So I'm gonna share with you my new followings and my new understandings with it. A lot of it has come through training that I've done with Melissa Tears recently in addiction protocol, become a certified with that. Kevin Lay of Sight Tap Fame and his addiction classes, of course I did, and some other personal research as well. So I'm gonna borrow from both of those people, their studies, stuff that I tend to believe and do, so it's gonna be a mishmash of all of that and current research.
So, basically, how I now think of an addiction is it's basically a habit in the brain that creates a network of associations. As some neuroscientist like to say, "The cells that fire together wire together." And what this means for an addiction is that each time you do a drunk, you drink the drink or engage in that addictive activity, you're strengthening those connections. Athletes will have thicker and denser neurons that are associated with the muscles used for their sport. London cab drivers went from have thicker neurons in the area of their brain associated with navigation and addicts have more robust area devoted to the patent response. The more we reinforce the pattern, the thicker and stronger the cluster of neurons become. And as this happens, it becomes much more difficult to consciously control them. But new research in neuroscience tells us that the brain is malleable and capable of changing even the most ingrained patterns. So each time you stop that craving, urge, or that habitual feeling that led you to them, you're actually learning to rewire the brain and it's far easier to do than most of us think.
Now there's basically three levels of doing this. First of all, when I work with people, I arm them with understanding how habits are formed, which we're gonna do with you today and change in the brain. And then give them multiple different ways to stop those cravings and, more importantly, the emotions that lead to them. And also learn about the research that concludes the best way to change the habit is in to interrupt it and connect the neurons to those outside networks. So the techniques will offer relief from the cravings while systematically rewiring your brain. The second level of protocols work to change the emotional impact of past traumas, associations, negative beliefs, and emotions that many addicts carry around. These techniques are based on the research of memory reconsideration and the fact that we can change significantly the power of implicit memories which then makes it easier to heal and move on, and how we encode and install these positive beliefs and motivations inside people.
And the third level is about personal power. Teaching addicts to develop alternative strategies to reward based on the work around willpower and meaning making. I help them cultivate a new values hierarchy fostering a sense of community but very different from codependent communities like AA and NA, and purpose by having addicts connect to groups and individuals who are actually empowered that no longer do that negative process. Recent studies now in neuroscience have actually shown us that the best way to stop an addiction, a pattern is to actually consistently interrupt it and start to change the emotion that led to it. Research indicates the best way to change a habit is interrupt it and connect the neurons to the outside network of neurons. So the techniques that we're gonna offer here for cravings will simultaneously help to rewire the habit.
Now I want to give you some point here. Point one, Bruce Alexander, "The View from the Rat Park," which was a study in, I believe a book in 2010. Rat Park was a study into drug addiction conducted in the late 1970s and published in 1981 by Canadian psychologist, Bruce Alexander, at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada. I'm probably gonna gobble some of these names later on in the study is what I have here to give you if you would like to research. Just a heads up. And Alexander's hypothesis was that drunks do not cause addiction. And that the apparent addiction to opiate drugs commonly observed in laboratory rats to expose to them is attributable to the living conditions and not any addictive property in the drug itself. I'm not sure if you're familiar with this, but there was a study that was done with rats in a cage. And in the rat's water bottle they put in some opiates, I think it was cocaine-infused opiate water. And I believe the rats would be drinking this water, drinking this water, drinking this water with the opiates in and would become more and more strung out.
But what they found, it wasn't actually the drug that was stringing these rats out, it was a small defined area in the cage where there was no toys. There was nothing to do. It was essentially a lockdown most of the time. They were not stimulated by anything else and it was one at a time. And my understanding was when they took the rat out of the cage, put them in an environment that was a far bigger cage with things to play on like wheels and so forth and other rats, and they just changed the water to be normal water, basically these rats and their biology self-corrected, they didn't go for days and weeks and months and years of relapse, just a mere change in the environment with other rats, with things to play, with more open spaces, actually started to change the biology of these rats. Proven in rats that to merely change the environment they were in from one that was quite downtrodden and negative to an environment that was quite positive, that change changed them, changed their very biology.
Now these following points are from the substance dependence recovery rates with and without treatment taken from the clean slate addiction site which is www.thecleanslate.org. Most alcoholics recover without treatment and they moderate too. Information presented below is an analysis of data taken from 2001 to 2002, the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions, or the NESARC for short. This data is relevant because it comes from a survey representative of the U.S. population as a whole. Unlike many addiction studies which only surveyed people who go through drug and alcohol addiction treatment protocols, those studies often find that people relapse quickly without continued treatment lead into the erroneous assumption that addicts can't quit without treatment, or that the addiction is a chronic disease and especially that abstinence is necessary and that successful moderation is rarely attained.
But what we find when we broaden our scope, like in this study, is the majority of people with substance dependence as defined in the EPA's DSM Volume 4, actually quit on their own without any sort of 12-step protocol. Point number one, most people ceased to be substance dependent. The fact is that any given time, of the percentage of people who would be classified as dependent in a time prior to the past year, only 25% of them are still dependent. This leaves the other 75% as no longer dependent. This one fact proved by this study offers a lot of hope for those with substance use problem, The odds are that you're three times more likely to end your addiction than continue your addiction.
Point number two. You have a better chance of ending your addiction if you are never exposed to treatment programs like a like a 12-step program. The recovery culture claims you cannot end your addiction without treatment or a 12-step meeting. But the facts show that the higher percentage of people end their dependence without ever getting this kind of help. Point number three, long-term success is more likely without treatment. And I'm defining treatment by updating into change work sessions, that actually 12-step programs all week long plus month long, overpriced rehab programs. Point number three, long-term success is more likely about treatment. In a study, 64.9% of people who had received treatment and whose addiction started sometime in the past five years are still dependent. The interesting thing about this is that the number is exactly the same for the untreated individual whose addiction began in the past five years. So in the early years, there is no difference in outcome, whether you get treatment or not. But if you want a life of recovery, maybe you should stay in treatment.
Point number four, moderate use is a possible and probable outcome for a resolution of substance dependence. And this is something that probably in the last podcast and stuff that I've had a belief for long term, and the belief is you need to come off come off the drug, obviously under supervision of a doctor, but you need to come off of it and never go on it again once you're off of it wherever you wean yourself off or not. Because if it's there, if it's dangled in front of you you become addicted again. So this is something that's pretty much changed over the last six months since I've been doing these podcasts that it is possible to do that drug in moderation. Now I'm not suggesting that you do it, I'm not saying you should do it, it's not how I live my life, but I'm also not here to judge you or how you live your life, it is possible to moderate these things. I'm gonna give you the study in a moment.
So oftentimes, when I get a client that comes in, I asked them, well, you know, if they're smoking too much, or they're drinking too much, or drugging too much, I'll ask them, "Well, listen, do you wanna stop completely or do you just wanna do it in moderation?" A high percentage want to stop completely, which is great, which is my old model. And some say, "Well, you know what? I just like to have the occasional drink," or the occasional cigarette, or the occasional what have you, which they can do. Because here's the way I look at it, if you imagine a pendulum, yes, I'm a hypnotist. I'm giving you a metaphor, a pendulum. If you imagine the pendulum swung one way for a long time, which is your drug and your drinking in some form or fashion way too much that it's making you unhappy, then allowing that pendulum to swing completely the other way for a little bit, which is abstaining from that drug, that narcotic in order to get that balance in-between where you could occasionally enjoy a drink here or there and what you do, it is possible this study shows us.
But my belief in working with people with addiction over 22 years is sometimes if you've been one way with that addiction, with that problem, that pendulum swung one way, it does need to swing the other way for a little bit in order for you to get more calibration. But it is possible to use in moderation. I'm not suggesting that you do, but it is possible and when my clients come to me, I ask them, "Do you wanna stop completely or just moderate this?" because it's their life, not mine and I'm in the job of helping deliver the results they want, not results that I necessarily want for them. So back to the research. It's important to realize, since recovery culture doesn't allow for moderation as a success story, they believe that it's abstinent or nothing. And in fact, they actually teach people that once they've been substance dependent, a single drink will rapidly escalate them back into a full blown substance dependence. The data in this studies show that this clearly isn't the case.
An example of this from my own clinical work is I'd occasionally have a client would come in smoking 2 packs of cigarettes a day, approximately 50 cigarettes. And they'll come in about a month later for a follow-up session and they've come in and they're like, "Look, look, I failed." I'm like, "Okay, how many cigarettes are you smoking?" And bear in mind, as I said, they're on 2 packs a day, 50 cigarettes approximately. They're like, "Well, I've smoked two cigarettes in the last month." I'm like, "You failed? So let me get this right, in an average month for 30 days you would in the past smoke 1,500 cigarettes a month. So you didn't smoke 1,500 cigarettes a month, you smoked 1 and then you didn't smoke anymore because you realize how stupid it was?" And they're like, "Yeah." And I'm like, "You were successful, so stop fucking beating yourself up and realize you went from 1,500 to 1 and that 1 didn't gradually turn into 1,500 because you just stopped. You realized, 'Hey, you know what? I don't really want this because I don't really need it.'" It is possible to do that. And that's a new thing for me that I've learned and actually put into my practice.
These following stats are from "The Truth About Addiction and Recovery." Currently, it is estimated that 30% of adult Americans, more than 14 million are former smokers. The Office on Smoking and Health reports that 45% of all Americans and 60% of college graduates who have ever smoked no longer do so. What's more, 90% of those who have stopped have done it on their own. And this is from a research study or book, "A Retrospective Study on Successful Quitters, Paper Presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Psychological Association, oh they love me, in Toronto, Canada, where I'm living, in August, 1978, the year before I was born.
Sociologist, Dan Waldorf, who interviewed hundreds of untreated ex-addicts for his 1986 book "Pathways from Heroin Addiction: Recovery Without Treatment" describes how 40% of his subjects naturally outgrew heroin addiction as a normal part of their development with almost no special effects on their part. This group felt that their addiction had run its course and that it was time to go on to do something else and have a more meaningful life. That's by D. Waldorf, "Natural Recovery from Opiate Addiction: Some Social-Psychological Processes of Untreated Recovery," and that's the Journal of Drug Issues for a teen in 1983. So what does that tell us? It tells us that a lot of people just stopped one day, and we've all had things that we've stopped in our life. Perhaps when you were a youngster, like me, you played with action figures, maybe it was Barbie Dolls. I did smoke. I didn't play the part with Barbie Dolls. It was that one time, but I married one of my wrestling figures to my sister's Barbie Doll. But that's another story for another time.
But I used to play with He-Man figures and wrestling figures when I was 8, 9, 10, 11, and even 12. But as I grew older, they got replaced by video games and girls. I no longer play with figures. It wasn't a hard transition. It just happened because I outgrew it. I'm sure there's things that you've outgrown in your life. When I was young, I used to dress in a certain way. I used to have a certain style. I was a young man. As a teenager I no longer dress that way anymore. It wasn't a big battle, I just outgrew it. When I was young...I'm sure you've had clothes that you just outgrew. You're just like, "I don't have that style anymore. It was cool at the time but now I've grown up. I don't wear clothes like that."
Stay tuned tomorrow for part 2.
Luke Michael Howard PhD
Toronto and Ottawa Clinical Hypnotist