(ADDICTION) IS A TREATABLE DISEASE
Plesman, BA (Psych), Post Grad Dip Clin Nutr.
Contrary to popular opinion many scientists consider
alcoholism to be a specific disease in the literal sense of the word. Of
course this may not sit well with people who believe that alcoholism is
a mental disorder, that can be treated by talk therapy or a
change in religious beliefs. The faith based treatment programs are well
know for its failure rates of about 80 per cent. This does not mean that
they could not be of any benefit, for at least it brings people together
with a common illness.
I have explained the
biochemical nature of alcoholism
and why hypoglycemics are particularly attracted to alcohol. This may
apply to all other kinds of drug addiction.
It clearly shows that alcoholics and for that matter many other form of
addicted people, have problems metabolizing glucose into biological
ATP. Biological energy is
derived form glucose from sugar sources in our food, and converted to
energy by a biochemical pathway called
glycolysis. Without that energy
the brain is starved of energy and cannot produce the feel good
neurotransmitters such as
The following simplified illustration shows how glucose is converted to
biological energy via glycolysis and the citric acid cycle (Kerbs Cycle)
to produce ATP.
Please notice that alcohol (ethanol) is produced from pyruvate, the
end-product of glycolysis, and that people addicted to alcohol are
likely to have problems converting glucose in the 10 step biochemical
pathway to pyruvate. Alcohol is rapidly converted to ATP.
The fundamental question is why do alcoholics have problems producing
serotonin? A serotonin deficiency has been associated with
Endogenous Depression , which is
more or less saying that scientists are not aware of the exact mechanism
that cause people to be depressed. But at least it emphasizes that the
disease is internally generated and has nothing to do with whatever is
going on in the environment. Thus it can be asserted that alcoholism is
a manifestation of a pre-existing depressive illness. Alcohol being a
depressant chemical seems to be an antidote against some of the stress
hormones active in depression.
For the brain to produce serotonin it needs an inordinate amount of
biological energy to convert
tryptophan - found in food -
into serotonin. It also needs sufficient amounts of vitamin B6, zinc and
magnesium for this conversion to take place. See
Rich Sources. In fact the brain,
although only 2% of the body by weight needs about 60-70% of all
available glucose to feed the brain with fuel for its biochemical
apparatus. An active cell requires more than two million molecules of
ATP per second to drive its biochemical machinery. Unlike other organs
in the body it has no other sources of energy and it must obtain this
from the blood sugar supplies.
Thus the question is why is the brain energy starved in a society that
is flooded with sugar in its food sources?
The reality is that excess sugar consumption in society may well have
contributed to energy starvation in the brain. Excess sugar consumption
free radicals to attack other
tissues in the body. In defence the body sets up a defence mechanism in
This means that receptors for insulin fail to push glucose across cell
membranes for metabolism into energy inside cells. Thus the result is a
higher then normal blood sugar levels, called
hyperglycemia. This in turn will
trigger the pancreas to secrete more insulin resulting in
hyperinsulinism. This then will
cause a steep descent in blood sugar levels called
Here is an illustration showing what happens when receptors for insulin
fail to respond to
insulin. it can cause abnormal
fluctuations in blood sugar levels.
Notice how resistance to insulin initially results in a higher than
normal blood sugar concentrations, which is then followed by a drop.
Thus we see that Insulin Resistance can cause wild fluctuations in blood
sugar levels. When the brain senses a energy starvation, during a
hypoglycemic dip, it will send a hormonal message to the adrenal gland
to secrete adrenaline into the system. Adrenaline functions to convert
sugar stores in the body such as
glycogen into glucose, so as to
feed the brain again. But adrenaline is also the fight/flight hormone.
Thus a recovering alcoholic is wrecked with unstable blood sugar levels
and wildly fluctuating stress hormones, that will cause anxieties and
insomnia, and a return to depression.
In my work with alcoholics - 75% of the prison population have addiction
as a comorbid condition of their offences - Dr George Samra found that
if you test alcoholics with the four hour
Medical Test for Hypoglycemia,
most of them are found to be hypoglycemic.
You can also test clients with a paper-and-pencil test called the
Nutrition Behavior Inventory Test
(NBI). If you score high you are likely to have a metabolic disorder
that is contributing to your depression/anxiety.
Fortunately, Insulin Resistance can be treated without recourse to drugs
by going on a
Thus we see that alcoholism could be seen as Nutritional Disorder. The
hypoglycemic diet is essential in any treatment for alcoholism.
Withdrawing from alcohol is most likely to cause sugar cravings for
reasons explained above. The person can help to alleviate this sugar
cravings by taking glycerine as mentioned
elsewhere in our web site.
Glycerine is a sweet tasting substance, obtainable from any pharmacy.
You mix one table spoon of glycerine in a glass of water and add a dash
of lemonade (to improve taste). It is not recognized by the
pancreas and does not produce
excess insulin. It is slowly converted to glucose in the liver and will
stop the sugar cravings. It will also normalize the stress hormones and
may help in having a normal sleep.
It may take up to a year for the brain to restore normal receptors for
neurotransmitters. This can be sped up by a high protein diet such as
the Hypoglycemic Diet, including nutritional supplements as mentioned in
the Hypoglycemic Diet. In the meantime the person may still have a few
bouts of depression, and this where social support becomes important.
It is only after the underlying metabolic disorder has been
attended to by nutritional means, that the person can benefit from talk
therapy or whatever ¡®mental¡¯ approach.
We also have a self-help
PSYCHOTHERAPY specially designed
for recovering alcoholics and their families.