The key player in addiction
By Shelly Tichelaar, CEO & Executive Director, Ranch Creek Recovery
Yes, there really can be too much of a good thing. Dopamine is a chemical neurotransmitter in the brain that relays feelings of pleasure to the brain when we engage in an enjoyable behavior or activity. While human beings inherently rely on dopamine to reinforce survival behaviors such as eating and procreating, this brain chemical also happens to be the key player in addiction.
Out of Control Dopamine
Activated by such things as eating certain foods we love or engaging in romance, dopamine signals the brain that a reward is on its way. When we engage in these pleasurable activities, dopamine sends its chemical message to the brain — the association between the stimulus and the reward become hardwired, a process called conditioning. This stimulus and reward pattern allows the human species to survive.
But when it comes to drug or alcohol use, dopamine levels are released at five to ten times the normal level, flooding the mood center of the brain. The user’s brain associates the extreme rush resulting from the spiked dopamine levels with using the drug of choice, reinforcing the desire to repeat using it. Ultimately, the brain requires more and more of the alcohol or drug to achieve any feelings of pleasure at all, resulting in compulsive drug-seeking behaviors.
Dopamine and Addiction
Most drugs target the brain’s reward system, activating a surge of dopamine that overwhelms the brain. Continue reading
Words of wisdom for those in the New Recovery Advocacy Movement
Guest Blogger: William L. White
Of all the experiences I have had as a recovery advocate, none have been more heart-rending than receiving news that a person prominently involved in recovery advocacy efforts has died of a drug overdose. It reminds me once again that personal health and recovery are the foundation of all larger efforts to educate, advocate, and counsel within the alcohol and other drug problems arena.
This is not a new lesson. Consider, for example, the following stories. John Gough got sober in the Washingtonian revival of the early 1840s, but relapsed three times in the early period of his long career as America’s most charismatic temperance reformer. The lawyer Edward Uniac always stated that he was more vulnerable to the call of alcohol during extended periods of rest than when he was moving from town to town giving his temperance lectures. But Uniac suffered repeated drinking episodes and died in 1869 of an overdose of whiskey and opium while on a temperance lecture tour in Massachusetts. Luther Benson tried to use his own personal struggles with alcohol in the temperance lectures he gave across the country. His tales of continued binge drinking while on the lecture circuit were penned while he was residing in the Indiana Asylum for the Insane. His 1896 autobiography was entitled, Fifteen Years in Hell. Benson truly believed that throwing himself into temperance work could quell his own appetite for alcohol. In retrospect, he was forced to admit the following:
“I learned too late that this was the very worst thing I could have done. I was all the time expending the very strength I so much needed for the restoration of my shattered system.”
The stories of Gough, Uniac, and Benson are not unique. Similar tales were told by others who sought to cure themselves on the temperance lecture circuit. However, recovering people did achieve and maintain stable recovery working in the 19th century temperance movement and within treatment institutions of that era. An important lesson emerged out of the 19th century recovery movements: service activity, by itself, does not constitute a solid program for continued sobriety. This lesson was relearned throughout the 20th century, particularly within the modern rise of addiction counseling as a distinct profession.
A New Recovery Advocacy Movement is spreading across America and beyond, Continue reading
Summer Special Event Webinar
Addiction and the Brain: A Focus on Opiates
Dr. Christopher J. Tuell, Presenter
Saturday, June 24, 5:00 PM EDT
This promises to be a fascinating and far-reaching discussion, beginning with a look at today’s opiate epidemic. From there, Dr. Tuell will highlight the relationship between mental health and addiction and how they intersect. We hope the conversation will add to awareness of the ways in which addiction shows itself – in today’s opiate crisis and more broadly.
Most importantly, we hope to carry a message of hope and encouragement; to shine a lens on compassionate and respectful ways to engage when people have trouble dealing with the pressures of our complicated society. Dr. Tuell will respond to questions and the event will be recorded and released as a podcast following the event.
One of the things we appreciate about Dr. Tuell and the Lindner Center is their commitment to choice in recovery which resonates so strongly with SMART– both in making people aware of their choices and in helping to actively provide recovery choices. The Lindner Center has hosted SMART community meetings at their beautiful facility for eight years — thank you, Lindner Center.
As always, all are invited to this FREE Webinar in our Special Events series at SMART Recovery! We are the 2nd largest recovery support group in the world for addiction recovery, and we are happy to continue to encourage thought-provoking, hopeful, practical and compassionate conversations.About our speaker: Prior to joining Lindner Center of HOPE, Dr. Tuell served as Center Director and Director of Employee Assistance Programs for Family Service of the Cincinnati Area, as Clinical Director of the Warren County Juvenile Justice Center, and as a psychotherapist for Community Mental Health Centers of Warren County in Lebanon, Ohio and Mental Health Services West in Cincinnati, Ohio. Currently Dr. Tuell serves as Clinical Director of Addiction Services at Lindner Center of HOPE providing mental health and addiction psychotherapy services to a wide variety of treatment populations. Dr. Tuell is also an Assistant Professor at the University of Cincinnati ‘s Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Neuroscience. He is a clinical psychotherapist and a chemical and behavioral addiction specialist with over 30 years of experience in the field of mental health and addictions. Dr. Tuell earned his Doctorate degree from the University of Cincinnati and is a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor, and a Licensed Independent Chemical Dependency Counselor in the State of Ohio.
We look forward to your participation in the webinar. Register Today!
by Kimberly Winters, SMART Recovery Volunteer Meeting Facilitator
Do you sometimes experience difficult thoughts and emotions…the kind that lead to unwanted behaviors?
Emotional upsets can wreak havoc with addiction recovery. SMART Recovery offers tools for disputing difficult thoughts, by examining those thoughts to see if they are true, helpful, hopeful, flexible and nurturing!
Did you know that having a tangible object for each of those questions can be helpful? Below are some suggestions for items to help with that!
All of these items can be found around the house, outdoors or at the craft store!
- Is this thought TRUE? Find a nice smooth and heavy rock and write TRUE? on it with a black sharpie. Put that rock in your hand and hold onto it while you help your thought pass through the truth test.
- Is this thought HELPING me? Find something with a smiley on it like a small yellow ball with a smiley face on it or a sticker or even a little kid toy that looks friendly.