A Gut Feeling on The Future of Addiction Treatment
What I find concerning in most modern addiction treatment programs is the lack of
integration of new scientifically proven effective modalities with self-help programs. Let
me be clear in saying self-help programs are essential to addiction treatment. However,
there have been major advancements and breakthroughs in understanding addiction that
have produced evidenced-based and scientifically proven effective modalities that can
complement the existing programs.
Perhaps one of the most significant discoveries in recent times is the outsized effect our
second brain in our gut has on our moods, emotions, behavior and addiction. Although
we’ve known about it for over a hundred years, we’ve only just now started to research it
in earnest over the last thirty or so years, which is mind boggling in itself.
Regardless, what we do know about the Enteric Nervous System is
challenging some of the most basic and core tenets of modern medicine.
This is a relatively new field of science called Neurogastroenterology. Here are a few
things these researchers have discovered.
Our second brain, or technically known as the Enteric Nervous System (ENS), is not going
to be balancing your check book any time soon or be much help in appreciating the finer
aspects of a Mozart concerto; but it can inspire you to act or behave in a particular way.
The ENS is a mesh-like system with some 100 million neurons in the gut that governs the
function of the gastrointestinal tract. That may sound like a lot of neurons but it is only
one twohundredth of the number of neurons in the human brain. The ENS stretches all
the way from the esophagus to the anus and is about nine meters long. It also uses more
than 30 neurotransmitters (neurotransmitters are largely responsible for our behavior,
attitude, and energy) that are identical to those found in the brain including dopamine,
and serotonin. In fact, 95 percent of the body