bad dietary or exercise habits anymore than consuming clean, nutrient rich foods will compensate for a sedentary lifestyle or unhealthy thinking patterns.

The research tells us and what has become abundantly evident is that people in addiction recovery must practice a wellness lifestyle–if they’re interested in staying well. Included in such a lifestyle are the key, essential nutrients of moving, eating and thinking well all of the time, (no one practice can compensate for another), for some period of time, (repetition anchors practice), one day at a time, (here and now)–for a lifetime, (chronic nature of addiction).

Addiction Neuroscience

Essential Nutrients for Life

A Matter of Life and Death

I don’t know how many times we’ll need to read or hear about the story of the person in addiction recovery who fails to thrive via relapse or even death, and under closer scrutiny who was found to have departed from some aspect of a wellness lifestyle. And this because a “wellness lifestyle” remains some “alternative” choice? Alternative to what, the continued, lousy statistics we’re seeing in addiction treatment long-term outcome studies? Alternative to what, an early, strange and unusual death?

If this post appears to read increasingly more alarming as it progresses, that is because we need to sound the alarms. What may seem like a tall order to adhere to sound practices and balance in how we move, what we eat and the nature of our thoughts, is indeed a matter of life and death for a person in addiction recovery. In the course of time it took to prepare this post, 6 people have died from prescription opiate overdose, alone.

Let me be abundantly clear; treating addiction without initial acute care and structured long-term aftercare steeped in programs teaching the combined areas of clinically relevant exercise, diet and cognitive practices is tantamount to treating symptoms and doing it poorly. It’s not that we should try to do these things…it’s that we have to teach people to practice these things if we’re serious about successfully and comprehensively treating this deadly condition. These wellness practices are not alternative to anything; they are the standard of care for addiction treatment.

When scientific evidence and personal practices align seamlessly to give us what we all want; more peace of mind, joy and productivity, let’s stop kidding ourselves that there is a “cure” for anything other than a no-nonsense, thoughtful wellness lifestyle requiring diligence, practice and common sense.

Applied addiction neuroscience confirms that integrated wellness lifestyle practices are the new common sense and long-term answer to the successful management of addiction.

What’s in your practice?

Dr. Herby Bell is a Recovery and Wellness Coach and owner of Recovery Health Care, an integrated approach to wellness and addiction recovery in Saratoga, California. For more information please call 650 474 9411 or Email: herbybell@me.com.  Connect with me online too:  Facebook | Twitter | Linkedin

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