We all know the statistics: 80% of the global production of opioid pain killers are consumed right here in the United States, which has less than 5% of the world’s population; we’re in the midst of a growing opioid epidemic with no sign of it receding, and the relapse rate of alcohol and drug abusers continues to be far, far away from acceptable. These numbers are certainly cause for alarm. However, what I find even most concerning is that, with the statistics screaming in our ear, we have, by and large, hardly answered the call.
April 2015 was the 25th anniversary of a paper I co-wrote with Dr. Ernest Nobel that was published in the peer-reviewed Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) and titled, “Allelic Association of Human Dopamine D2 Receptor Gene in Alcoholism.” I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of my colleagues, associates, and friends whom I’ve had the great fortune to know and work with and who contributed to not just this seminal discovery, but to my lifetime achievements. Coincidently, this year also marks the 80th anniversary (1935) of the beginning of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).
In our paper, Dr. Nobel and revealed our discovery of the DRD2 A1 as being the gene linked to addiction. The press termed it the “alcoholic/addiction gene.”
People with the DRD2 A1 gene unconsciously engage in risky behaviors such as drug and/or alcohol abuse, gambling, smoking, over-eating, and others, not because they’re hungry or want to get high, but because these activities improve dopamine function. During or shortly after one of these activities, the DRD2 A1 person will experience that “ahhh” moment that others feel normally. Their dopamine function becomes closer to its balance or “homeostasis.”
Scientists have compiled a mountain of research on addiction and its treatment that has led to the development of a plethora of scientifically proven effective modalities. Yet, with the preponderance of scientific research and evidenced-based modalities available, the addiction treatment paradigm has barely shifted.
Use of FDA-approved medical assisted treatment (MAT) modalities started a while ago. However it seems to me that there is lately a renewed effort to expand the program. This could benefit patients in the short term, but my concerns are focused on the long-term utilization. The FDA-approved drugs actually block dopamine function. The long-term effects have shown a propensity to cause suicide. The better solution would be to gently stimulate the reward center naturally thus aiding dopamine in achieving homeostasis. The nutraceutical KB220z has been scientifically proven to achieve this and more.
Additionally, in the U.S. there is no state or federal “Standard of Care” requiring treatment centers to adhere to a minimum level of treatment. The lack thereof, leaves treatment facility’s management a lot of room for interpretation as to what is best for the patient and how to apply their modalities.
A. Thomas McLellan, co-founder of the Treatment Research Institute in Philadelphia, said, “There are exceptions, but of the many thousands of treatment programs out there, most use exactly the same kind of treatment you would have received in 1950, not modern scientific approaches.” I applaud the many treatment centers in America that provide a neuro-scientific approach using evidenced-based modalities to enhance clinical outcome in their respective patients.
With due respect, it is well known that many treatment centers and pain pill mills are more concerned with financial gain than successful outcomes for their patients. A quick Google search for “addiction treatment profiteers” or “addiction treatment profits” will open your eyes to just how unscrupulous some of these operators can be. Addiction treatment on a whole is a $35 billion dollar industry that is attracting many investment bankers and other purely profit-motivated individuals.
My question to the entire treatment arena is: in light of the evidence of the genetic and epigenetic aspects of addiction, would they also embrace methods that could promote “dopamine homeostasis”? These known therapies could include meditation, yoga, dopamine-boosting recovery diets (such as the Malibu Beach Recovery Diet: Dopamine for Dinner), exercise, hyper-oxygenation, heavy metal detoxification, leaky gut restoration, and certain nutraceuticals.
While just a handful of treatment centers actually apply evidence-based neuroscience (dopamine homeostasis), those in the research trenches continue to be perplexed that most of the 14,500 treatment centers do not. I am concerned that we are not providing scientifically-based real care for the millions seeking addition treatment in America. If you have a heart condition would it be appropriate to just pray away the problem with no aftercare? We must embrace a new addiction treatment landscape and stand up for real relapse preventive strategies embracing “dopamine homeostasis” that could result in enhanced quality of life during recovery and “redeeming joy.”