The Role of Functional Medicine in Addiction Treatment

Functional Medicine uses a biology based approach to focus on assessing, evaluating and then addressing the root cause of a disease. The idea being that every separate diagnosis and symptom may be just one of many contributing factors to someone’s illness. It views the person as a whole as a complex system of answers to the problem of their disease.
The destructive force of addiction can have many catastrophic consequences for you and anyone close to you. Although there was a time when researchers and those within the medical profession believed that addiction was nothing more than a weak character flaw, we are fortunately now living in more enlightened times and it has now been shown to be often caused by certain imbalances within brain chemistry.
The role of Functional Medicine within addiction treatment is vital because by discovering the root cause of the behaviour, it can offer treatment and prevention without having to use yet another, different drug to fight a disease which is already a slave to various substances. Doctors use Functional Medicine within addiction treatment to localise all biological systems which have been disrupted through substance misuse and any other dysfunctional lifestyle habits. Once found, interventions can be mapped out and followed in order to help the body’s systems recover from the addiction.
A disparity in the levels of dopamine within the brain is one of the imbalances known to increase addictive tendencies. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, which works with the reward responses within the brain. Many substances, and even behaviours, impact the levels of dopamine in the brain. Cocaine, for example, can release up to ten times the quantity of dopamine than the brain would produce naturally.
By superficially boosting the normal dopamine levels in your brain, you reduce your ability to appreciate the natural sensation of pleasure you would get from things like food, social connection and even sex. With regular use of a dopamine boosting substance or behaviour, you train your brain to seek out the same levels of pleasure you have accustomed it to, which in turn reinforces your addiction.
As if addiction wasn’t complex and complicated enough we now know that, in at least 30 percent of the population genetics also have a part to play in someone’s addiction. It has been discovered that the dopamine D2 gene exists in at least two different forms – DRD2 A1 and DRD2 A2. This gene regulates how many D2 receptors a person has and therefore how much dopamine an individual can actually receive. People who have the DRD2 A1 gene type are unable to receive as much dopamine as those with the other type, and therefore are more likely to become addicts.
This then begs the question, if at least 30 percent of individuals aren’t able to have normal levels of dopamine function in the brain, how can they be expected to escape the behaviour and craving that leads to addiction?
This is where the role of Functional Medicine can be vital to everyone, especially those that fall into the 30 percent and those that are already dependent. Functional Medicine believes that, while genetics do factor in addiction, they are not the whole story. Your lifestyle and the way it is managed, including how much stress you may be under from work, what you eat, how you sleep, exercise and how much you worry can actually effect your gene expression. Making certain changes to all of these areas within these areas of your life that are negatively impacting you, will help you overcome your addiction.
Function Medicine is imperative in addiction treatment because addiction is such a complex disease which includes various chemical imbalances within the brain, a disease this complicated and inconsistent, requires an individualised treatment approach.

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