Addiction (Mental Health) Is NO Different than Heart Disease Or, Or, Or ....
Look, I’m passionate about the way our society views addiction. Why? Because my parents and extended family shunned me for mine. Mind you, I have maintained my recovery; yet, they still find reason to exclude me from their tribe. Truthfully, it’s not an easy space to be in and at the same time, the experience absolutely inspired me to be both a voice for the afflicted and an activist for genuine understanding. Interestingly enough, when I meditate and pray for guidance (because I know where I want to go), I find myself in some seriously unexpected situations that ultimately me lead down a road of discovery. Being a self-proclaimed ‘need to know kind of girl’, I’m not surprised at the extent of my research; however, it has been a topic of discussion for those that know me simply because they claim I’m addicted to learning. While there may be some truth to my fascination with the information, I believe it has more to do with the mystery to our existence that excites me.
Growing up in a compartmentalized world, as we all do, I saw and accepted everything as separate. We have ethnicities, genders, plants, trees, animals, clouds, oceans, social circles, religious groups, political parties, stars, planets and, and, and …. health conditions …. they’re all different …. right? Well, without question, we are able to distinguish one from the other and at the same time, there are similarities that we’re overlooking. Ok, so we can draw some parallels … two eyes, four legs, leaves, roots and so on; however, these are not the similarities I’m referring too. In fact, it’s on the deepest level that there is no separation…. the DNA, genetic receptors and enzyme activity. By now you may be wondering what any of this has to do with addiction, heart disease or, or, or … allow me to say … a lot, so thank you for sticking with me.
DNA, throughout nature, is made up of the same four peptides. The way they are combined is what differentiates one organism from another but the chemistry is the same. Don’t believe me…how do you think they are developing medications? While there may be some human studies going on, that’s only after they’ve extensively researched the mechanism of action of various chemicals albeit natural or manmade on certain genes using other species. The point here is the similarities are recognized. This alone intrigues me; however, the one enzyme that recently caught my attention was tyrosine kinase which is used as an on / off switch for many cellular functions. If the idea that the body has what it needs to regulate operation isn’t exciting enough, consider the fact that tyrosine (as an amino acid) is a precursor for the production of dopamine and the dopamine receptors initiate the transactivation of receptor tyrosine kinases which is attributed to various growth factors including platelet and epidermal. Furthermore, this very same enzyme is indicated in the development of a bee’s antenna which is required for sensing and removing unnecessary varro mites from the hive (that’s right, one of my recent pathways took me down the road to working with and restoring the health of some bee hives which continues to be successful) which brings me to the point of this article. In the realm of wellness, it’s all the same. Someone recently asked me how did I know what to do for the bees … my answer was: DNA is DNA; the chemistry is the same and when you work with Nature and help restore balance, the organism will do what it’s naturally ‘wired’ to do and because I work with plants, it was easy to determine which plants would be the most beneficial in this highly did-eased environment.
Nevertheless, dopamine is found throughout nature; from plants to animals and what’s interesting is no matter the animal, it is linked to reward learning. In fact, at this time, it is believed that this neurotransmitter emerged over 500 million years ago. However, as we’ve already uncovered, dopamine is involved with much more than reward learning; it’s one of several signaling molecules used for communicating specific messages throughout the body. Truthfully, this is the underlying message of this article .. you don’t have to be a brain surgeon or neuroscientist to understand that the brain regulates every function in the body and clearly dopamine is a significant chemical. When an organism is under any amount of pressure, dopamine initiates the stress response. That said, the body is designed to deactivate the reaction once the threat has passed BUT this world threatens our very existence every day with the amount of mental, emotional and environmental pressure which means we’re not getting the relief required for a system reset as the body remains on high alert and no longer using nutrients properly. In other words, we live in a chronic state of unease which ultimately leads to dis-ease.
How this manifests depends on the individual. What’s the difference between someone claiming he or she is addicted to sugar and heart disease? Is one weaker than the other? Based on my findings .. NO….they’re both weakened by the pressure there is no difference. Why is caffeine or sugar addiction better than alcohol or drugs, besides the obvious danger? They’re not … addiction has no prejudice….caffeine, cocaine, sugar, cortisol (that’s right even cortisol) all initiate an addictive behavior. In fact, we already know that changes occur within the brain in the presence of addiction; yet, how do we know those changes aren’t already taking place prior to the addiction? Stress is stress. The body cannot distinguish the difference between a dog chasing us or pollution which is where awareness comes into play. As far as I can tell, no one is imaging new born brains to check for such alterations. Because of the current state of our environment and knowing what I now know about the changes happening with the honey bee, I would not be surprised, that a side from a potential hereditary factor, those of us facing addiction and recovery are, in fact, living with a shift in brain chemistry due to structural changes. The way I see it, we all are, and as I suggested a few sentences ago, how the body interprets the messages being sent is genetically unique. Therefore, it’s time for us to realize that there is no difference between a stroke, Parkinson’s, addiction, diabetes, schizophrenia, arthritis and so on. They are all due to a lack of ease and order making any one of them a serious condition, requiring an expanded perspective and more thoughtful approach from the way we interact one another to the way we offer support.