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The Science of Change

Neuroplasticity and how addiction can be overcome by changing thought patterns.

Neuroplasticity, the science that studies how the brain tissue adapts and changes as a result of environmental and choice driven behaviors, is becoming a buzzword in the treatment industry today. What is so interesting about this is that the treatment industry wants you to believe that yes, brain tissue changes as a result of alcohol and drug use, but that it will not change back to a normal state after use stops.

This, of course, is absolutely not true. Most people quit or moderate their heavy use of drugs and/or alcohol on their own – they literally mature out of the problem, on average, by age 37. These same people not only stop or moderate their usage, but their entire lives, on balance, mature in a positive direction. Their relationships mature, their careers expand, and in general, their lives adapt and change. With those choices, the brain tissue changes as well to support their changing lifestyles. This has been proven over and over throughout the last 30 years of neuroscience.

St. Jude's researched this phenomenon closely and thoroughly. The brain is not hard wired. However, the vast majority of drug and alcohol research today that demonstrates the changes in brain chemistry as being permanent as a result of alcohol and/or drug use (and that support the addiction brain disease theory) is based on studies conducted on animals. But an obvious point must be made here – we are not mice, we are not monkeys. Last we looked, a mouse did not build a space shuttle, or work on Wall Street, or get married. Animals struggle to work out the most basic functions of life, much less the complex emotional motivations of the human psyche. To toss out the human's capacity to make better decisions because we compare ourselves and our cognitive abilities to common animal functions are not only a stretch, it is flat out insulting. You are not hard wired. You are not powerless over your actions, and whatever Neuroplastic changes that have occurred because of negative choices, can be reversed.

Positive Neuroplastic changes in brain tissue are the result of deciding to set goals, change our habits, and decide better for ourselves. This is exactly the learning process as defined by Neuroplasticity. The brain will adapt and conform to your habits – but you get to choose them first. That is the power of the mind. Your thoughts and choices run the brain, and therefore the brain tissue will adapt to those habits. So, if you desire a brain that supports positive habits, decide and choose to create those habits and the brain tissue will immediately begin creating circuits to support that. If you are really motivated for positive self change, that motivation and willpower will literally force those changes into existence in your brain tissue that much quicker.

At St. Jude's we state that the St. Jude Program can create Neuroplastic changes in brain tissue, simply because any learning environment will do so. That is a simple but powerful scientific fact. The question you might want to ask yourself is this: what choices am I going to make today, those that will be positive or those that have high negative consequences? Your brain will adapt to support whichever you pick; either positive or negative. The choice is yours.