The blog will discuss the purely academic side, or neuroscientific side of this neurobiological disease – it sets out a simple premise, irrespective of where recovery is achieved, AA or elsewhere or unaided, which states, in the hundreds of alcoholics we have met, there appears to be an emotional processing and regulation deficit at the heart of this disorder, a psychiatric disorder according to many leading academics, which results in distress based impulsivity, compulsive behaviours, short term decision making, difficulties recognizing, labelling, processing and regulating emotions as well as having an altered reward sensitivity to alcohol so that drinking was different for them as young people than to others.
Many of these changes are present as premorbid vulnerabilties also in children of alcoholics as are a host of other endophenotypes, such as cortical arousal, i.e. more glutamate compared to GABA which affects cognition in various domains. Add to this a low resting heart rate variability in abstinent alcoholics, especially in early recovery and you have a head and heart which are predisposed to distress states and reacting to emotional cues. As the American Society for Addiction Medicine state in their definition, there is an “dysfunctional emotional response”.
There is academic evidence for all this which will be presented over the next 6 months to clearly build our argument on redefining addiction and alcoholism so that those who need treatment find a treatment more tailored to their independent needs. By diagnosing individuals simply as having a vaguely related co-morbidity when they do not may be counter to effective treatment, whatever that treatment is – we have no axe to grind here regarding treatment, whatever works for you, works! We try our best not to be blinkered as we are researchers. Most treatments have good elements.
The point of this is to have our voices heard in terms of defining the problem, to mix the anecdotal with the experimental – When stress has whittled your pre frontal cortex to such a profound extent that you can no longer control or regulate emotions or stress or to use emotions as a guide to decision making, then one needs the help of others, the ‘external’ prefrontal cortex , if you like, to help you get well. Recovery is partly the strengthening of this brain region, but we need, most of us anyway, help in getting there. We hope to forward an argument that helps alcoholics and addicts get the same recognition and the same access to legal and medical services as others with similar psychiatric disorders.
The main aim is to discuss this condition in a open inclusive manner that gives alcoholics, families of alcoholics, those who treat and research them a more candid insight into their condition and thus why and how recovery works!
Hopefully understanding how the brain changes, via neuroplasticity, will give hope to many that change does come, recovery does happen and does make positive changes to the brain which alter our emotions, thinking and behaviour for the better. It alters our stress systems, emotional regulation, alters our neurotransmission. It alters who we are, and how we see the world and act in it. How we relate to our fellow human beings.
This is in addition to emotional catharsis, change in consciousness, recovering our relationships with wives, husbands, children, parents, other family, friends, community, or in terms of career, social standing, you name it, it all gets better through time. This is recovery for us, the repairing and recovering of that which has been damaged by our alcoholism, the clearing away the wreckage of the past .
Hopefully this too will help motivate others to keep doing the things that work, because they work, it can be demonstrated, measured even. We seek to supplement what you have already not substitute,to add to, not take way. To illuminate not confuse.
We do Recover!!