Tag Archives: reward pathway

Mindful Living: A Proposed Relapse Prevention Project

Substance abuse prevention is generally thought to involve primary and secondary prevention strategies which target populations that have either not yet engaged in use of alcohol and drugs (though they may be at risk to do so), or those who are in the very early stages of alcohol and drug use (Wilson & Kolander, 2011). Though efforts to prevent the onset of addiction are important, of equal concern is substance use relapse prevention wherein the stabilization brought about during treatment is preserved, and long-term abstinence is promoted.

Unfortunately, it appears that relapse prevention is often viewed as an afterthought of treatment wherein patients are discharged with little meaningful guidance nor provision of resources to aid them moving forward in recovery (McClellan, Lewis, O’Brien, & Kleber, 2000). As experts in the field continue to acknowledge that addiction is a chronic rather than acute condition, the provision of continuing care for those who have completed treatment must likewise adapt to meet this emerging awareness. To this end, the following substance use relapse prevention project, Mindful Living, is proposed.
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On Human Nature

Discourse on human nature tends to focus on those natural characteristics which appear to distinguish humans from other forms of life. The general theme is usually anthropocentric and goes something like “that which makes us different is that which defines our humanity.”  While comparing differences is informative in some contexts, it is an exercise that is too often undertaken as a means to demonstrate a special, preordained standing in nature for mankind and moral supremacy.  In fact, the essence of human nature is not that which sets us apart from or above other forms of life, but those characteristics which we share in a common evolutionary history.

It is along this continuum that core human operational modules — such as survival, socialization, and the pursuit of happiness — have developed by natural selection.  Thus, it is from the broad perspective of unity and inclusion that human nature is best described and from which an understanding of morality may be gained.

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The Brain Under Siege

According to the World Health Organization, addiction is “a disorder of altered brain function brought on by the use of psychoactive substances.”  Recent advances in neuroscience confirm the conclusion of the World Health Organization that addiction is as much a brain disease “as any other neurological or psychiatric illness.”  These findings have fundamentally changed the way that addiction is viewed in the scientific and medical communities and will have a great impact on how treatment will be approached.

The Human Brain on Methamphetamine

The Yin and Yang of Science, however, demand that dysfunction cannot truly be comprehended without an understanding of normal function.  To this end, Part I of this essay reviews the normal structure and function of the human brain.  Then in Part II, the neurological dysfunction of addiction is explained and supported by compelling scientific evidence.  In the end, there should be no doubt that addiction is indeed a disease like any other and that it must be treated as such.

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