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Addiction ruins lives and devastates families. People with addictions are more likely to get divorced, less likely to graduate from high school or college, less likely to get promoted at work and more likely to develop diseases related to their addiction.

Brain dysfunction is the number-one reason why people fall victim to addiction, why they can’t break the chains of addiction and why they relapse.

The brain is the supercomputer that runs your life. It is involved in everything you do, and it plays a central role in your vulnerability to addiction and your ability to recover and maintain sobriety. When your brain works right, you work right; and when your brain is troubled, you are much more likely to have trouble in your life.

Most people with addictions also have co-existing conditions, such as:

The chances of relapse are much higher with underlying brain dysfunction. For lasting success, any co-existing conditions must be treated alongside the addiction.

The Amen Clinics Method represents a true paradigm shift in addiction treatment through optimizing and healing the brain.

We believe that it is critical to treat addiction within the context of your life:

  • Taking into account your specific biological, psychological, social and spiritual influences
  • Performing neuropsychological testing to measure various aspects of brain function
  • Brain SPECT imaging at rest and during concentration
  • Lab tests (when necessary)

The Amen Clinics Method gives our physicians a deep understanding to target treatment specifically to your brain and situation.

The Importance of Brain SPECT Imaging in Addiction Treatment

Brain SPECT imaging helps to:

  • Break through denial
  • Determine if there are co-existing conditions requiring treatment
  • Increase treatment and recovery program compliance
  • People realize that addiction is a brain disease, not a personal weakness or character flaw
  • Patients gain a better understanding of their brain through visuals
  • Determine if treatment is working correctly

When it comes to addiction treatment, one size does NOT fit all!

We have identified six types of addiction-prone brain patterns.

People with this type have trouble shifting their attention and tend to get stuck on thoughts of gambling, Internet porn, food or some other substance or behavior. Regardless of what these people are addicted to, the thinking pattern and basic mechanism are the same. They tend to get stuck or locked into one course of action and have trouble seeing options.

The most common brain SPECT finding in this type is increased anterior cingulate gyrus activity, which is most commonly caused by low brain serotonin levels.

People with this type have trouble with impulse control even though they may start each day with the intention of refraining from their addictive behaviors. The most common SPECT finding for this type is low activity in the prefrontal cortex (PFC), likely due to low levels of dopamine. The PFC acts as the brain’s supervisor and is involved in:

  • Judgment
  • Impulse control
  • Planning
  • Follow through
  • Decision making
  • Paying attention

When the PFC is underactive, people can be easily distracted, bored, inattentive and impulsive. This type is often seen in conjunction with ADD/ADHD and is more common in males.

People with this type have a combination of both impulsive and compulsive features. The brain SPECT scans tend to show low activity in the prefrontal cortex (associated with impulsivity, likely due to low dopamine levels) and too much activity in the anterior cingulate gyrus (associated with compulsivity and low serotonin levels). This pattern is common in the children and grandchildren of alcoholics.

People with this type often use alcohol, marijuana, painkillers or food to medicate underlying feelings of depression, boredom or loneliness. This type is more commonly seen in women. For some people, these feelings come and go with the seasons and tend to worsen in winter. Others experience mild feelings of chronic sadness, called dysthymia. Still others suffer from more serious depressions. The typical SPECT findings associated with this type are increased activity in the deep limbic system and low activity in the prefrontal cortex.

People with this type tend to use alcohol, marijuana, painkillers, sleeping pills or food to medicate underlying feelings of:

  • Anxiety
  • Tension
  • Nervousness
  • Fear

More commonly seen in women, this type tends to suffer physical symptoms of anxiety, such as:

  • Muscle tension
  • Headaches
  • Stomach aches
  • Nail biting
  • Heart palpitations
  • Shortness of breath

People with this type tend to predict the worst and may be excessively shy or easily startled. The SPECT finding that correlates to this type is too much activity in the basal ganglia, likely due to low levels of GABA.

People with this type tend to have problems with:

  • Temper
  • Mood swings
  • Learning problems
  • Memory problems

Abnormal activity in the temporal lobes is commonly due to past head injuries, infections, a lack of oxygen, exposure to environmental toxins or it may be inherited. The SPECT findings show decreased activity in the temporal lobes, although sometimes we also see excessive increased activity.

Why We Are Different and How We Can Help with Addiction

Knowing your particular type of Addiction is very important. Even though the 6 types have some symptoms in common, each type also has its own set of symptoms and specific treatments.

One size does not fit all: What works for one person with Addiction may not work for another—or could even make the symptoms worse!

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