In the world of medicine, addiction is a notoriously difficult ailment to treat. While addiction science has come a long way since Alcoholics Anonymous was founded in 1935, there are still plenty of open questions about what the best way to treat clients really is. According to a 2010 research article in Sage Journals, the scientific approach to treating addiction has gone through many different shifts in perspective over the years. In the beginning, addiction was wrongly thought of as a failure of willpower. A little later, it was thought of as purely a spiritual illness. In the 1960s and 1970s, the view began to shift to include ideas from neurobiology as well.
The Secret Ingredient: Brain Health
Although there’s been another recent push to incorporate holistic health methods like yoga and meditation, or even individualized diets, into treatment, even these concepts seem to sidestep the most important factor. Above all, what’s more and more clear is that brain health is perhaps the most integral part of successfully treating addiction and related co-occurring disorders.
When someone is addicted to drugs or alcohol, their brain undergoes a series of significant changes. While the effect of each specific drug is different, most drugs encourage the release of neurotransmitters in our brains, causing our neurons to fire in ways they normally wouldn’t. As a result, new neural networks are formed, the emotional part of the brain called the amygdala becomes over-sensitive and the prefrontal cortex, the part of us responsible for higher thought and decision-making, becomes weaker. All this happens as our own natural stores of neurotransmitters are depleted as well. Still, many modern detox programs don’t adequately take these factors into account.
A typical detox process generally lasts for a week to two weeks and includes medical supervision. Because the detox process can be physically dangerous depending on the severity of a person’s illness, medications like Suboxone or buprenorphine may be used to help stabilize clients. Although these medications can be helpful in preventing serious withdrawal effects like seizures or heart failure, they don’t necessarily help beyond the stabilization effects. Even after detox, the cravings for drugs often remain, leading to cycles of relapse.
As it turns out, the detox and stabilization process is greatly aided by adding in methods that help fortify our actual brain health as well. Fortunately, facilities like BrainSpark Health have found a way to do just that through NAD Therapy.
What is NAD Therapy?
NAD stands for Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide and it is a coenzyme existing in almost all the cells in your body. Found naturally in your body, the enzyme is useful for helping to break down and metabolize carbohydrates, amino acids and fats for energy, much like other important enzymes. Unfortunately, our NAD levels can get depleted for a variety of reasons—including sustained substance abuse.
Facilities like BrainSpark Health take a completely new approach to detox. For the most part, detox has seemingly only focused on clearing the body of harmful chemicals and making sure that process happens in a medically supervised environment. Still, NAD Therapy goes further by helping clients through unpleasant withdrawal symptoms in a way that doesn’t rely exclusively on medication.
Old School Method Meets New School Treatment Programs
While the concept of NAD Therapy may seem unusual or cutting edge, the truth is that this method of treatment has been around since at least 1961—though the method hasn’t been widely adopted. The methods were originally tried out in South Africa, where they were used to treat more than 22,000 people. Later on, the first NAD clinic, Springfield Wellness Center, was opened in the United States in Springfield, Louisiana. According to their records of treatment, the protocol has been used to successfully treat residents with addictions to opiates, stimulants, benzodiazepines and many other drugs.
Despite NAD Therapy’s relatively limited spread in the addiction industry so far, it has also been verified by a number of addiction scientists as an effective treatment. In particular, Dr. Janette Gray, a licensed internist in California, has explained how NAD Therapy boosts the mitochondria in client’s cells—and it does so on a much faster timeline than standard detox does. “One of the big reasons this treatment works is because it is so rapid,” Dr. Gray says. “It keeps people inspired when they see fast results, especially when they feel better than they did before, or perhaps ever in their life.”
Integrating NAD Therapy with Other Tactics
While the story may seem too good to be true, the truth is that NAD Therapy on its own is likely not sufficient to treat addiction. To that end, BrainSpark Health’s program also offers a host of other treatment services as well to help clients ease their way through the crucial early stages of recovery. Though no two programs are exactly alike, treatment in general is concerned with regular IV-based infusions of NAD solutions. Other methods include holistic methods such as Reiki and acupuncture sessions for relaxation. In more severe cases of withdrawal, the organization also allows clients to use a Bridge device to ease their symptoms through gentle stimulation of a nerve cluster behind the ear. Once residents complete their initial detox and stabilization process, the staff can also help them develop their own individual aftercare plans as well.
In all, BrainSpark Health’s detox program does not use NAD Therapy as some kind of miracle cure, or unusual and untested treatment method. Instead, it may be one of the addiction industry’s best kept secrets and a tool that could be very useful in helping keep many more recovering addicts on the straight and narrow path. Although there is still plenty of use for 12-step meetings, Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) and other holistic care methods, the importance of the role of brain health in addiction recovery remains somewhat overlooked. To that end, BrainSpark Health’s unique detox program provides a potential path forward for the addiction industry.
Photos courtesy of BrainSpark Health. Used with permission.