Essay on Existential Truth

It is a joy when I write a sentence which is my own and which I love. Here are some: The truth of every human being is a focal point greater than drug induced euphoria. Wanting your truth is a new way of being. Consideration of your truth is a step to being plugged in to who you really are. I always wanted to be more than a pile of crap. It turns out that I am, just never heard that from my parents. But now, I can come to believe it of myself. Yes, it takes some practice and some focus and some intent, but it is really my reality. If I think it, it will be. My truth is my spiritual awakening.

“Spiritual awakening is no more and no less than a human being claiming his or her full humanity” (Hungry Ghosts, Gabor Mate, page 421). The core, the root, of a spiritual awakening is your truth as the human that you are. The truth of who you really are is integral to developing and sustaining a new life .

Are you an addict? You are an addict if you are human. Dopamine is your drug of choice. This neurotransmitter will drive your every decision and activity, at least until you become aware and become driven by spiritual forces instead. Your truth, who you really are, is the spiritual life force. Your brain/mind has an unconscious life of which you are not aware. Thoughts are had and decisions made without your awareness. Who is the someone who gets up and goes to work even if they don’t want to? Or does chores? Or doesn’t steal, even returns lost valuables? This person was not learned in Boy Scouts or church. This person is who was born. This person is an abstract truth, the beginning of a human, a divine perfection. This truth lives on and exists now. Be it. Remember it. Truth is who you are. Think it. Feel it. Be it.

As a self seeking human, or someone who wants more out of life than a good paying job, “…see with the Soul’s sight, move in the realm of Truth…” (Plotinus’ Enneads, McKenna translation, page 69). Contemplate for yourself: your soul; your soul’s sight; the realm of truth; moving in the realm of Truth. Feel your consciousness expand beyond any drug induced trip. This bigger consciousness can be sustained by you, for life. This bigger consciousness will sustain you, for life.

Photo by Jan Laugesen on

Quotations on Addiction — Not Found in the Big Book

ADDICTION DEFINITION: “Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory, and related circuitry.” (American Society of Addiction).

HUMAN ADDICTION: “It is becoming apparent that eating and drugs share a common neuroanatomic and neurochemical basis” (Hungry Ghosts page 226. Chapt 20, fn 14, M.S. Gold and J. Star, “Eating Disorder,” Chapt 27 in “Substance Abuse,” by Lowinson et al 470).

CHOICE?: “Addicts had no free will to choose one day not to buy the product” (Dreamland page 55).

WHAT DRUGS DO: “…drugs can’t do anything new…drugs can either speed up or slow down ongoing neural activity—and that’s it” (Never Enough page 30).

NEURAL PLASTICITY: “…there will never be enough drug, because the brain’s capacity to learn and adapt is basically infinite” (Never Enough page 4).

PRE-FRONTAL CORTEX: “…the [addict’s] prefrontal cortex goes offline from the stress, and they revert to familiar and automatic habits” (Craving Mind page 179).

WILL POWER?: “…addictive habits are too deeply entrenched in the brain of the hard-core substance user to be overcome by a simple act of will” (Hungry Ghosts page 317).

UNCONSCIOUS AND AUTOMATIC: “The dilemma of freedom in addiction may be phrased this way: a person largely driven by unconscious forces and automatic brain mechanisms is only poorly able to exercise any meaningful freedom of choice” (Hungry Ghosts page 302).

ADDICTION CONSCIOUSNESS: “…the addiction consciousness was active and looking for more and more external trophies to capture…the anxiety, ennui and fear of the void driving the whole operation…” (Hungry Ghosts 228).

REALISTIC CURE: “…many people—are too deeply enmeshed in substance dependence for any realistic ‘cure’ under present circumstances” (Hungry Ghosts page 336).

WHY BE ALIVE: “Human beings only become addicted when they cannot find anything better to live for and when they desperately need to fill the emptiness that threatens to destroy them” (Chasing the Scream, Mr. Hari quotes Mr. Alexander, page 180).

COMPULSION: “…compulsion is a culturally learned pattern to distract you from self love” (Mind Body Code page 111).

ADDICTION/ COMPULSION/ OBSESSION: “…addiction is acquired dependence… compulsion is uncontrolled behavior… obsession is intrusive thoughts, difficult to stop…” (Mind Body Code page 206).

SELF DESTRUCTIVE DISTRACTION: “…addictive behavior is self-destructive to avoid feeling worthy.” (Mind Body Code pg 25).

SOCIO-CULTURAL DISTRACTION: “…addictions are socio-cultural self-distractions that serve to avoid worthiness.” (Mind Body Code 205).

EXISTENTIAL BURDEN: “…addiction … an attempt to shed my existential burden instead of carrying out the struggle…” (12 Rules for Life, Jordan Peterson page 323).

BODY BUDGET: “…drug addiction is often a misguided attempt to relieve the suffering from a body budget that’s chronically out of whack.” (How Emotions Are Made, pg 188)

JUST STOP THINKING ABOUT IT: “Asking a heroin user to stop thinking about heroin is like asking a drowning person to stop trying to catch a breath of air” (Overcoming Opioid Addiction, Adam Bisaga, page 31).

MORPHINE MOLECULE: “Most drugs are easily reduced to water-soluble glucose in the human body, which then expels them. Alone in nature, the morphine molecule rebelled. It resisted being turned into glucose and it stayed in the body” (Dreamland page 39).

WHY RELAPSE: “Most relapse comes not from the craving for the drug. It comes from this whole other level of unmanageability, putting myself in compromising situations, or being dishonest, being lazy – being a fifteen year old” (Dreamland page 293).

FALLING PREY: “Ambivalence feeds on discord, and the person who is still hostage to addictive thinking may eventually fall prey to it” (Overcoming Opioid Addiction, Bisaga page 205).

An Essay on Human Wanting

            You are sitting there in your chair thinking about what to eat or which drug to obtain and where. You want something. Potato chips? Another beer? More likes? Your brain is used to wanting a fix and you getting it. It is difficult to think of anything else. That is why your addiction has such a powerful hold. Most people want to find something. We are all drowning in our obsessive thoughts and desperately wish for something, some satisfaction of the wanting. Human minds always seek something more than what they have. I propose that this property of wanting something is a function or resultant of panpsychism, a philosophical theory of consciousness.

“The word “panpsychism” literally means that everything has a mind. However, in contemporary debates it is generally understood as the view that mentality is fundamental and ubiquitous in the natural world. Thus, in conjunction with the widely held assumption (which will be reconsidered below) that fundamental things exist only at the micro-level, panpsychism entails that at least some kinds of micro-level entities have mentality, and that instances of those kinds are found in all things throughout the material universe. So whilst the panpsychist holds that mentality is distributed throughout the natural world—in the sense that all material objects have parts with mental properties…” (Cited below).

Our brain is designed to want. But to want what? Potato chips and beer won’t cut it. The human mind always has access to the property of consciousness present in the universe, and the higher-order consciousness continually pulls on the human consciousness. Stop and think. Allow yourself to consider this massive revelation: Human brains are designed to want and the perfect fit for the wanting is a fundamental consciousness present in the material world. Now that you know of the existence of higher-order consciousness, connect with it.

            Neuroscientists and philosophers have developed theories of consciousness, to explain the mind-body problem. This problem is the existence of consciousness in a physical world. Is consciousness physical or non-physical? How and why is there consciousness? What is consciousness? Consciousness is a fundamental and ubiquitous feature of reality, and exists throughout reality. Like gravity or other laws of physics, consciousness exists. Scientists do not like to venture outside their supposedly fact-based science bubble, but I can. So I say now, consciousness as a property of the universe could be the same thing as what many people call God or Spirit. If consciousness is explained by panpsychism, then consciousness is a physicalist mental state. This conclusion is reached because panpsychism would locate consciousness in the physical world as a property. If consciousness is not explained by panpsychism, then consciousness is more likely a dualist mental state. This conclusion would be reached because consciousness cannot be detected or sourced with current methodology, therefore it would be non-physical. So?

            Humans have a tremendous need to fulfill their wanting. This wanting drives our societies, inventions, material progress, athletic prowess, everything. People fill this longing for something somehow. Addiction is a phenomenon of the unfulfilled call of higher consciousness. Our brains have been designed specifically to answer the call, but mostly we answer the call with material world devices like various addictions. Addiction to a harmful substance or behavior can destroy you. There are other methods of filling the wanting. What are you looking for in your life, or your addiction, or your religion, or whatever? Is there a hole in your soul? Face it. You are looking for something. There is an unfilled need and you think that the addictive substance or behavior will fill it. Instead, consciously find a way to connect with higher-order consciousness.

            Do you want to find an inner strength that supports you and stays with you always? Do you want to feel accompanied by a trusty power always? That feeling is what I mean by connecting to higher-order consciousness. Reach mentally into the consciousness property of the universe, into higher-order consciousness. You will quickly receive something. It might be a better feeling, a new thought, something someone says, or something that happens. Look. Feel. Be on alert. Something which helps you will come, but you have to watch for it. Then, keep it conscious.

            Right here, right now, think, “I want something more than a fix.” Relax. Close your eyes. Breathe. Cling to your Something within for a moment. Consider an abstract notion of divine energy beyond any religion or anthropomorphic concept of God. You have a spiritual component beyond addiction, resentment, pain, failure, ordinary consciousness. Transform your wanting for your drug or behavior of choice into an insistent connection to higher-order consciousness. Something more will come from an inner sense of something. Something more is now lodged in your gut with an insistent wanting for connection with the conscious you. Something more wants a relationship with you, to be in your conscious mind. So transfer your wanting to the inner something. Stop and feel something more. Whoever you are, at whatever age, there is Something more. Focus on something more. You may not know what to call it, that feeling of something more, but you know you want it and wish for it. The words Something more in relation to your life itself, tug at you, want you to connect. You can strive higher in consciousness. You don’t have to be special to connect with Something. Pause and feel the inner urge. The feeling is there. Discern it.


Goff, Philip, William Seager, and Sean Allen-Hermanson, “Panpsychism”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2020 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <;

Addiction: Disease not Choice


Addiction: Disease not Choice

Copyright Laura Bellman December 2020, all rights reserved


            “…addiction … an attempt to shed my existential burden instead of carrying out the struggle…” (12 Rules for Life 323).

            To define addiction as a disease is important because it is a national health problem and to help addicts receive treatment. A deep understanding of the disease is necessary to achieve better treatment results. It is not just that addiction should be defined as a disease, but that the meaning of the word disease must be recognized. To understand addiction as a disease, first, the counter-argument of neuroscience is discussed. Then, the disease concept is explored, including the definition of a disease, the epigenetic changes, and emotional components. Some comments on treatment follow the emotional discussion. Addiction is a disease when all of the components of the definition of the disease are considered. The key to the disease of addiction is the compounding of neuro patterning with epigenetics.

            An existential burden is a condition of neuroscience and epigenetics, not a choice. Going deeply into epigenetics, also known as gene expression, we find the roots of behavior, emotion, and thought. Most people don’t know about gene expression, or perceive their gene expression as an existential burden; so they proceed unknowingly into addiction. A radical change in outlook on life is required to begin the change process necessary for recovery from addiction. The radical change is a decision to shoulder the existential burden, deal with the epigenetics, and carry out the struggle to live life on life’s terms. This total psychic change, sometimes perceived as a spiritual experience, is mistaken by the non-addicted as an ordinary choice. The total psychic change is a radical change to the electrical impulses of the diseased brain.

            For many years, Lays potato chips had the slogan, “No one can eat just one.” Watching the commercial and listening to the slogan, one’s brain formed a desire for a Lays potato chip. Indeed, the behavior of going to the kitchen and getting the bag of chips was difficult to resist. The same feeling of desire occurs in today’s world with the behavior of checking social media for updates and likes. Desire, or more technically the dopamine reward mechanism, plays a role in behavior. Overuse of the dopamine reward mechanism with any one behavior leads at least a distraction, or at worst to disease. For instance, extreme overuse of potato chips could lead to obesity, now identified as a disease. Too much social media distraction impedes the ability to do one’s homework. But it is the epigenetics plus neuro circuits which express as a failure of choice, not the failure of choice itself. Managing the dopamine reward mechanism is part of the existential burden of every human. Resisting immediate gratification is the struggle.

            Whether it is too many potato chips or shots of heroin, a disorder develops in the body and brain. At some tipping point, the addict has lost control, and the behavior is involuntary. The tipping point distinguishes a disorder from a disease. A full definition of the disease promotes effective treatment. Addiction is a disease characterized by an entrenched dopamine reward loop. While not everyone becomes an addict, epigenetic or emotional comorbidities predispose an addict. The aim of treatment should be accurate knowledge of the existential burden, followed by enough time for new neurocircuits to be developed, and gene expression to be modified and strengthened, in essence, a whole new way of life built.


The counter-argument to addiction as a disease comes from neuroscience. Neuroscientists argue that addiction is a disease of choice. Learning, plasticity, and choice are concepts critical to neuroscientists. Neuroscientists do not account for the action of drugs on receptors in the brain which is different from eating too many potato chips. Also, neuroscientists do not account for gene expressions. Below are three examples of neuroscience arguments for addiction being a habit, not a disease.

            Neuroscientists look scientifically at desire and choice. Addiction is merely a result of the brain learning through repetition. The book The Biology of Desire is written by Marc Lewis, a university professor of neuroscience. The book explains why addiction is not considered a disease, but rather a result of repetition. Lewis believes that “Addiction results, rather, from the motivated repetition of the same thoughts and behaviors until they become habitual. Thus, addiction develops—it’s learned—but it’s learned more deeply and often more quickly than most other habits, due to a narrowing tunnel of attention and attraction” (x). This book does not agree that a disorder is a disease if the disorder is a normal outcome of the brain’s operation. According to this book, the process of strengthening a neural circuit with drugs is the same for any human learning. Therefore, a drug habit is not a disease. The habit is the normal outcome of the brain’s learning function. The author does admit that a drug habit is learned quickly and deeply, but insists that any habit is just a habit and any person can choose to quit. The book does not account for any other factors related to addiction. For instance, drugs actually fill receptors in the brain and cause physiological changes beyond the neurocircuits.

Some neuroscientists lump choices about costs and benefits in the same category as the choice to take a drug in the moment. Neuroscientists don’t acknowledge the involuntary nature of the disease when the addict has placed themselves beyond ordinary choice. The book Addiction: A Disorder of Choice is written by Gene Heyman, a research psychologist, and lecturer at Harvard medical school. The book explains the aspects of choice, the biological basis for disease, and examples of addicts recovering based on choice. Heyman suggests that “Voluntary acts are guided by costs and benefits, such as concern about family, cultural values, self-esteem, fear of punishment, and so on; the same holds for drug use in addicts” (113). Neural plasticity is normal for the brain. This book also explains the strengthening of frequently used circuits as well as the weakening of non-used circuits. From this information, one gets the idea that a strong circuit is difficult to resist, however, Heyman posits that a person can choose their behavior regardless of the strength of the neuro circuit. This book’s conclusions land firmly on the concept of choice even for addiction. It doesn’t claim that choice is easy, but that choice is the way out of addiction, just as it was the way into addiction. This book comes short of properly acknowledging the type of radical change needed for an addict beyond the tipping point of disease.

Neuroscientists do not distinguish addiction as separate from any other habitual behavior. The book The Craving Mind is written by Jud Brewer, a university professor of medicine and psychology affiliated with three universities. The book is not focused on addictive drugs, but the brain\’s reward-seeking capability. Reward seeking could be directed towards cell phones, chocolate, or any number of things including drugs. Brewer observes that “Simply put, the more that a behavior is repeated, the more we learn to see the world in a certain way—through a lens that is biased, based on rewards and punishments from previous actions…”(7). This idea of perception could indicate that an addict can no longer determine behavior other than the addicted one. The words “lens that is biased” could be restated as a disordered brain or diseased brain. Brewer, however, looking only at reward-based learning and the dopamine reward cycle, addiction is not perceived as a different sort of problem than gambling or eating too many potato chips. Brewer’s arguments support the idea that addiction is not a disease because it treats addiction the same as any other reward-seeking behavior.

Neuroscience is the state of the art research. The ability to scan the brain and understand what happens to a brain on drugs is a recent development. Such information was not available to doctors 80 or 90 years ago when the idea of addiction being a disease first surfaced through the foundation of Alcoholics Anonymous. For most of human history, addiction was a matter of weak moral character. After understanding the neuroscience, it is necessary to return to the definition of disease to better understand why the addict’s habit is a disease.

 Definition of Disease

           The definition of what is considered a disease changes with time, based on culture and diagnostic capability. According to the dictionary, a disease is any harmful deviation from the normal structural or functional state of an organism, generally associated with certain signs and symptoms and differing in nature from physical injury. A diseased organism commonly exhibits signs or symptoms indicative of its abnormal state. The stereotypical addict could be identified as a person destroying their life and family by insanely pursuing drugs. They may swear off, but by the end of the day, they are looking for a score. Tremendous health problems along with crime and homelessness are the most obvious signs and symptoms. Looking at an addict from the outside, it seems easy to identify a diseased organism or an abnormal state of life.

            It may be surprising to many people to learn that defining disease is not a black and white decision. Social factors do influence science. The article “What is a Disease” by Jackie Leach Scully, a research scientist, concludes:

“…science never simply reflects cultural understandings; it simultaneously helps craft the definitions as well. Choices of such mundane things as disease models and diagnostic criteria, then, are not just about research agendas or commercial influences. At their heart they embody profound ethical debates about identity, human rights and the tolerance of difference.”

            The article supports the disease of addiction by expanding the definition of disease and explaining its etiology. To define something as a disease, one must account for more than neurocircuits. Culture and ethics are embodied by gene expression, epigenetics. Culture and identity are passed along through generations as well as early childhood learning. The soft concepts of culture, identity, difference, and human rights, make up a gene expression that must be struggled with consciously. If a drug has taken over one’s life, then the existential burden is not shouldered.

            Most addicts receive treatment in the form of psychological counseling. Psychologists rely on the disease definition provided by their professional association. Also, insurance companies rely on the professional diagnosis of disease. The disease of addiction is defined by the American Psychiatric Association (APA). The APA publishes the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM5) where addiction is defined: “Addiction is a complex condition, a brain disease that is manifested by compulsive substance use despite harmful consequence. People with addiction (severe substance use disorder) have an intense focus on using a certain substance(s), such as alcohol or drugs, to the point that it takes over their life.” Careful reading of the DSM5 definition reveals that addicts are defined by behavior, not by scientific diagnosis. Although at some point in the future, a brain scan might do this job. Observing addicts from the outside, one can see how the addiction has taken over their life. People end up in treatment for addiction after harmful circumstances like job loss, family loss, arrests, and health problems.

The brain disorder of addiction is a process that begins with a single dose. Enough doses and control is lost. The article “Initial rewarding effects of cocaine and amphetamine assessed in a day using the single-exposure place preference protocol” explains the changes to the dopamine reward circuit, and associated plasticity, which occurs from even a single dose of cocaine or amphetamine:

“By applying this protocol, we show that despite being exposed to both compartments of the apparatus on the same day, a single exposure to cocaine is sufficient to alter place preference towards the cocaine-paired compartment. In spite of different pharmacokinetics, a single dose of amphetamine is able to induce a place preference in the condensed sePP [Single Exposure Place Preference]” (2157).

The experiments were done on mice and included both observed behavior changes and brain dissection. Despite the different effects of cocaine and amphetamine, the rats showed behavior changes after one dose. Where repeated doses are used, stronger learning behavior is witnessed. Addiction is a process that begins with the first dose of a drug. This article’s results lead one to understand that, unless there is an intervention, a drug user would proceed to drug addiction. This outcome would be expected because the brain chooses additional drug stimulation without some overriding outside force. Choosing additional drug usage leads to the behaviors characterized by the DSM definition of a disease.


            Epigenetics research is beginning to show addiction is a disease. While an addiction gene hasn’t been found, epigenetic mechanisms are being discovered by researchers. Epigenetics is a new field of scientific discovery. This field was not possible before the discovery of the human genome and gene sequencing. The epigenetic code is another set of instructions that reside on top of DNA. Epigenetics control the activity of genes by switching them on and off. Before epigenetics was discovered, the term gene expression was used to describe the function of epigenetics. Pre-disposal to addiction may be epigenetically passed along through generations. Chronic stress and addiction can introduce epigenetic changes. An epigenetic fact alters the person’s ability to choose their behavior.

            Changes in DNA can lead to diseases. Epigenetic researchers have been able to construct changes to the proteins riding on the DNA through repetition and show changes to gene expression. The article “Epigenetics — Beyond the Genome in Alcoholism” posits that the cycle of extreme alcohol consumption followed by excruciating detox followed by relapse alters gene expression. This author classifies alcohol use disorder as a disease, thus supporting the disease concept:

“Genetic and environmental factors play a role in the development of alcoholism. Whole-genome expression profiling has highlighted the importance of several genes that may contribute to alcohol abuse disorders. In addition, more recent findings have added yet another layer of complexity to the overall molecular mechanisms involved in a predisposition to alcoholism and addiction by demonstrating that processes related to genetic factors that do not manifest as DNA sequence changes (i.e., epigenetic processes) play a role. Both acute and chronic ethanol exposure can alter gene expression levels in specific neuronal circuits that govern the behavioral consequences related to tolerance and dependence.”

            Epigenetics adds an amazing explanation for the addict’s seemingly insane behavior. Histone acetylation and histone and DNA methylation play a role in gene expression. Modification of microRNAs is a major factor in brain disease onset processes. Chromatin remodeling in the amygdala may regulate the development of anxiety-like behaviors during ethanol withdrawal after chronic exposure. Altering gene expression means thought, feeling, and behavior changes. Addiction changes gene expression. Gene expression is our reality, how we behave and show up in the world.

            Epigenetics is investigated biochemically, adding weight to the idea that addiction is a disease. Biochemical evidence can be found through rodent studies or biopsy of deceased humans. The biochemical changes are different for different drugs. The article “It Is A Complex Issue: emerging connections between epigenetic regulators in drug addiction” explains mechanisms important for gene transcription. Biochemical evidence shows: “The transition from casual drug use to a Substance Use Disorder (SUD) might occur through epigenetic mechanisms, and numerous studies report changes in the brain following chronic drug use.” Gene expression, how we think, feel, and behave, provides a strong rebuttal to the neuroscientist’s claim that addiction is a choice. The article is comprehensive in presenting biochemical changes due to a large number of drugs. The gene expression of addicts is various, however, biochemical changes are somewhat definitive. This researcher finds that epigenetics predispose one to addiction as well as continuing the epigenetic changes towards the tipping point of addiction becoming a disease.


            Emotional stress reactions are gene expressions that someone can’t think their way around without intervention. How humans feel is formed early in life. When faced with defeat, what do many people do but head to the bar for a drink? A life that begins in defeat stress may search for the easy out which substances bring. Searching for an escape refers one back to the failure to shoulder the existential burden. This behavior is frequently carried out semi-consciously. Many people don’t think about the remodeling of their brain through repetition. In the article “Social Defeat Stress: Mechanisms Underlying the Increase in Rewarding Effects of Drugs of Abuse” the changes due to environmental stress have been experimentally investigated using rats:

“Social interaction is known to be the main source of stress in human beings, which explains the translational importance of this research in animals. Evidence reported over the last decade has revealed that, when exposed to social defeat experiences (brief episodes of social confrontations during adolescence and adulthood), the rodent brain undergoes remodeling and functional modifications, which in turn lead to an increase in the rewarding and reinstating effects of different drugs of abuse.”

            The brain can be remodeled to accept and crave the escape. This rat research models the disease of addiction as repeated usage of drugs plus epigenetic modifications. Addicts demonstrate the same behavior as rats. Repeating the behavior, one falls into the disease.  While rats don’t have existential burdens, humans do. Drugs became the answer to the struggle; the existential struggle was not shouldered.


           Many diseases are treated with medications. A condition treated with medication helps us to understand that condition as a disease. Substance Use Disorder (SUD), as a result of the opioid epidemic, can be treated with medications. Most often, the medication is a substitute for the drug which fills the necessary brain receptors, satisfies cravings, and helps the associated consciousness focus on something besides obtaining drugs. By satisfying the brain, the associated consciousness buys time to change their life. Yet still, the consciousness has to want to carry out the work of change.

            It is astonishing to realize that meditation can modify the electronics such that an addict can weaken the drug craving circuits. The brain is essentially a system of electrical impulses, and that stronger impulses get attention from the associated consciousness. In his neuroscience research, the scientist Dr. Brewer (introduced above) completed numerous brain scans of trained meditators and persons newly trained to the practice. In the article “Mindfulness-based treatments for co-occurring depression and substance use disorders: what can we learn from the brain?” Dr. Brewer concludes:

“Mindfulness training [MT] has shown promise in the treatment of both SUDs and MDD. Examination of the common neurobiological and behavioral dysfunction in these disorders suggests the promise of MT for dually diagnosed individuals. MT may help those with dual diagnosis decrease avoidance, tolerate unpleasant withdrawal and emotional states (stress-related), and unlearn maladaptive behaviors (rumination). Additionally, it may lessen the interactions between these processes, thus weakening their additive effects on depression and substance use” (1702).

            Brewer’s book (cited above) contains the brain scans of seasoned meditators and newly trained meditators. This evidence triggered the realization that there is a connection between the meditating consciousness and the associated brain electrical firing pattern which could change entrenched neuro patterns. Looking at the brain scans, one can see that the electrical characteristics of the brain do change during meditation. Meditation reduces the electrical strength of some neurocircuits. This weakening allows other circuits to be thought or felt by the addict. The entrenched brain circuit is knocked out of first place. This activity can be the beginning of a psychic change, allowing the addict to grow emotionally, and change the gene expression. One could say that while meditation is used to quiet the electrical impulses within the brain, it allows the associated consciousness to take over the apparatus and make a radical choice to recover.

            Beginning with Alcoholics Anonymous and progressing through 80 years of scientific development, addiction has been redefined as a disease instead of a moral weakness. Alcoholics Anonymous called the problem of alcoholism a malady of body, mind, and spirit. What Alcoholics Anonymous also got right was the treatment of the disease with spiritual practices, including meditation. These practices form the basis of building a psychic change, changing neurocircuits, and changing gene expression. When neuroscience and epigenetics are integrated, they form the explanation of addiction as a disease. The disease is complex and presents variously in each individual. It is through both science and psychology that recovery will be found: radical choice plus changes to gene expression and neurocircuitry, over some time. The time is purchased with treatment, medically assisted treatment, ongoing counseling, and participation in a treatment community. Medicine, counseling, mindfulness practices, and 12 Step groups all work together to treat the disease.

            In the end, it is not so much whether addiction is a disease as understanding the complexity of the disease and responding accordingly. The definition of a disease changes with culture, and the evolution of science. Neuroscience and epigenetics have changed the perception and diagnosis of substance use disorder. Psychology can make use of these perceptions to effectively treat addiction by combining both the notions of choice and disease.




Works Cited


Anderson, Ethan M., et al. “It Is a Complex Issue: Emerging Connections between Epigenetic Regulators in Drug Addiction.” European Journal of Neuroscience, vol. 50, no. 3, Aug. 2019, pp. 2477–2491.


Brewer, Judson A., et al. “Mindfulness-Based Treatments for Co-Occurring Depression and Substance Use Disorders: What Can We Learn from the Brain?” Addiction, vol. 105, no. 10, Oct. 2010, pp. 1698–1706.


Brewer, Judson. The Craving Mind. Yale University Press, 2017.


Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th, ed. American Psychiatric Publishing, 2013.


Heyman, Gene. Addiction —A Disorder of Choice. Harvard University Press, 2009.


Lewis, Marc. The Biology of Desire —Why Addiction is Not a Disease. PublicAffairs, 2015.


Montagud, Romero, Sandra, et al. “Social Defeat Stress: Mechanisms Underlying the Increase in Rewarding Effects of Drugs of Abuse.” European Journal of Neuroscience, vol. 48, no. 9, Nov. 2018, pp. 2948–2970.


Peterson, Jordan. 12 Rules for Life. Random House Canada, 2018.


Scully, Jackie Leach. “What is a disease?.” EMBO reports vol. 5,7 (2004): 650-3.


Starkman, Bela G., et al. “Epigenetics–Beyond the Genome in Alcoholism.” Alcohol Research: Current Reviews, vol. 34, no. 3, Mar. 2012, pp. 293–306.


Corona Virus and Dopamine Rewards

This message is for those of us sitting on the sidelines, not sick.

In my morning meditation, I was struck by an incredible metaphysical situation. Punch line: Human minds focused on corona virus and getting dopamine hits from the news are actually creating the thing they don\’t want. You always get what you think about. So think about the solution. Think about good feeling things unrelated to the problem. Change the channel.Stop creating what you don\’t want. Think about and create what you do want.

More details please.

Lets start with the familiar information that human brains get small dopamine hits from \”likes\” on social media or that scrolling through apps on your phone is addictive.

“Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory, and related circuitry.” (American Society of Addiction ASAM Definition of Addiction – American Society of Addiction Medicine )

Every human brain loves dopamine and other neuro substances, and goes after feel good substances relentlessly. The human brain is an addict’s brain. The human brain is an addictive system. To be human is to have an addictive neurology. Every brain loves rewards and will go after them with a passion. Rewards, or lack thereof, rule our emotions and we seek dopamine to feel better. Most of us become addicts of one sort or another, ruled by the drive to get dopamine rewards.

“Somewhere in human history, we were conditioned to think that the feeling we get when dopamine fires in our brain equals happiness” (The Craving Mind Judson Brewer page 55). Getting a dopamine hit from a corona news story equals happiness to your brain.

Continuing the semi-addictive dopamine rewards of corona virus news ( like face book, football, TV, eating, shopping, working) is like a continuous low grade fever which will eventually have to be overdosed with real disease. 

Become conscious of corona obsession. Obsession is emotion. And, it is known that the amount of drug necessary to achieve the reward always increases. The brain is attempting to get the body to carry out behavior of finding bigger badder corona problems so it can have a dopamine reward. Therefore, you who are addicted to corona news always need bigger badder stories of corona problems. Thus we are perpetuating the problem ourselves. We create reality with our thoughts.

Become an observer who does have the power of thought choice. Make the decision to choose good feeling thoughts unrelated to corona. You aren’t in life for the dopamine. You are in life for genuine love, for yourself and humanity.

Yes, find out the rules of the Governor, the Mayor, or the County Health Department, but don\’t spend your time there. Get your dopamine hits on some other topics.

Ultra Spirit – #268 Nourishment

#268 Nourishment
As an addict, stop for a moment and think of nourishment. Nourish is a lovely word. Maybe it is time to yearn, to long for nourishment of body, mind and spirit. Not another bag of chips or another TV program or church. Over fed on society\’s food, we are starving.
Feel what it would be like to have an infusion of super food to body, mind and spirit. It comes from within. Feel it filling you
Right now, take down your belief barriers. Stop dis-sing yourself. Feel an infusion of goodness, of inner nourishment coming from the boundary of creative light, new energy just for you.

Salvation is as Salvation Does

Marathons. God I want to run another right now. I don\’t want to wait 10 days, until 1/1/2017, for my next race.

Here is a story of how I can get completely lost in my mind. Here is an example of an addictive thought process. While I am addicted to marathons, you can easily substitute alcohol or cocaine and get a similar slippery thought slope.

Yesterday I was out running. I was feeling real good and I wanted to run another marathon. But there are none right this minute; except for in San Antonio. Here is the beginning of the slippery slope.

I am well aware that the race director P fudges the results. That is, people who didn\’t run the race, including herself, are shown with results. People who ran virtually are shown in the results. P has claimed to run 1001 marathons, when I watched her cheat at the 2015 Irving marathon.

So I could drive to San Antonio and run a marathon. For me personally it would be legal right? I showed up at the course and ran it. Do I want to support a race director who cheats? But, God, I want to run a marathon right now. But I know perfectly well, that I could be the only one who shows up. So that is not really a race. Why drive to San Antonio, pay $100 to a scoundrel, and run by myself. Why not pay $35 to the scoundrel and run in Seabrook, but have my result appear with the rest of the results. I could run the course for the Seabrook Lucky Trail marathon so I was sure it was a measured marathon and not a Garmin marathon. I could do this and then be able to count one more marathon in my collection.

After this run where I came to this extraordinary conclusion, I got on the internet. I decided to check out results for L. I like L and I have seen L at races all over the country. L has been recognized for the most marathons ever. He includes Iranmarathons results in his list. But strangely, whenever I have gone to San Antonio, I haven\’t seen L on course. I asked another friend, C, about this. He said that L might start at 10 pm. But, my mind whispered, then that is really running virtually. So, to continue my rationalization, I thought, \”If Iranmarathons virtual results are good enough for L, then why not me?\”

Then I happened to google L. I landed on a page They had a long expose about L and the impossibility of some of his results. They also had a long expose about the Iranmarathons race director P.

A sour taste went into my mouth. Thank God for that. I was saved. I dismissed all ideas of claiming a virtual marathon result or going to San Antonio. Instead, I found myself sending an e-mail to Marathon Investigations about what I saw with P at the 2015 Irving marathon.

Today I went for a 3.5 hour walk. Just walking. I know I\’ll survive 10 days until my next marathon.