I have just arrived in Israel to participate in the Jerusalem International Conference on Neuroplasticity and Cognitive Modifiability (June 2-5, 2013). This is a gathering of some of the world’s leading brain science scholars and researchers who will share new breakthroughs in the application of the principles of neuroplasticity and cognitive modifiability to various human problems. I will discuss neuroscience and addiction recovery.
A week ago, I saw a report from researchers out of McGill University in Canada, showing through brain scans exactly how addiction is a disorder of decision making. In laymen’s terms, the addict’s brain cannot chose actions for long-term good (health, maintaining jobs/relationships, etc.) over short-term interest (drugs) – and we can now actually see this dysfunction in the brain – so we can base treatment off these findings.
Upon reading this research, I clapped my hands with delight. This is a premise my colleagues and I have been using for many years – understanding addiction not as a “disease” per se, but as a behavioral disorder in which the brain is so entrenched in the addictive process, the individual simply cannot break free from it.
Addiction is essentially a rewiring of the brain caused by the habituated use of substances or maladaptive behavior. Through ongoing substance abuse, the addict builds a neural feedback loop that s/he can’t break free from. Seeing this process in the brain is exciting news indeed!
What do these findings mean for addiction recovery? What I will present in Jerusalem on Tuesday is that true, long-term recovery comes from retraining the brain – in short, creating a new neural feedback loop in which addictive activities/behaviors play no role. This is how we create meaningful, life –transformation for the clients at our treatment center – by helping them develop not just new ways of being in the world, but also literally new neural connections in the brain. We can help those suffering from addiction to develop addiction free lives. The science is with us.