Drug Addiction or Drug Dependency; Is There a Cure?

A Holistic Approach

Dependency is not a disease, but a symptom of something that needs your attention. However, addiction is a disease. Dependency and addiction are often confused with one another. Dependency begins with a brain chemistry imbalance and a harmful coping behavior for deep unresolved painful issues. Dependency has biological, emotional, and spiritual components. If all are not addressed, relapse is probable. Curing dependency requires treatment of all the above components, tailoring treatment to each individual.

Cure does not mean having to call a sponsor every day for years to stay sober, fighting cravings indefinitely, that is why traditional group meetings don’t work for some people. They do not help patients discover the unconscious original reason for self-medicating. Healing does not manifest itself through force, humiliation, fear, or dependency. We heal ourselves when we are empowered with the knowledge that we are the masters of our own behaviors.  The Universe, or God, is certainly a powerful resource for healing and I use it in my practice, but we are not puppets without any responsibility for our behaviors.

Physiological Causes

Addressing chemical imbalances in the brain that lead to physiological dependency is just as important as counseling. A simple blood test or in-depth questionnaire is all that is required to see which of the four major neurotransmitters, dopamine, acetylcholine, GABA or serotonin, are deficient. These neurotransmitters determine our feelings, thoughts and behaviors. When they are deficient, our emotions and thoughts change, which affects behavior. A knowledgeable holistic doctor prescribes specific supplements and amino acids to help re-build deficient neurotransmitters. An addicted brain is going to be deficient in at least one neurotransmitter.

After time deficiencies in brain chemicals can lead people to self-medicate. Caffeine is a common example of self-medication. Ever feel the need for that morning jump-start? Need a boost from coffee or cola? That “need” can be a deficiency in the neurotransmitter dopamine. People who are depressed often lack sufficient dopamine, so they self medicate with risky behaviors and/or stimulants. Cocaine is an extreme form of self-medication. Cocaine mimics dopamine. Unfortunately, the brain becomes fooled by the cocaine and reduces its own ability to make natural dopamine. With this increased deficiency in dopamine, the brain creates a demand or craving for more and more cocaine. Production of natural dopamine continues to decrease until its production burns out completely. Hallucinogenic mushrooms work similarly on acetylcholine, ecstasy on serotonin.

Smoking cigarettes helps some people think better because it mimics acetylcholine, another excitatory neurotransmitter. People who crave alcohol or carbohydrates are often deficient in serotonin, which is calming, like a tranquilizer. Just because it is legal or a prescription, the outcome is the same; the drug fools the brain. When deficiencies are severe, sometimes a prescribed medication is needed but should only be short term. However, when they are taken over a period of time without correcting the deficiencies, the problem is exacerbated. After a while, the person becomes ill, sometimes chronically. Memory and a sense of well-being are affected, or all sorts of aches and pains begin to manifest or get worse.

Psychological, Emotional, Spiritual Components

The most important path to curing dependency is to understand why you started the addictive behavior.  What was it in your life that you did not learn to cope with? That made you feel helpless? What was the original reason? Remember, dependency begins as self-medication, a way in which to cope. The key to cure lies in the answer, which lies deep within the unconscious mind.

Without the answer to why a person started self-medicating, that deep reason continues to lurk beneath the surface with its power of dependency. The drug of choice temporarily relieves the pain when no positive alternative is known. For example, “Jane”, a shy fifteen year old who suffers from deep emotional turmoil she does not know how to relieve, is at a party and drinks some wine. Because the drink calms her, she has another. After a third glass, she is more talkative and having fun. For now, she forgets her pain. Two things happen. First, alcohol fools the brain into thinking it’s GABA, the calming neurotransmitter, so it slows down the production of natural GABA, which was already deficient. Second, Jane becomes “anchored” to, or associated with, alcohol equaling relaxing and feeling better. A pattern of negative behavior begins, psychologically and physiologically. The GABA deficiency she already had becomes worse. The brain, in turn craves alcohol because it has created receptors for it.

To cure dependency one has to discover the true essence of their soul and find their life’s purpose, for which spiritual counseling is valuable. This type of counseling looks within for answers to “why am I here?, who am I?, why did this happen?”

Amazing Treatment Help

There are two medications that are amazing for people who really want to cure dependency. They work by diminishing and even eliminating cravings, which greatly improves therapeutic outcome. Buprenorphin is an opiate-like medication indicated for the treatment of opioid dependence.  It is available only by prescription, and must be taken under a doctor’s care as prescribed. Suboxone works on the neurotransmitters. However, even though patients describe the drug as “a miracle,” they only suppress withdrawal symptoms and cravings as long as they are being taken. They in themselves do not cure addiction or dependency. But, without suffering severe withdrawal symptoms, the path to healing is far more realistic. After a time, the doctor in charge will begin helping the patient wean off of Suboxone.  Acupuncture is another proven treatment for addiction. Auricular acupuncture, a type of acupuncture where small needles are inserted in the external ear, can be very effective for other addictions. It decreases cravings by stimulating endorphin release.

Healing self-defeating behaviors

There are many helpful therapies and no single one is best for everyone. To help us understand patterns of self-defeating behaviors, Neuro-linguistic programming and hypnosis are great. Connecting to the Higher self and one’s Creator helps a person learn to look within, without fear, for their own answers. We all have the answers inside; we just need to know find them. Some people are afraid to revisit the past, but how do we know what to avoid or change if we fear looking at our past? Once we learn that the painful past is just the past, we are able to heal those events and they lose their power over us.

Meta-physics and healing go hand in hand. It is a philosophy that examines the nature of reality, including the relationship between mind and matter, substance and attribute, fact and value.  Thus, we look at the relationship of cause and effect, or taking responsibility for our actions and behaviors. This in turn empowers us! Self-empowerment raises our self-esteem. When we understand all aspect of ourselves we become healthier, in body as well as mind.


Dependency is a symptom of something that needs attention, usually a combination of a biochemical and emotional imbalances. And because dependency is a combination of biological, emotional and spiritual components, then the best path to curing dependency is by treating the whole person, not just dependency or addiction.

With extensive experience and education, Drs. Ron and Cherie Santasiero have over sixty combined years in medicine. Since 1995, Ron and Cherie have been treating addicted teens, offering integrative care at their practice, The Sedona Holistic Medical Centre. Their new book, Addicted Kids; Our Lost Generation: An Integrative Approach to Understanding and Treating Addicted Teens is available on Amazon. More information about the Ron and Cherie can be found on www.santasiero.com

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