This is a well-written article exploring two-sides of a debate on addiction: one is a neuroscience approach (UR Quadrant – empirical science) and the other a psychological perspective (UL Quadrant – psychology and emotional). From the integral perspective its readily apparent that these perspective aren’t actually contradictory – they arise simultaneously (tetra-arise); our thoughts and emotions are reflected in our neuro-phsyiology (by neural patters, brain-waves, neurochemicals, etc).Ultimately the debate is a chicken-or-the-egg argument. However, I think the most important thing is to focus on which angle provides practitioners and individuals with the most therapeutic leverage: ie. which facilitates hope, healing, growth, transformation, and self-empowerement? Addiction as a life-long disease or addiction as something one can grow out of with sufficient support? In my opinion the later is clearly the case. Understanding the neurobiology of addiction is invaluable in learning how to best prevent addiction, support recovery and maintain remission. It may also be invaluable in devising individualised nutritional, botanical, and supplement recommendations. However, framing addiction strictly in terms of disease disempowers the individuals ability to affect lasting change. Ultimately we must understand all aspects of addiction and have a holistic understanding of what are the factors predisposing an individual to addiction:
UR: genetic, nutritional, behavioural, physiological, neurological.
LR: what are the socio-economic and environment aspects.
LL: what are the cultural and family culture and relational aspects that may contribute (interpersonal skills).
UL: what is the role of emotions and psychological trauma, in particular what lines of development may have an impact (emotional intelligence, interpersonal skills, spiritual intelligence, etc), what is the impact of states (spiritual experience, emotional states, etc.).
I also think its helpful to re-phrase addiction and drug usage in terms of a fundamentally normal drive for “self-medication,” however maladaptive and detrimental over the long-term. This helps lesson the damaging impact of guilt/shame and the struggle of will-power against craving (and its inevitable failure without sufficient support and tools) which contribute to the vicious cycle. This is similar to the reframing that is so helpful in working with eating disorders, emotional eating, and obesity. The drive toward drugs and foods share the similarity of an urge to alter our states of consciousness wether to numb or avoid painful or scary emotional states or to experience pleasurable states. Trying to avoid painful emotions is fundamental human nature – the lack of emphasis in our up-bringing and education on emotional self-regulation and interpersonal skills (meditation, communications skills, HeartMath, etc) could easily be remedied. Attempting to fill the gaps in our day to day emotional experience (lack of love, belonging, spiritual connection or joy) is inherently natural and healthy, it simply needs to be redirected to a more adaptive and growth promoting behaviours, which requires a shift in perspective and the learning of new skills (based on the individuals predilections – art, music, meditation, rock climbing, time in nature, etc.).
What do you think?