Addiction has become a big buzz word. You hear about it from the media reports, books, and friends. And it’s no longer just about drugs and alcohol, but food, the internet, gambling, and even healthy activities like exercise.
Is addiction simply a brain disease that leaves people powerless or is there something else going on?
Today we have on science writer Maia Szalavitz, author of The New York Time Bestseller Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addiction. She not only has a personal history of addiction, she has spent years researching its underpinnings. Maia argues that addiction isn’t a disease but rather a learning disorder more similar to autism, ADHD and dyslexia. Using her story as a backdrop — and citing the latest research — she helps readers see how addiction risk begins in childhood and either withers or grows throughout life. She also recommends better, research-based treatments for people who have already become addicted.
Anyone who has experienced the heart-wrenching reality of addiction knows that we need to do more and learn more about how to make it stop.
Highlights from the show
- Why addiction is a Learning Disorder involving timing and “overlearning” and is about much more than the brain’s pleasure centers getting hijacked.
- The one thing all addicted people have in common (and it’s not just physical dependence). It’s why babies can’t become addicted.
- Why more extreme temperaments make people vulnerable to addictive behaviors. For instance, half of people with addictions have other conditions such as depression, anxiety and ADHD
- The signs, and circumstances, that increase a child’s risk for addiction and what parents can do mitigate that risk.
- Why social exclusion and a lack of connection with others is more of a risk factor for early substance use than peer pressure.
- How relying on punishment makes matters worse and why it’s better to create an environment of a acceptance, empathy, and healthy coping.
- The role pleasure and desire play in the development of addiction.
- How the brain’s failed search for patterns can be a hook for addiction (which is why the internet — and checking your phone — can be so problematic). And how to use patterned behavior to help avoid addiction like predictable sweet offerings and scheduled screen time.
- How rituals help families stay healthy and connected.
- The role genes play in addiction and why no one is ever doomed to become addicted.
- The importance of teaching children self compassion, social skills, and self regulation.
- What the research says about prevention, best treatments, and the first thing people should do when they discover someone they love is struggling with addiction.
Quote from Unbroken Brain
Addiction just doesn’t appear; it unfolds — Maia Szalavitz
Links from the show
4 Traits that Put Kids at Risk for Addiction (Maia’s NY Times article)
Podcast Music: Corporate Uplifting by Scott Holmes