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Biochemistry and Addiction

If someone suffers from anxiety, depression, or addiction they could have a biochemical imbalance. A biochemical imbalance is not the sole factor in addiction, but it can play a large part. There are many factors to understanding something as complex as addiction, and biochemistry is only a part of that. With that being said, understanding a person’s biochemistry can provide significant insights into their history and current health. It can also help to determine what treatment will be most helpful for each patient. Additionally, biochemical imbalances can manifest as issues that are more than just mental health issues. Our testing will take a comprehensive look at how biochemical issues might be affecting each patient. At Reflections, we want to completely understand each patient to be able to thoroughly treat and overcome their addiction. Our efforts to look at each person’s biochemical makeup is a part of that process.

Someone might be struggling with addiction and they do in fact have a biochemical imbalance. Their first step does not have to be prescription drugs to try to supplement what their body is lacking. That is not to say that prescription drugs have no value or do not help people, but that there are other solutions. These solutions can work separately from prescription drugs or in tandem as needed. Often when someone is struggling with a biochemical imbalance, they turn to substance abuse hoping to fix the problem. We want to completely understand how it is affecting each patient, whether mentally or physically. At Reflections, our hope is to find long-term solutions which will be essential in preventing relapse.

Heavy Metal Imbalances

Heavy metals are a natural component of the earth’s crust and there are a number of ways that our bodies can absorb them. At certain quantities, the heavy metals become toxic in a way that begins to significantly impact our health. There are many different ways someone can be exposed to heavy metals and some of the most recognizable may be lead, mercury, and arsenic. These are metals that are recognizably dangerous, however not all heavy metals are necessarily bad. Some heavy metals provide essential nutrients, but at certain levels they can become a problem. For example, zinc is a heavy metal that plays an important part in many biological processes “…including growth and development, lipid metabolism, brain and immune function.” (NIH)* Zinc also has a number of positive aspects, but too much can lead to symptoms like nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite and lower copper levels over time.

Copper is another essential heavy metal, but again it needs to be balanced. At Reflections, Dr. Lisa Parsons, our Medical Director, looks closely to see if any patients are suffering from a copper/zinc imbalance. For anyone living in the Southwest, where we have a lot of copper and zinc, this can become even more of an issue. Per Dr. Parsons, someone might have a genetic difficulty maintaining a proper balance and they will have too much copper. This becomes an issue with too much free copper, which depletes the dopamine pathway and raises up the norepinephrine. With a lack of dopamine, someone would feel low, have a hard time getting up, they would not look forward to anything, and would feel a lack of joy or motivation. With too much norepinephrine, someone might feel all over the place, tense, anxious, and they might have a hard time focusing.

Testing and Treatment

There are numerous heavy metals that go beyond just copper and zinc. Those are just a few good examples of heavy metals that are needed, but need to be kept in balance. At Reflections, we are want to understand these imbalances because they can clearly have a significant impact on our lives. People will often turn to substance abuse to try to cope with symptoms that are manifested through the imbalance. From a New York Times article, Daniel Goleman wrote, “…addiction becomes a kind of self-medication in which drugs correct the chemical imbalance and bring a sort of relief.”* While a heavy metal imbalance might not be the sole reason for addiction, it can play a significant part. If we can test to identify imbalances and correct them, we can work to help each patient feel better. Addiction is a complicated issue and it takes hard work to understand each step.

The Path to Addiction

With biochemical testing, we hope to understand and treat as many of the steps or causes that we can identify. We want to find out how someone can go from use or experimentation to dependence and then to addiction. Some of the many factors include social and economic environments, personal choices, and genetics.

From the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), the data showed 140.6 million Americans aged 12 or older were current alcohol users. Within that, 66.6 million were binge drinkers in the past month and 16.7 were heavy drinkers within the last month.* At the time of the study, in 2017, 30.5 million people aged 12 or older used an illicit drug in the last 30 days.* As alcohol is widely used and socially accepted, it can be hard to recognize when it becomes a problem. While most illicit drugs are not widely accepted, it can still be difficult to recognize when it becomes abuse and addiction.

Many of the more obvious factors in addiction, may be the social, economic, and familial components. They are all important to identify and understand. However, it can be essential to look for the things that others might not. That is something that we firmly believe in at Reflections. We want to consider the aspects listed above, of course, but we also want to look at what might be overlooked. If we look at genetic testing, biochemical imbalances, and nutrition we can better know how to help each patient.

Moving Forward

Each factor that we can understand and work on will add up to a more complete treatment. Nobody can guarantee that every single issue will be fixed. However, at Reflections we do take care to work on all of the possible causes as we are able. The more we can help and the more tools we can give our patients they better off they will be. With a holistic approach, we look at the entire patient and hope each patient will feel better overall. If someone is feeling better physically that should translate to improved mental health and an improved outlook on life. If you or a loved one needs help, contact us today.

*Resources:
Decreased Zinc and Increased Copper in Individuals with Anxiety – NIH
Scientists Pinpoint Brain Irregularities In Drug Addicts – NY Times
2017 NSDUH Annual National Report SAMHSA