Unchain Your Brain: 10 Steps to Breaking the Addictions
that Steal Your Life
Daniel G. Amen, MD and David E. Smith, MD
INTRODUCTION – part 2
How Addictions Steal Your Life
When you are
chained by an addiction, it affects every area of your life. Addiction ruins
lives, devastates families, destroys relationships, negatively impacts your
career, decreases your ability to perform well in school, and causes health
problems. People with addictions are more likely to get divorced, less likely to
graduate from high school or college, less likely to get promoted at work, and
more likely to develop diseases related to their addiction. Addiction also
affects our society as a whole and burdens us all. Here are some alarming
statistics about the dangerous effects of addiction.
estimated that there were nearly one million drug-related deaths annually in the
U.S. from 2004 to 2008.
Smoking is the number-one preventable cause of death.
overweight or obese ranks third on the list of preventable causes of death.
Obesity, often caused by an addiction to unhealthy food, costs our society over
$145 billion annually.
Medical costs for an obese person are 42 percent higher than those of a
Morbid obesity is associated with more than thirty medical conditions and
diseases, including an increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and
Alcohol abuse is the seventh most common preventable cause of death.
spend close to $500 billion alone on morphine addiction when you factor in
healthcare costs, crime and criminal justice costs, accidents, and lost
estimated that the cost of drug abuse has grown to approximately $1 trillion
annually in America.
Addiction is far
more prevalent than you might imagine, and it can affect anyone—you, your
spouse, your child, your best friend, your neighbor, your teacher, your
coworker, your plumber, even your doctor. Just take a look at the latest
than 23 million Americans age twelve and older are affected by substance abuse
or dependence—that’s nearly one in ten Americans.
in five Americans between the ages of sixteen and fifty-nine admits to using
Nearly one in ten adolescents between the ages of twelve and seventeen surveyed
said they had used illicit drugs within the past month.
in five drinkers reported drinking five or more drinks on at least one day in
the past year.
than 28 percent of youths aged twelve to twenty reported drinking in the past
month. In some states, the number jumped as high as 40 percent.
underage drinkers, 19 percent identified themselves as binge drinkers and about
6 percent considered themselves to be heavy drinkers. Among young adults aged
eighteen to twenty-five, more than 42 percent reported binge drinking, and
nearly 16 percent reported heavy drinking.
Approximately two million adults meet the criteria forpathological gambling.
Another four to six million have serious problems with gambling.
in ten people who play video games shows signs of addictive behavior.
percent of adults admit to being addicted to Internet pornography.
Between 2 and 8 percent of Americans have a compulsive shopping addiction.
the U.S., more than 47 million people are smokers.
the U.S., two-thirds of people are overweight and one- third are obese.
62 percent of high-earning individuals in the U.S. work more than fifty hours a
week, which is the criteria for addiction to work, 35 percent work more than
sixty hours, and 10 percent work more than eighty hours.
Most people with
addiction problems do not think
the brain has anything to do with their addiction
Why is addiction
so pervasive, and what can we do to prevent and treat it? Many government,
community, school, and parent organizations as well as thousands of treatment
specialists and recovery centers are desperately trying to pinpoint the answer.
In all of the fact-finding and hand-wringing, we are missing the essential organ
of intervention: the brain. The brain is the supercomputer that runs your life.
It plays a central role in your vulnerability to addiction and your ability to
recover and maintain sobriety. Understanding the brain’s role in addiction,
prevention, and treatment is the key to helping people break free from your
addictions. Once addiction specialists, recovery centers, and people with
addictions recognize the importance of the brain, they will be better able to
treat the problem so you can enhance the quality of your life.
Until then, people
will continue to fuel their addictions with daily habits and actions that
pollute the brain and make it even harder for them to break free from those
addictions. Working at ever-frenzied paces, not getting enough sleep, and living
with strained relationships stresses the brain and lowers brain function, which
makes it harder to fight addiction. Eating fast food diets, guzzling caffeinated
drinks, and gobbling sugary snacks deprives the brain of proper nutrients,
decreasing your ability to think clearly and make good decisions. Isolating
yourself from friends and family in order to hide your addiction also has a
negative affect on your brain that can intensify addictive behaviors.
is the number-one reason why people fall victim to addiction, why they can’t
break the chains of addiction, and why they relapse.
By taking the
necessary steps to unchain your brain and
improve brain function, you will be able to break the
addictions that steal your life
Once you make the
decision to unchain your brain, you can learn how to keep your brain healthy and
stay away from addiction. Unchain Your Brain is a practical,
easy-to-read, step-by-step guide that introduces you to the most up-to-date
neuroscience research on how to optimize brain function as well as the latest
trends in treatment and recovery so you will have a better chance of living an
addiction-free life. Improving brain function increases your ability to think
clearly, make good decisions, love, work, and learn. This book is also based on
decades of personal experience treating patients with addiction and seeing
first-hand what helps them kick the addiction habit.
forty-five-year career in the field of addiction medicine, David E. Smith has
served as the president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine and the
California State Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs and is currently the
medical director of Center Point, a therapeutic community focused on those
coming out of the criminal justice system, and the chair of adolescent addiction
treatment at Newport Academy, a gender-specific residential treatment center for
teens with substance abuse and co-occurring disorders. In his vast experience,
he has successfully treated thousands of patients addicted to drugs and alcohol.
In this book, he will be sharing many of the insights he has learned to help you
with your own recovery.
David in 1967’s Summer of Love, the year he started
Ashbury Free Medical Clinic
I am the CEO and
medical director of the Amen Clinics, which has amassed the world’s largest
database of brain scans—more than 57,000 scans—related to behavior, including
addiction. For more than twenty years, I have been looking at the brain on a
daily basis using a sophisticated study called brain SPECT imaging. I have
looked at healthy brains and tens of thousands of brains in trouble. I have
looked at the brains of young children, teenagers, adults, and the elderly. I
have looked at brains on drugs, on alcohol, on prescription medications, on
supplements, on prayer and meditation, on gratitude, and on a wide variety of
psychological and biological treatments. I have used brain imaging to help our
patients win the battle against their addictions to food, gambling, sex, video
games, shopping, pornography, and more. At the Amen Clinics, the goal is to look
at, optimize, and restore the brain. This book will contain many of the lessons
we have learned in the process.
contains the ten steps you need to know to have the best brain possible to help
you fight the addictions that steal your life. It starts with the basic
principles of brain science as they apply to addiction and recovery. It reveals
how addictions get started and how they get stuck in your brain. It explores how
each individual’s brain and addiction is unique and how a one-size-fits-all
treatment method will never work for every addict. It alerts you to the daily
habits that might be making you or your loved ones more vulnerable to addiction.
It shows you how addiction may be a symptom of other underlying brain
dysfunctions and how treating those problems can be a big part of the answer to
program also gives you ten steps to optimize brain function so you can break
free from your addictions and avoid relapse. It teaches you to protect your
brain from injuries, a lack of sleep, and toxic substances—such as too much
caffeine, sugar, or nicotine—which have been shown to trigger relapses in some
people. It emphasizes the need to develop a positive social network to enhance
brain function and help you maintain sobriety. It gives practical instructions
on what and when to eat so your brain is properly nourished to improve your
ability to think clearly and make better decisions. A critical component of the
program is physical exercise, which boosts blood flow and other positive
nutrients to the brain and has been shown to reduce cravings in recovering
addicts. The program shows you how to rid your brain of bad thoughts (ANTs—automatic
negative thoughts) that interfere with good judgment, love, and health.
Ways to counteract
stress are a very important part of the program, as stress is a common cause for
relapse and because chronic stress disrupts neural pathways and kills cells in
the memory centers of the brain. Another important part of the program deals
with natural supplements that can help your brain and your sobriety. Finally,
the program offers simple steps parents can take now that will help prevent
their children from falling into the stranglehold of addiction. All of my
children are vulnerable to addictions from their genetic history on their
mother’s side. This is an issue I have thought about for a very long time.
– part 1
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