Addiction by Any Other Name...
Updated: Aug 28, 2021
By Sean C. Orr, M.D.
May 18, 2020
"What is in a Name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." - Shakespeare
In previous posts, we've discussed how Reward Deficiency Syndrome, or RDS, is a brain disorder characterized by a clinically significant deficiency of Dopamine in the brain's Reward Center. Since the inception of the Human Genome Project, there has been an explosion of new information about how genetic and environmental factors interact with one another to cause addictive behavior. This is a complex relationship, and we still have much to learn, but a big step forward has just been published in the Journal of Addiction Science by our very own Dr. Drew Edwards.
Personalized Behavior Management
Genetic material that makes sense and that varies from person to person is known as a “Single Nucleotide Polymorphism,” or "SNP" for short. These SNPs are what code for those interesting differences, like hair color, height, and eye color. But on a deeper level, those variations also can have a massive influence over our behavior patterns. The ability of these SNPs to be turned on and off is something we've only come to understand over the past decade as "epigenetics," which helps us to understand why even genetic twins can end up with very different lives depending on their exposure to different environments and even styles of thought.
When it comes to addictive behaviors, some of these SNPs can predispose certain individuals to a stronger risk of addiction. On top of that, their epigenetics can make them more susceptible to long-term changes in brain structure and function which reinforce those patterns of addiction. Addiction to toxic substances hijacks the brain's reward circuitry and functionally disconnects systems that are critical to maintain mental health. The good news is that, because we now have a solid understanding of SNPs, epigenetics, and their impact on brain function, we can help people on an individualized basis by tailoring treatments to their own particular genetic makeup. New diagnostic tools, such as the GARS test, now enable us to offer solutions that improve Brain Function through healthy neuroadaptation, reintegrating functions of the brain that have been degraded by addiction.
These strategies work best when incorporated into a holistic, comprehensive approach to Brain Building. Indeed, in his new paper, Dr. Edwards emphasizes that "Addictive disease is a complex multifaceted neuropsychiatric disease in which no single intervention modality is sufficient."
He goes on to say that addictive disease is most effectively treated when:
1. Treatment is individualized, patient and family centered. 2. Delivered within a chronic disease, multimodal framework of optimal intensity and duration. 3. Provided by a highly trained multidisciplinary professional team.
Source: Edwards D, Roy III AK, Boyett B, Badgaiyan RD, Thanos PK, et al. 2020. Addiction by Any Other Name is Still Addiction: Embracing Molecular Neurogenetic/Epigenetic Basis of Reward Deficiency. J Addict Sci 6(1): 1-4.
Setting a Course for a New Direction
As our current health care system continues to melt down in the face of unprecedented strain brought on by the global pandemic, we surely will witness a new level of despair for some years to come. People with predisposition for addiction will be more vulnerable at this time. Yet this new model of treatment provides real hope for their rescue and recovery. By combining Personalized Behavior Management with tools that lower the barriers to care, we may just witness a large-scale transformation of our populace to a new time when mental health and quality of life flourish. Take this quiz to evaluate your own risk for addiction, and schedule a meeting with us today!
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