addictive behaviour
Today on the SOTT Talk Radio Network's Health and Wellness Show, we'll be looking at the mechanisms of addiction - how your brain and body become addicted to various substances or behaviors and what are the consequences of those patterns.

Are you addicted to food, sugar, internet , your cell phone, Netflix? What's really going on when you engage in a behavior you just can't seem to stop, and how does this affect your overall state of health?

Running Time: 01:50:00

Download: MP3

Here's the transcript of the show:

Jonathan: Welcome everybody. My name is Jonathan. I'll be your host for today, August 21, 2015. Joining me in our virtual studio from all over the planet today we have Doug, Tiffany and Erykah. Gaby can't be with us today unfortunately, so we'll miss her company but we will look forward to having her back next week.

Today we are going to talk about addiction and the dopamine hit. So we're not going to just be looking at drug addictions specifically today, but all types of addiction, how your brain and body become addicted to various substances or behaviour; what are the differences and similarities between behaviour and substance addictions, whether it's food, sugar, internet, Netflix, your cell phone, I-stuff, all sorts of different things.

So it should be a pretty interesting show. We'll touch on a number of different topics. We'd like to welcome everybody who's in our chats and also say that we welcome calls today, if anybody's listening live and wants to call in. The number is 718-508-9499. And we'll post that in the chat in a little bit here as well to remind people what the number is.

So welcome, and let's get started a little bit with connecting of dots from some items in the news from this week. Erykah, did you want to start us off with that article that you had?

Erykah: Yeah. There was a great article on SOTT; Your cells are listening: How talking to your body helps you heal. The article starts off with great information on how your body has its own consciousness or its own soul and there's an extraordinary healing capacity of the human body and how it's necessary to train the brain to enter alpha and theta brainwaves states. When we're in these states communication between the conscious mind and the physical body is dramatically enhanced. The author found three steps to gaining this cooperation of the body.

The first one is to approach your body with genuine compassion, and understanding that it is made up of conscious cells that experience emotions. The second step is to build trust by engaging your body in mental conversations about your desire for the two you to cooperate and overcome ailments. And the third step is to allow changes in the conversation by using different thoughts and words that elicit spontaneous, elevated emotions.

So basically using these three steps is necessary to achieve dynamic healing responses in the body. She talks about a very similar set of factors that were discovered by a researcher named Cleve Backster, who spent 36 years studying bio-communication in plants, animals and human cells. He referred to these factors as real intent, attunement and spontaneity. Backster formerly was an interrogation specialist for the CIA, which I found a little interesting and frightening. But he wrote about the defining moment which led him to his real work in this world. (bad audio)... check out this article. It's really fascinating stuff. For those who are missing a regular meditative practice, you can really use these three approaches to do some spontaneous healing, focusing on centres in your body where you carry stress or tension and using your meditation practice to send signals to those areas and release pain.

We've all heard about that saying, "Somebody's a pain in the neck". Maybe using this approach will help alleviate those kinds of pains in the neck and give some relief. I've found that it really does work. Since I read this article, I've been applying these three different steps. You can really do some self-healing. So yeah!

Jonathan: Cool! Erykah you got a little bit choppy there for a minute. Would you mind just doing the specific three steps again so we can hear what those were?

Erykah: Yeah. You approach your body with genuine compassion, understanding that it's made up of conscious cells that experience emotions, right? So those feeling sensations in your body, when you get tense you clench your jaw or you shrug your shoulders. The second is to build trust by engaging your body in mental conversations about your desire for the two of you to cooperate in overcoming the ailment. And three, allow changes in the conversation by using different thoughts and words that elicit spontaneous, elevated emotions.

Jonathan: Okay. Sounds like a reasonable approach.

Doug: Yeah, that's interesting.

Tiffany: We should try it and then report back next week on the conversations we had with a particular body part. I haven't decided which one.

Doug: That's a good idea. I've been having a bit of lower back pain lately, so maybe I'll just try engaging in some dialogue with it and see if I can maybe get along with it a little bit better.

Jonathan: Yeah, instead of being antagonistic like, "Ah come on! What are you doing?"

Doug: Yeah. That is a good approach. Instead of every time you have a certain part that's bothering you, there's a tendency to just get aggravated with it like, "Ah come on! I should be able to do this physical work!" and really get upset that you're limited in some way when really it is a communication between your body and you. This pain is telling you something, so rather than just trying to override it or get angry at it; maybe it is a better approach to say "Okay, what's going on here? What's happening?"

There are metaphorical connections between all these kinds of things too. Like Erykah mentioned, a pain in the neck. If you're having a pain in the neck, what's going on? It might be an opportunity to examine what's happening in your life at that point and opening that kind of dialogue.

Tiffany: Maybe it would be helpful if you gave the pain in your back a name, like Bob. "Bob, what's happening today?" And you talk to it.

Jonathan: There you go. Let's see what else we have from the news here. I'm sure our listeners have heard about the giant blast in Tianjin, China. I don't know if anybody saw the video of that but it was insane. I heard about it on the news when it happened and I thought "There's no way that it's that big". And then seeing the video that somebody who lived nearby had shot, it was really, really incredible. It destroyed a 400 metre radius around the blast site.

In health-related news on that topic, there's an article on SOTT, which they're carrying from RT this week. This was; Tianjin Blast Site Contains Cyanide Levels More Than 356 Times The Permitted Level. Staggeringly high cyanide levels have been found at the Tianjin blast site, with one spot exceeding the permitted amount by 356 times. People who are living there say that "We can't live here. Cyanide pollution is severe inside the warning zone. Outside the zone overall, the amount of cyanide detected is at normal range." Which again, just makes me wonder about the biggest symptom of our society when we have normal ranges of cyanide; cadmium, uranium and stuff like that. They call it normal levels. This is a really dangerous situation here.

Tiffany: Yeah, when I saw the pictures it looked like a nuclear blast.

Jonathan: Yeah, it was really nuts. And I think they're still not entirely clear on what caused that.

Doug: They're saying there was explosive material in some of the containers or something like that, but there are a lot of doubts being expressed about that and what really happened there. Of course the conspiracy corner is alive with talk of American satellite weapons getting pissed off at China for lowering the value of the Yuen. It's curious. I wonder what's really going on there.

Tiffany: Well I have a connecting the dots.
© Getty Images
OxyContin is a pain medicine that can be deadly if abused.
Jonathan: Sure.

Tiffany: It's kind of related to our main topic today. There was an article up on SOTT; on August 14 written by Josh Murr from the AntiMedia, and it's called; FDA Approves OxyContin for Children as Young as 11. The FDA regulatory agency finally caved to the tweener OxyContin lobby despite them being outside the FDA findings that it (bad audio). I guess the FDA just thought it would be a good idea for the country to be (bad audio) but OxyContin is an opiate painkiller and it has effects that are similar to heroin. (bad audio)

Jonathan: Tiff, we're really having problems hearing you guys. I'm trying to reconnect.

Tiffany: Okay, we'll try and reconnect. This sounds really bad.

Jonathan: That's the wonders of the internet, Skype and Blog talk radio all combined together. I have one more here from the news this week that I wanted to share. This is something that I've always wondered about anyway and have talked to friend about which is; Teflon contamination in drinking water much more serious threat to health than previously thought. People may understand that it's generally not a good idea to cook with Teflon, but may not be aware that every time you drink a glass of water, there are potentially unsafe amounts of Teflon in the water itself. In 2005 DuPont settled a class action lawsuit brought on behalf of 70,000 mid-Ohio valley residents for decades of fouling their drinking water with the highly toxic once used to make Teflon. As part of the settlement DuPont is paying for technology to filter - but not eliminate - the toxin from six area water systems.

So definitely, the people in this area in the Ohio valley want to be careful and check their drinking water. This also comes on the heel of another article which I don't have in front of me but which I had seen this week regarding levels of uranium, in water in California and in the Midwest. Generally I think people just want to stay away from drinking tap water all together. It's kind of a chemical soup these days, depending on where you are of course. I think in general you want to find well water if you can. If you can't then you should get a good filter. I'm not necessarily a proponent of giving all of your money to the companies that bottle water, but if you can find a good bottled water, that's also a better alternative than drinking tap water.

Doug: Yeah, and never mind all the stuff that they're putting into the water like fluoride and the chlorine and all those other kinds of things. The actual water supply itself seems to be contaminated.

Jonathan: Yeah, it's a pretty dire situation.

Tiffany: Do we sound any better now Jonathan?

Jonathan: Yes, you do a lot better.

Tiffany: We do? Well I didn't do anything different.

Jonathan: Probably just re-establishing the connection.

Tiffany: Okay.

Jonathan: Would you mind going back over that article you had? You were talking about OxyContin for children.

Tiffany: Yeah, the FDA approved OxyContin for kids as young as 11. So I was saying that the abusers usually crush up the pills and they inhale it or inject it and it's very similar in action to heroin. But in 2010 the producers of OxyContin came out with a crush-proof version, which some abusers found a way around and then other people were just like "Screw it. I'm just going to take heroin" or they jumped to other drugs.

This is the same drug Rush Limbaugh was addicted to. Anyway, the article notes that in 2010 there were over 16,000 people who died from opiate overdoses. And there was a recent study that showed that four out of five new heroin addicts became addicted from using prescription opiates.

So I looked a little bit deeper. The FDA decided to approve OxyContin in this age group. They did a three-year trial which of course determined that OxyContin was safe for children. A little further searching showed that the FDA recommended it only for children who suffered severe trauma, major spinal surgeries or major surgeries to correct birth defects. As a precaution the FDA requires that doctors test the young patients on a minimum dose of 20 mg for at least five days to make sure they respond well. But then they say that it should only be used for a short time period. So I'm guessing that they're thinking of using it for more than five days.

But the original articles points out two things. It says that the FDA's evaluation methods - as we know - basically stink and there's a clear conflict of interest between the health needs of American citizens and the profits of big pharma. So no one really likes to think about children in pain and maybe they won't turn into junkies just from having OxyContin after surgery, but I think that like with all drugs, it has the ability to snowball. They'll use it for a little bit at first maybe and then they'll just use it more. I didn't find a statement anywhere that said it would be prescribed and given only in an in-patient setting.

So it's not really unheard of, if you're giving OxyContin to children in an out-patient setting, family members have been known to "steal" children's meds like Ritalin. That has a street value too, and they sold them or used them. But I think it really drives home the fact that big pharma is the biggest drug pusher and the biggest drug peddler on the planet, along with the CIA, really. So it's really a bad idea all around but the FDA is rife with bad ideas so I'm not really surprised that this came out.

Doug: Yeah, OxyContin addiction is actually a really big thing. There's a big street market for OxyContin. Apparently it's dubbed Hillbilly Heroin. That's one of the street names for it and there's a serious problem with people being addicted to the stuff and a lot of under-the-radar dealings with street selling of it.

Jonathan: Yeah, what struck me to Tiff; is what you said about it being used in an in-patient versus an out-patient setting because there is pain. There is especially pain that results from certain types of surgeries that needs to be dealt with. There is extenuating circumstances for all sorts of different contexts.

So, if a child is in the hospital and they're in pain and they need some kind of pain relief under the supervisions of a doctor, in an in-patient setting, that doesn't seem that out of the realm of being reasonable. But the idea that it's now approved for prescription in out-patient prescriptions just opens up this whole realm of abuse and increases the idea that it's more and more acceptable to give these drugs to young kids. Now its taboo to talk to your kids about marijuana or alcohol or anything like that, but you can give them OxyContin.

Tiffany: Yeah.

Jonathan: It seems very crazy.

Tiffany: I've read that the only FDA approved drug up until this point for children was a Fentanyl patch, which is really just a patch that you put on your skin and it infiltrates into the body. But OxyContin which is basically heroin for kids seems like a really, really, really bad idea, and the fact that there doesn't seem to have been any big call for it. It wasn't like their parents were demanding that they have OxyContin for their kids because it was the only thing that would help them after their surgery. I didn't hear anything about that, so it seems like the FDA just made this decision for whatever reason, I guess to pad the pockets of the pharmaceutical company. But it just seems like a terrible, terrible idea.

Jonathan: Well, that's just it. It's for profit. Even if every single situation is not to this motivation, these big pushes for legalizing and popularizing certain drugs, put billions and billions of dollars into the pockets of the pharmaceutical companies and the people who own them. I don't know if it was that article that you read Tiff, but there was a bit about this billionaire couple that owns the company that makes OxyContin, just talking about the obscene amount of money that they've made off of this drug when it is now one of the top inroads for people to get addicted to heroin and other harder drugs that are available on the street.

I had an experience once talking to a detective. I think I'd mentioned this before, but it was in a conversation with police detective. We were talking about the topic of marijuana, and it was not in the setting that you might think. This is outside the jail. [Laughs] But he said that he personally didn't have a problem with it and that in his own experience, what he had seen in his career of working as a detective, that prescription drugs were the number one problem in culture and society for addiction to harder things, and that the prescription drugs themselves are the harder things. It's not necessarily the fact that people that get started on these drugs go to heroin. It's that they start on these drugs, get addicted to them and continue to use them in greater and greater measure and then you get resulting crime, robberies of pharmacies, violent crime between people that have the pills, stealing money to get the pills, things like that. It's really a mess.

Erykah: We also see that with other FDA approved drugs for children; in particular medication for ADHD and ADD. First it was Ritalin, which is basically a legalized speed and now it's Adderol. I can relate some personal experience with teenagers. One of the things that have become popular is chopping up Aderol and snorting it and kids get really high because essentially it's a legal form of crystal methamphetamine. So this is more of that scary, like you were saying Jonathan, things like marijuana and alcohol seem to be on the lower scale of concern for parents now. It's these prescription drugs. I wouldn't have believed that kids would actually chop these things up and snort it had I not been told first-hand experience of how they do it.

As a parent you're thinking "Oh, my gosh!" And it's so easily and readily available. How many people now are taking these Adderol, in particular, for attention deficit disorder issues? I've talked with a few friends that are on it and they say "Well you know it really helps calm me down" and I laugh and say "Well, just drink a cup of coffee because it's got caffeine and it kind of does the same thing!" But it's really frightening and there seems to be no sort of task force associated with dealing with that issue, like the OxyContin.

Jonathan: Yeah, exactly.

Tiffany: There's "Just say no" no campaign to OxyContin or any of the other legally prescribed drugs. You'll never see that.

Jonathan: No, no. That'd cut into the profits. The war on drugs is so ridiculous. This kind of ties in with our topic today, but it's such a ridiculous farce, the idea that there is even a war on drugs. If there were a "war on drug addiction" that might be a different story. But the idea that there is any kind of war on drugs or a legitimate war on addiction in society is ridiculous. Our society runs off of addiction. A lot of the people at the top have their fortunes because of addiction and because things are so readily available.

Tiffany: Yeah, I call it a war of drugs or a war on people using drugs. They actually wage war against the populace. But Gabor Mate calls it the war against drug addicts because of all of the hardships that drug addicts face in the society, being jailed or punished and everything that they have to go through just because of their addiction.

Doug: And it is pretty ludicrous that if you're addicted to one thing that's considered a street drug you get thrown in jail for it. If you're addicted to something that's a prescription medication, there's no punishment for that. It just seems like such a ridiculous double standard.

Jonathan: Exactly. Like you said, if you get caught by a police officer and you have a drug in your purse or pocket that's essentially harder than a lot of other drugs that are available, but you have a prescription for it, that's no problem. Go on your way. I'm not advocating necessarily the regulation by the police of these things, but the double standard is pretty sad.

Doug: Well it gets into the whole topic of should these addicts really be punished, regardless of what it is they're addicted to. The fact that there is that double standard just makes it so glaring that the problem goes beyond which substance these people are addicted to. You really need to get to the cause of the addiction and what is actually going on there and try and solve the problem that way. Punishing people by throwing them in jail really is not a solution, not at all. Obviously we need to take a better look at this.

Erykah: Well it's been stated several times that prison is basically just college for criminals. So it's not like they're going to deal with the addiction problem in prisons. There are rampant drugs, easily accessible in prisons from what I've heard. It's a downward spiral, really. That's why Gabor Mate's work is so great and helpful. There was an article on SOTT called; A Top Doctor Explains Why Kind Love Beats Tough Love When Treating Addiction. It's basically an interview with Gabor Mate on his book "In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts". It was carried in Time Magazine, so a pretty mainstream media outlet. He defines addiction as any behaviour that's associated with craving, temporary relief and with long-term negative consequences that a person is not able to give up.
Gabor Maté

Gabor Maté
Note that he says nothing about substances. Addiction is any behaviour that has temporary relief and negative consequences of loss of control. When you look at the process or behaviour, whether it's sex, gambling, shopping, work, substances, they engage the same brain circuitry and the same reward system, the same psychological dynamic and the same spiritual emptiness. People go from one to the other.

So he really talks a lot about how the drug is this kind of a coping mechanism. In his book he gives really clear-cut, honest descriptions of addicts when they share why they're doing especially hard drugs like heroin and crystal meth or cocaine. One addict says it's like a nice, warm, secure blanket, that they feel that they can reconnect with the world when they're on this drug. So there's something definitely deeper going on. As we said in the beginning of the show, it could be anything. Drugs are just the one that seems to get a lot of attention because of this whole "war on drugs".

Tiffany: Yeah, I think Gabor Mate worked for 12 years on the downtown east side of Vancouver and he said of all the women patients that he worked with there was not one of them who didn't have sexual abuse in their childhood. And the men that he worked with were traumatized equally, whether it be sexual abuse or physical abuse, or some other kind of childhood trauma. So he says that childhood trauma is really at the root of all addiction. There could be a genetic predisposition or it's not because the drugs themselves are so addictive because really they're working on your own brain chemicals. You have to figure out what the stress that the person is in that's causing them to seek out the drug habit in the first place because they're really just trying to soothe themselves or comfort themselves.

He says also that you don't have to have some kind of really pronounced trauma like sexual abuse. There's also the trauma of things that should have happened but didn't happen, like neglectful situations or your parents were too stressed to give you the care and emotional attention that you needed. So it doesn't have to be anything that we would consider horrific abuse, for someone to seek out something to soothe themselves.

Doug: I think that's an important point. You have to think about the psyche of a child. There is any number of different things that could be severely traumatic to a child that we might not look at as being all that big a deal; a mother losing her child in a shopping centre or something like that. It could be profoundly traumatic to a child from their perspective. They're completely cut off from their caregiver and they're in this strange world not knowing what to do. There are a lot of different traumatic experiences that can lead to this sort of thing and they're not necessarily something overt, like you were just saying Tiff.

Jonathan: That makes me think too, of the world of religion and not just necessarily Christianity although that comes to my mind first. That's a world that I grew up in and I knew a lot of people in the church with kids that were my age that were growing up along with me and have seen a lot of addiction come out of that. I think that that has something to do with the idea of hell, and of this retribution that is laid in front of kids as they're growing up and saying "If you don't believe a certain way not only are your parents going to be mad at you and your community's going to mad at you, you're going to suffer in eternal fire forever when you die". It's such a concept for a child to wrap their brain around, that that alone is also a form of trauma.

From a certain aspect I want to be sensitive to people's beliefs and to the belief systems that they've adopted for themselves or their families. It's not something I have my fingers in, but at the same time I think it's important to talk about what this does to kids' brain. So you don't necessarily have to be born with foetal alcohol syndrome or to grow up in a meth house or something like that in order to become a drug addict. It comes from all these different realms of things. Like, we were talking about too, not just drug addiction, but addiction to any kind of behaviour. That's something else that Gabor Mate says, in his opinion behaviour addition is essentially the same as substance addiction because the reward of completing the addictive behaviour creates substances within the brain. And so that's what the addict is going for, a hit of that substance, mostly dopamine. Which is something that we're going to talk about a little bit today.

Erykah: We see that a lot in children too; eating as a form of security when they're feeling alone, especially with all the advertisements that are on television and even in movies and stuff. You see children looking towards food as a way to comfort themselves, whether they're home alone or they're feeling not intentionally neglected by their parents, but the parent is working eight-to-ten hours a day and to sooth themselves emotionally, they tend to turn towards sugar and sweets and high carbs to, again, like you were saying Jonathan, get that hit in the brain that they're not getting from the physical attention or emotional attention.

Jonathan: Exactly. I'm not a parent so I don't mean to front that I know more about this topic, but I think that parents would agree that there's not a perfect way to raise a child. I'm sure everybody struggles with that and that's a big concern for people who are parents; how can I raise my child to be safe, to be secure, to have a good life, to be successful and to be able to handle themselves in the world as they grow up? But even though there's not a perfect way to do that, there are ways to raise children so that they have the attention, the contact, the communication that they need in order to reduce the potential that they'll become addicts as they grow up.

I think it's something that's an epidemic in our society now, this isolation. We had talked on a previous show about the book Alone Together, which is about isolation in our modern culture and how one symptom is everybody walking around on their phones instead of actually talking and communication in real world situations. I think that's just one symptom of the isolation in our society that breeds this desire for connection. Its one thing that Gabor Mate says about the common heroin user will say that when they got that first hit it was like a warm hug. It was like a hug from a loving parent or from a loving companion. And that's what they're looking for essentially. It's not just to be high. It's a feeling of acceptance.

Doug: I think that's true. There was actually a really good article posted on SOTT on January 20, 2015. It was called Addiction Rooted More in Social Isolation Than in Chemical Dependency. I know Erykah is going to cover this a bit more, but I just thought it was very interesting because the author is talking about how these addictions very much are rooted in social isolation, rather than the actual chemical itself. So it's not so much that they're craving the chemical, but they're craving what's behind it. And like you said Jonathan, people are taking these drugs as a comfort, as some way of replacing what they're missing in a social context.

I know Erykah's going to cover this, but I wanted to cover one interesting thing in the article. They were talking about how in the Vietnam War, drug use among the soldiers was rampant, particularly heroin use. There was a big concern that when the Vietnam War was over and they had all these US soldiers returning, suddenly there was going to be this epidemic of heroin abuse. But what they found is that that didn't really happen. Once these soldiers were back in their normal context and had the social connection that they were missing while they were at war, they didn't turn to the heroin anymore. There wasn't a need for it because they had reconnected to society, to their families, friends, all those sorts of things. So, it's really, an interesting illustration of that concept.

Erykah: Yeah, I'll go into that a little bit more, what Doug talked about because when doing research for this show I came across a TED Talk discussion. The author of this article was the same man that gave the TED Talk, so it was a little connecting of the dots there for me in this research.

The author of this article was Johann Hari; he's a British journalist. He wrote a book and it's linked in the article Doug just mentioned called book Chasing The Scream - The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs. There were two points that he made in the article that really stuck out for me. He says addiction is an adaptation. It's not you, it's your cage. And then the other is the opposite of addiction is not sobriety, it's human connection.

So in this TED Talk, if anyone's interested in listening to it, it's titled Everything You Think You Know About Addiction Is Wrong. He talks about the current human experience and how it's not a natural one. It's one that doesn't resonate with our soul and we've drifted far from an experience that can nourish us. What really needs to be nourished is our soul. Addiction is a great example of the problem, whether it's drugs, food, porn, video games. As a result of our environment which is not healthy we turn to harmful things to help us cope with what we don't feel good about in our lives.

He goes on to say "What are we doing on this planet? We go to school. We get a job. Most of us spend our entire lives working at something we're not even passionate about just in order to survive while neglecting what truly ignites our souls." And we see this again and again on SOTT with articles coming out. There was one recently, What Screen Addiction Is Doing to Your Children. Like you'd mentioned, this idea of being connected to your phone or connected to your I Pad or your computer or spending hours and hours on Facebook looking for that connection with other people and then not quite meeting those needs; searching for it but not really getting it, so to speak.

Again, back to what I was saying earlier about children searching for food to meet those needs, we're also seeing in this article about screen addiction, is children being handed the I Pad or handed the cell phone or put on a video. I was definitely guilty of that as a parent, like "I just need an hour to clean the house. I'm just going to pop in this Disney video. Yes, they've watched it a hundred times." Putting a child in front of a TV and basically letting the TV do the entertaining and then they become addicted to it. Now every time you need something to do for the child, you put on a video, you put on the I Pad and the child becomes attached, in a sense, to that source of media. I'm not saying that being on the computer is bad, but when it becomes this soothing for a child then you start to see, again, this idea of addiction come up.

Jonathan: I think that speaks to another point that Gabor Mate makes regarding the difference between passion and addiction and that passion is creative and addiction is destructive. So people may say "Okay, so if my child plays an MMORPG or a multi-player online video game for many, many hours, they are getting a connection with other people in they are talking to their friends on this game. So really what's the big deal about that?" Well you just need to look at whether or not it creates or destroys. If they were with their friends in person out in the world face-to-face doing things, building things, learning together in a way that's applicable in day-to-day life in the real world, that would be more creative than the connections that they're making over the video game, is one simple example of that.

Doug: Yeah, totally.

Tiffany: Yeah. Another example is in China, I think, there are these internet cafes where people sit there at the computer for days on end and some people have actually died. They've had heart failure just from not sleeping, not eating and just playing games for days on end.

Jonathan: Wow!

Tiffany: I read an article on SOTT about these boot camps in China that people send their teenagers to in order to cure them of their video game addictions; Chinese try to cure internet addiction with boot camps. So it's really a very widespread thing and I think it just shows, like we said earlier, the fracturing of society, the fracturing of family and the social isolation that children and adults go through, with the video games or whatever their addiction is. It's just giving them this false sense of connection but it's not really a true connection.

Doug: The thing about video games too, which goes into the different food addictions that exist as well, is you have to understand that these things are actually designed to make people addicted to them. I read one article and unfortunately I don't have it in front of me at the moment, but it was talking about how these video game designers know what they're doing. They know how to press the right buttons or make you press the right buttons in order to keep you hooked, to keep you playing and keep you wanting to reach another level. So it's like "Yeah, I want to reach that level and I have to go and do these tasks to be able to" even though they're incredibly repetitive tasks. It's basically just sitting there pushing the button and pushing the button and pushing the button in order to achieve the next level. I'm thinking specifically of World of War Craft and all the other video games that are based on the same type of idea.

So these video game designers know these things. They know what will keep people hooked to it. And obviously there are certain people out there who are much more susceptible to these things than other people are and will forego things like food and water and sleep in order to just keep on pressing that button and keep getting that next level of achievement.

It's the same thing with people design processed foods. They do all kinds of experiments. One article on SOTT, Junk Food Triggers Our Bliss Point, was actually talking about the junk food bliss point. They're always searching for this flavour combination or the chemicals that cause excitation in the brain so there are these things that food designers are looking for that will keep you eating those things, keep you wanting more of it so that you keep on buying more and more of their product and they make more and more money off of it.
Food Addiction
© Poznyakov/Shutterstock
There's sometimes an argument out there that these things are just fulfilling what society wants and that the person who designs it can't really be held accountable for it because they're just fulfilling a need. But they are fully aware of the fact that they are causing an addiction and that is what they're after. So you really need to put it into perspective in that way for sure.

Tiffany: Yeah, speaking of junk foods, I think in that same article it stated that junk food triggers our bliss point. The author was saying that if he goes to his park and tries to get some exercise; on the way there he'll pass more than 30 fast food outlets or junk food outlets to get to that park. So there's a combination of availability, advertising and seductive tastes that all coalesce together to make people hooked. I think we mentioned it earlier, but it just doesn't fit with our evolution. Our brains have not evolved that much in the past 10,000 years or so, but we're faced with so much more stimulation and harder hits, whether it be the super junk foods, pornography or video games. We just weren't evolved to get such a high amount of stimulation on a day-to-day basis and our brains are having a really hard time coping with it.

Doug: Yeah. Our brains are designed to respond to these things in a more natural setting. So your craving for sex in a natural setting makes sense. You want to propagate the species so you always have that craving. But if you think about internet porn, in one session, if somebody sits down for an hour in front of their computer to look at porn, they're exposed to as many partners as our primal ancestors would have over multiple lifetimes. So it's like suddenly these pathways that made sense in this evolutionary sense, don't make sense in our modern society where suddenly you do have access to all these different things. So it's kind of like exploiting these natural pathways.

Jonathan: For sure. And I think it's also damaging our expectations, not just porn addiction, but also talking about addiction to any other kind of reward-seeking behaviour. When you take part in a behaviour like that, then you get this dopamine hit in your brain and then you come to a normal interaction with other people on a day-to-day basis, then it's boring in comparison. So it's actually harming our relationships with other people.

Tiffany: Didn't they do a study with rats where they divided rats into groups and there was a group of rats that had just the normal rat chow and then another group that had rat chow but for one hour a day they were given free access to really highly palatable junk foods. Then there was another group where they were just given free 24 hour access to super palatable junk foods. After a couple of weeks, I think, 24 hour access rats had no interest whatsoever in normal rat chow. They would just lay there and not even seek out food. So they didn't even want normal food after this lab experiment. And I think that kind of happens in real life too because I've noticed it too.

I could say that I probably had a food addiction at one point in my life before first getting off the gluten and the dairy. You're so used to this mega high that you get from eating chips and dips or cookies and cakes and all that stuff. Just normal meat and vegetables just doesn't get it for you. It has to be something that's super cheesy, super wheaty and you want that at every single meal. You're not satisfied with eggs and bacon at all! But I'm happy to say that after many years, it's like a weight has been lifted off of me. Eggs and bacon are some of the best things that I can eat right now and the thought of eating a cookie or lasagne or all the super heavy Italian foods that I used to like, it just makes me feel disgusted.

Jonathan: I can definitely speak to that too. I have a clear memory of water being boring. How awful is that? But I remember because I used to drink a ton of soda, a ridiculous amount of soda. When I would have a glass of water it was like "Oh this sucks!" There's no flavour. There's no carbonation. It's not sweet. [Laughter] It was like, I denying the very basic tenant of life that my body needs because it didn't offer the hit that I was addicted to.

Erykah: Well kind of going a bit further on what Tiffany talked about, what we can only call the rat race, in the article we spoke of earlier. Addiction rooted more in social isolation than chemical dependency, and the author talks about a professor of psychology in Vancouver called Bruce Alexander who did an odd experiment with rats. He put them in a cage and he built what was called Rat Park. It was a large, lush cage where the rats could have coloured balls and the best rat food and tunnels to scamper down and plenty of friends, everything a rat about town could want. Then they put drugs in the water bottle and the rats with good lives didn't like the drugged water and what they found was that - again, this idea of social isolation - when there were more rats in the Rat Park, they weren't concerned with the drug water because they had each other. But when they were alone they tended to consume more of the drugged water.

Again, I just like that theory of the rat race and sometimes you just feel like you're just on this wheel constantly going, going, going, and you're socially isolated so you tend to go towards those things that give you this sense of soothing. I just wanted to add that little tid bit. It's called the Rat Park Experiment if anyone's interested.

Doug: In fact the isolated rats would keep on drinking the drugged water until they died. They would forego food and anything, just to keep on going back to that drug whereas, like you said, the Rat Park ones weren't really that interested in it and they wouldn't go to it very much.

Jonathan: Doug, since you had mentioned internet porn, I wonder if you could speak a little bit it. I think you had checked out this documentary we were talking about a little bit before the show that's called, Your Brain On Porn. I wonder if you could just speak a little bit to that and some of the dynamics that are involved in that kind of addiction because I think that's a really big thing now. There was a documentary that just came out recently as well that at the Sundance Film Festival called Hot Girls Wanted that was about the epidemic of internet porn. The internet porn sites have more hits out of any and all of the websites put together that are on the internet, any news, entertainment, anything else, porn is the number one thing. And I think this is an epidemic that not many people are talking about.

Doug: Yeah definitely. There's a YouTube video called Your Brain on Porn and unfortunately I don't have the author's name. I believe that it is Marnia Robinson's husband and she is the one who wrote the book Cupid's Poisoned Arrow. They run a website together that's sex addiction and porn addiction recovery for people. It's a really, really interesting series of video. I highly recommend it for anybody who has the opportunity to watch it. The good thing about it is that he goes into the mechanism of addiction and what's actually going on in your brain and that applies to any kind of addiction. It's not just porn. He talks about food addiction, drug addiction. You could apply it to gambling addiction or anything like that.

So he basically is talking about the chemical pathways. The neurotransmitter called dopamine is there. It gets spiked and when it's spiked you feel pleasure. What causes dopamine spikes is novelty and it spikes even more if there's an emotional connection to it too. It doesn't matter if it's a negative emotion or a positive emotion.

So by going for these ultra-stimulatory activities; so, looking at porn or going chemical-infested foods or gambling, or whatever it might be, you get this rise in dopamine. You actually will crave that dopamine hit. So when you're having all these cravings, it's actually interesting that you're not really craving the behaviour itself. What you're actually craving is that dopamine hit. The thing about this dopamine hit is that the same stimulus over time causes less of a dopamine hit because, like I said, you crave novelty.

So this is why you see escalating behaviours in this way. This is actually one sign of addiction that the behaviour actually escalates in some way. So porn users start using it more and more and the same old stuff fails to give them that same dopamine hit so they escalate to more "hard core" porn or more deviant stuff. The emotional connection, whether it's a positive or negative emotion, increases that hit. So if you get into more and more taboo stuff, you get more and more of a hit.

So even if you feel ashamed or guilty for looking at this stuff, that is actually making these pathways more well-worn and getting you further into the spiral of things. It's the same thing with the junk food. You look at the sizes of soft drinks over the course of the years and how much they've expanded. That's kind of mirroring society's addiction to these things whereas a little six ounce soft drink back in the day was enough. People are getting more and more addicted and now it's insane. You see the size of these jumbo soft drink slushy things that you can get, it's an unbelievable amount! And it just goes to show that there's this escalation involved.

So, when you are stuck in this pathway your higher reasoning is numbed a little bit so you aren't really having perspective on it. The addiction has complete control over you and you've got what he calls, the "go for it" signal and you're constantly being pushed into going back for more of this behaviour. Your higher reasoning which might be like "Yeah, you know maybe this isn't such a good idea" gets numbed and silenced in a lot of ways.

I think the way to get yourself out of this spiral is to try and engage those higher reasoning pathways and think more about your doing, try and resist these urges, maybe do some things like meditation, something that would emphasize the higher reasoning instead.

Tiffany: The thing that's interesting about the dopamine hit that people are really seeking is not necessarily the drug, or the porn, or the video games or anything, but after a while your brain gets flooded with so much dopamine, the number of receptors you have start to decrease. So that leads to the withdrawal symptoms. When you stop this addictive behaviour you just feel awful and it drives you to keep wanting to go for it. The thing he said about the addiction pathways, is how they get well worn like a path going through a forest and if you keep going down that same path, the more worn it gets and your brain takes the path of least resistance.

So if you ever feel the need, that you're stressed out and you need to soothe yourself, your brain is going to take the easiest route versus the one where your cognition tells you to put on the brakes. But the only way you can really get out of that is to go down a different path, do what it doesn't like and maybe you can pull the weeds off of the pathway that tells you to do the right thing versus seeking out a hit.

Doug: Yeah, and more on that, it was really interesting. He was saying that there are natural cravings that the brain has. We were talking a little bit about this before; the craving for sex, the craving for food. Those things are hardwired in us and when we exploit these with our modern access to them that blows out of the water anything that you would actually be exposed to in a more natural setting. Those ones are actually much more difficult to recover from than ones that are artificial like drugs.

The example he uses is that there are certain drug addicts who when they kick their drug, the dopamine go-for-it pathway recovers a lot more quickly than things like porn addiction and food addiction because those things are hardwired into us. We always want to pursue sex. We always want to pursue food. Those are things that are fundamental to our existence on this planet. So by exploiting those pathways specifically, it's actually a lot more difficult to recover from that, than it is from an illicit drug or a pharmaceutical drug even.

Jonathan: I was going to speak to the idea of choice and that that's something else that Gabor Mate talks about, that a lot of people who don't have experience with or an understanding of addiction say "Well why can't you just stop doing this?" Basically "What's wrong with you?" And he points out that the choice is taken out of the picture and that's why a community is necessary. That's why the social connection is necessary for people to overcome addiction because you take an addict and put them into a situation where their addictive substance or behaviour is readily available and they have no other regulating factor, the choice is taken out of the picture.

That's a really hard thing, I think too, for addicts themselves to come to terms with. I have my own personal issues with some of the tenets of AA but they have I think a really good founding idea which is "You are powerless" which is true. When you put an addict in a situation with their target thing, they become powerless. I just meant to emphasize the idea of community and social connection as being really essentially for overcoming these kinds of issues.

Tiffany: Yeah, I think Gabor Mate said a lot of his patients say they feel like they're on auto pilot when they're seeking out a hit. They are not themselves. Their brains and their need for a hit just completely takes over. They have really no ability to put on the brakes. There are some drug manufacturers of course who want to come up with some anti-addiction pills by blocking the pleasure centres in the brain. But the bad thing is, when you block those centres completely it leads to profound depression and suicidal behaviour. So drugs are not the answer to cure addiction because it leads you in the opposite direction and you want to feel good, but the drugs make you feel even worse. We've seen that with Chantix, the anti-smoking drug. And there are a lot of reports of people being super depressed and actually committing suicide being on that medication.

Doug: It's interesting, just furthering what Jonathan was saying, when it comes to a drug addiction, removing somebody from the environment can be helpful; getting away from the drugs, cutting off your old social connections that had to do with the drug. That makes sense. But if you're addicted to something like fast food or porn, there is no removing yourself from the environment. That is our environment. We are surrounded by this stuff 24/7. Any computer with an internet connection has access to illicit porn. The one guy was saying in the article, to go and exercise in the park he's passing 30 different fast food joints. You cannot remove yourself from the environment. That's not a possibility. So I think that the social connection thing and working from that direction is really the key.

Jonathan: Definitely. Throughout the show we've been mentioning this guy Gabor Mate. I'm thinking that most of our listeners are probably aware of who he is. He's become a rising figure in the field of addiction and addiction treatment, but Erykah; you had some of Dr. Mate's material. Do you mind just giving us an introduction to who he is in case anybody doesn't know? And then talk a little bit about some of his protocols and what he talks about.

Erykah: Yeah. As Tiffany had mentioned, Gabor Mate is a doctor who had worked on the downtown east side of Vancouver. Before that he was a palliative care doctor. He took care of people who were dying and then went to change his approach to working on the downtown east side of Vancouver in housing projects for drug addicts. He makes the point in his book; The Realm of Hungry Ghosts-Close Encounters with Addiction, to explain that he was a doctor onsite not tasked with the idea of getting people clean and sober. His job essentially was caretaking addicts' wounds. A lot of the addicts had things like hepatitis or HIV and so basically he was just on staff to take care of the wounds and general checkups.

That's when he started to get into the dialogue with these addicts about what they were experiencing because they felt free to share honestly what their addiction was about because they knew they weren't going to get some sort of lecture about how they should be clean and sober. The book is a lot of stories about these particular patients he has experience with. We shared some of their ideas of what the drug did for them, whether it was a cozy comfort or it helped them feel more connected to the world.

What I wanted to share was something that I found really helpful having dealt with addicts in my own life, and trying to really incorporate what he talks about in his book about being loving and compassionate instead of chastising and ridiculing. He talks extensively about how an addict already feels really bad about themselves and their choices and they know all these things. If anything, they're their own worst enemy. What he found really helped was this idea of compassion and understanding.

In my own life, my child was addicted to drugs and I didn't understand because I didn't have those same sorts of addictions. We started off with the grounding and the isolating and realized that that didn't really work. So when I read this book several years ago, it really helped me come to a different place, to be supportive, to show love and kindness. It's really a challenge to be understanding in that type of situation when you're responsible for someone and they're endangering their life and there's nothing that you can do about it. And even in the TED Talk video he talks a lot about that, about how having this compassion and letting the addict talk and explain where these things are coming from and having that dialogue, is really helpful.

I just wanted to share in Chapter 33 of this book, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts; they have what is called the four steps plus one. This four-step method was developed by a Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz at UCLA and it was originally used for the treatment of OCD or obsessive compulsive disorders. In the book Gabor Mate talks about how they might not just be used for OCD or addiction, but any compulsive, repetitive and self-deprecating or self-harming thought pattern. He says that these four steps should be practiced at least once daily or also whenever an addictive impulse or self-undermining belief pulls you so strongly that you are tempted to act it out. So as Doug was mention, the porn thing or the junk food, basically if you're just mentally stuck in such a pattern.

He says find a place to sit and write, preferably a quiet place, however even a bus stop will do, whenever an addictive urge arises. You want to keep a journal of this process, so carrying a small notebook with you is also an excellent aid. I'm just going to quickly go through the steps because I found it helpful with even OCD patterns. Being a wife and a home-keeper, I tend to be OCD about cleanliness and sweeping the floor, washing the dishes. So when you start to notice that it's ruling your life, these four steps really help.

The first step is to Re-label. In step one you label addictive or self-deprecating thought or urge exactly for what it is and not to mistake it for reality. He goes on to say, "When we re -label we give up the language of need. I say to myself I don't need to purchase anything now or to eat anything now. I'm only having an obsessive thought that I have such a need. It's not real, objective need, but a false belief. I may have a feeling or urgency, but there's actually nothing urgent going on." Or "It's not true that I'm a weak person." Or "It's not true that I can never succeed. It's just a belief." Or "It's not true I'm responsible for everything. It's only an idea in my mind." Or "It's not true that I'm unworthy", etc.

Essential to the first step, as to all the steps, is conscious awareness. It is a conscious intention and attention, not just rote repetition that will result in beneficial changes to brain patterns, thoughts and behaviours. Be fully aware of the sense of urgency that attends the impulse and keep labelling it as a manifestation of addition rather than any reality that you act upon.

"In re-labelling," Schwartz writes, "you bring into play the impartial spectator, a concept that Adam Smith used as a central feature of his book The Theory of Moral Sediments. He defined the impartial spectator as the capacity to stand outside yourself and watch yourself in action which is essentially the same mental action as the ancient Buddhist concept of mindful awareness."

"The point of re-labelling is not to make the addictive urge or compulsive thought disappear. It's not going to, at least not for a long time since it is wired into the brain. It is to strengthen, every time a person gives into it and also every time one tries forcibly to suppress it. The point is to observe it with conscious attention without assigning the habitual meaning to it. It is no longer a need, only a dysfunctional thought."

The second step is to Re-attribute. In re-attribute you learn to place the blame squarely on your brain. "This is my brain sending me a false message." This step is designed to assign the re-labelled compulsion to act or think in a certain way, to its proper source. Re-attribution is directly linked with compassionate curiosity towards the self. Instead of blaming yourself for having addictive thoughts and desires, you calmly ask why these desires have exercised such a powerful hold over you. Because they are deeply ingrained in my brain, and because they are easily triggered whenever I am stressed or fatigued or unhappy.

The third step is to Re-focus. In the re-focus step you buy yourself time. Although the compulsion to open the bag of cookies or turn on the TV or drive to the store or the casino is powerful, its shelf life is not permanent. Being a mind phantom, it will pass and you have to give it time to pass. The key principle here, Dr. Schwartz points out is this: it's not how you feel; it's what you do that counts.

Then rather than engaging in the addictive activity or indulging in the negative self-talk, find something else to do. Your initial goal is modest, by yourself just 15 minutes. Choose something that you enjoy and that will keep you active, preferably something healthy and creative, but anything that will please you without causing greater harm. Instead of giving in to the siren call of the addiction or sinking into the familiar despair of negative self belief, go for a walk. If you need to drive to the casino or turn on the TV, if you need to watch television, put on some music. If you need to buy music, get on your exercise bike; whatever gets you through the night or at least through the next 15 minutes. The purpose of re-focus is to teach your brain that it doesn't have to obey the addictive call. It can exercise the free won't. It can choose something else.

And then the last step is to Re-value. This step should really be called de-value. Its purpose is to help you drive into your own thick skull just what has been the real impact of the addictive urge or self-demeaning thought in your life. Disaster. The addicted mind has been fooled into making the object of your addiction the highest priority. Addiction has taken over your attachment, reward and incentive motivation circuits. Where love and vitality should be addiction roosts. The distorted brain circuits have you believe that experiences that can authentically only come from genuine intimacy or creativity or honest endeavour will be yours for the taking through addiction. In the Re-value step you de-value the false gold. You assign to it its proper worth: worse than nothing.

Then finally, "What has this addictive urge done for me," you ask. "It has caused me to spend money needlessly or heedlessly, or to stuff myself when I wasn't hungry, or to be absent from the ones that I love, to take on tasks that have stressed me, or to expend my energies on activities I later regretted. It has wasted my time. It has led me to lie and to cheat and to pretend - first to myself, and then to everyone close to me. It has left me feeling ashamed and isolated. It promised joy and delivered bitterness. The real "value" of my addictive compulsion has been that it has caused me to betray my true values."

Then he says "Be conscious as you right this out and do write it out several times a day if necessary. Be specific: what has been the value of the urge in your relationship with your wife, your husband, your partner, your best friend, your children, your boss, your employees, your co-workers? Pay close attention to what you feel when you recall these events and when you foresee what's ahead if you persist in permitting the compulsion to overpower you. Be aware. That awareness will be your guardian."

So I wrote this out several times for myself. I'll just mention the four steps again. It's Re-label, Re-attribute, Re-focus and Re-value. I found that this has been really helpful, whether you have an obsessive compulsion of cleaning or getting on your computer and getting on Facebook or whatever that compulsion is, to buy yourself 15 minutes. There's been a lot of research done about what they call harm reduction, where previous addicts get into running marathons or practicing yoga or meditation or tai chi, finding something that you can divert that attention to and focus on; painting, doing yard work, anything that gets you out of that destructive pattern or cycle to those addictive thoughts.

Doug: It's interesting. All his points are all about engaging that higher reasoning, higher thinking, analyzing what you're doing and getting into some of the reasons why. It's like we were talking about before. You can look at it just from the biochemical perspective, that you don't engage that same well-worn dopamine pathway. You have to engage that higher reasoning, overcome that limbic impulse and use those higher reasoning faculties to get a better perspective and maybe divert to some other activity.

Tiffany: That's interesting; the part where you were talking about if you could step outside of yourself as an objective observer. One time years ago, back during my junk food addiction, I was sitting at my computer. I'd already eaten dinner. I wasn't hungry or anything but there was this 24 hour diner right across the street. Talk about over-exposure to junk food. I was sitting there and I could hear this voice in my head saying "You should go over there". I don't even know what it was I was wanting at the time. "You should go over there and get something. You really need it. It would be so nice for you right now." And I was like "No, no, I'm not going to do it." I kind of stepped outside of myself and observed these thoughts and they came in cycles and I swear it wasn't more than three minutes later, it said the exact same thing to me. I'm like "Oh my god! I'm in a thought loop. I've got a food demon in me!" [Laughter] I didn't go out there and get anything. I think I just went to bed or something.

But it's so strange how your brain works and you feel so out of control, like Gabor Mate's patients, like you're on auto pilot and you just cannot stop yourself. So eventually help for me was just changing the diet. Like I said before, it was like a burden was lifted because you spend so much time in these negative thought loops, not just when you engage in a certain behaviour but the guilt and shame and you're constantly just focusing on it, like you're lying in bed at night, like "Why can't I do better? Why am I so weak? Why don't I have any will power?" So, it's really, really tough. And that brings in the whole being compassionate with yourself and being compassionate with other people because it's really like your brain is just hijacked.

Doug: Yeah, it's not about being hungry. This craving isn't about needing nourishment. It's that you're craving that dopamine hit. Like you said, you had just eaten dinner. So obviously you weren't hungry. So it's pretty amazing. One thing that I've found since changing the diet to a Paleo/Ketogenic diet is how much I was eating for entertainment or out of boredom. These things like gluten and casein and the processed ingredients, MSG, all the other chemicals and stuff, give that dopamine hit. And by taking yourself off of those kinds of things, it's amazing how food is no longer entertainment. I've mentioned it before on the show, but I stopped watching the food channel, Food TV.

Tiffany: Food porn.

Doug: Because it wasn't entertaining. Yeah, food porn, exactly. It's all tied to that addiction thing. You're craving that "comfort food" which is really just giving your brain a chemical hit. By switching your diet, you take away those pathways that have been so ingrained and those things just aren't interesting anymore. I can't tell you the last time I actually craved some kind of junk food snack. People eating chocolate cake, which used to be my ultimate weakness, now I'm, like "Nah, I don't really care."

Erykah: We talked about it before on this show. When you tell people about the diet and "How can you do that? How can you not eat that bread?" Just like you said Doug, going into a party and there are all these foods. It's like in AA. You don't walk into a bar if you have an alcohol issue, but the same thing can be applied to food. You go to a party and there are all these foods there. Now, it's like that desire or need is not even there. You have to work through the initial withdrawal symptoms and all the attendant feelings that come with that, but after a certain point, you can walk into a buffet and say "Yeah, there's nothing I'll be eating here today".

Doug: I remember one time I actually witnessed somebody having an absolute meltdown because she needed some cheese. I was really blown away by this. It was crazy. We were at a nutrition trade show and she was having a stressful time and she was like "I need cheese! I absolutely must get cheese right now!" I was like "Are you kidding me right now?!"

Tiffany: That sounds like me. [Laughter] I swear my stomach used to be a bottomless pit, buffets and everything. But yeah, I never thought it would come to the day where I could go to a party or a gathering and I could just not eat anything and be perfectly happy. Or eat before I go. Yeah, it's great.

Jonathan: I think some of this speaks to the idea that there is actually a light at the end of the tunnel for people who are addicted. Erykah when you were talking about those points from Gabor Mate, it reminded me of something else that he had said too about not identifying with the identity of being an addict. So instead of saying; "I am an addict" saying, "I am in a state of being addicted right now" or "I'm in a state of addiction" so that you don't root your identity in this addiction or in the addictive behaviour.

Erykah: Yeah, he talked about doing these steps without judging yourself. You're just gathering information. You're not conducting a criminal trial against yourself.

Jonathan: Well it can certainly feel that way. Like he says, the addict is their own worst enemy and I can speak to this too from personal experience, feeling that guilt and shame and "Yeah, I already know that this sucks. I already know I don't have any willpower. You don't have to tell me that. You don't have to tell me what a bad situation this is. I get it!" But the "but" coming into play where that willpower's already knocked down, the grooves are already made in your brain and behavioural patterns, so it really takes a big effort of separation from that identity to actually pull out of that.

We have a quick question in our chat room here that we can address. Zoya's in our chat room and she said "What about certain temporary addictions or behavioural traits that are actually a sort of adaptation to a dysfunctional environment, like things that are not ideal but keep a person sane?"

Tiffany: What, for example?

Jonathan: I'm not sure. She just says "certain temporary addictions or behavioural traits that are actually a sort of adaptation to a dysfunctional environment."

Erykah: Well I can speak on just a personal thing. Again, coming back to the OCD tendency to have my environment obsessively clean to the point where it drives everyone in my family a little bit crazy, we were having a discussion about when you feel like your life is out of control, that needing to control something. So, I really noticed that in this tendency for cleanliness to an extreme level, when I feel like my life is in chaos or I don't have control. I really experienced this again when we were going through these challenges with my daughter. I would clean as a way to make my environment a more controlled place, if that makes sense. That was kind of my coping mechanism for how to deal with how out of control I felt that my life was in these emotional aspects. The physical act of sweeping or vacuuming or cleaning out the refrigerator, all these things kind of helped me feel like I could at least control my environment and maybe if my environment was in a better state, that my emotional state would follow, if that makes sense. That's just a personal analogy.

Jonathan: Yeah, I think there's maybe a subtle difference between an addiction and adapting to an environment. It may result in an addiction, the adaptive behaviour, but I'm not sure that you could necessary slight someone for doing an adaptive behaviour that is negative if they don't necessarily know better? I'm not sure how to put that. What were you going to say Doug?

Doug: I was going to say something similar there. I think that the problem might be the idea of a temporary addiction. I think the definition of addiction is that it's not temporary. It's a behaviour that's compulsive and it escalates in some way. Zoya was talking about an adaptation to a dysfunctional environment, like something temporary, maybe behaviour to escape in some way. I don't know that it's the same thing because I don't think that if you're in a temporary situation you could really necessarily call that an addiction.

Tiffany: As long as you're aware that you're doing this to cope with the environment that you're in and once you remove yourself from that environment, those behaviours go away. I don't think that would qualify as an addiction per se.

Jonathan: Well, we've gone over quite a bit of material today and I hope that anybody who's listening who might be struggling with any kind of addiction, whether it be drugs, food, porn, purchasing, whatever, and really any kind of behaviour can turn into an addictive behaviour and pretty much any substance can also be an addictive substance. So it's a really rampant issue in our society and it has many different manifestations. So, I hope that people are able to take away from this discussion some different ways to deal with that. Again, we'd like to encourage everyone to look up Gabor Mate. I know we talked about him a lot but he's got a lot of really good material. The book In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts is very good. Also the documentary; Your Brain on Porn, which is available on YouTube is also very good for anybody who might be struggling with that.

So we're going to take a little break right now and actually go to Zoya for the Pet Health segment and then when we come back, talking about food addiction, we're going to talk about pork rinds, which might be a new addiction now. [Laughter] But we talk a lot here on the show about the low carb diet and pork rinds are really an effective way to make a lot of different kinds of food while keeping the carb count really low. So instead of just giving a one-off recipe we're going to talk about pork rinds a little bit and Tiff and her roommates have a lot of experience using pork rinds in a household that has a lot of people there. So we will go to that when we come back. So here's Zoya, and she's going to talk about some misconceptions related to pets. We'll be back after this.

Zoya: Hello and welcome to the Pet Health segment of the Health and Wellness Show. Today I'm going to share with interesting and less known facts about various animals which refute some of the misconceptions about them.

Sheep; for example, everyone thinks that they are not particularly bright. There is even a description for some people like "sheeple" that characterizes those who follow others without thinking. But as it turns out, experts consider sheep as only perhaps a bit less bright than pigs, rodents and monkeys. Among farm animals they are somewhere in the middle on an intellectual level.

They have a good adaptability and perhaps even some ability to plan ahead. They are not the Einstein's of the farm animal world, that's for sure, but not as stupid as they are being painted to be either.

Another creature worth mentioning is a gold fish. Apparently their survival abilities are something of a legend. In one case a fish survived 13 hours after jumping out of its aquarium. In another, the gold fish lived after lying on the cold stone floor for seven hours. A miracle? Hardly! The simple explanation is that when outside of water goldfish have an ability to enter a state similar to hibernation and reverses into a normal state when put back into water.
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The next, seriously outrageous misconception is that pigs are also stupid. After all, how can an animal that loves rolling in the mud can be smart? Well, they can and they are. For example, piglets can learn to recognize their nickname if they are given one when they are only a couple of weeks old. Another example that demonstrates that pigs possess strategic thinking is that when a pig notices that another piggy goes to her food stash, they will follow and will try to take away the food. But then the second pig will realize that this is what's happening and will try to lead the first pig to a trap or to a false stash. Apparently pigs also show that they are capable of cognitive thinking, meaning that they are able to understand what other animals are about to do.

Early experiments show that only dogs, ravens and chimpanzees were capable of doing it.

Now, let's talk about male goats. You know there are many examples of sympathetic pregnancy in nature, or males sharing the responsibility, like sea horses for one. Well, male goats also do their share apparently. No one knows exactly how it happens, but apparently male goats can grow and udder and provide milk.

But what about other behavioural traits that are usually associated with human behaviour? Mourning the dead, for example, surely animals understand it when their children die, but some also perform rituals. Red foxes for example, bury their dead. Elephants carry the bodies even if the elephant wasn't their relative. Mockingbirds announce to others if they see that one of theirs has died. One could say that they do it to announce that there is a danger around, but the thing is that after such an announcement, the mockingbirds fast for a day as if grieving the passing of the comrade.

And the last fact will be about camels. Camels live in the desert and while it is very hot there during the day, camels don't perspire. They don't sweat. So how do their bodies regulate their temperature, especially since sweating appears to be the usual way to do it? Well, in the case of camels their body is built in such a way that in temperatures up to 48 degrees Celsius, the body will completely ignore it and there won't be any detrimental effects. It is probably an evolutionary adaptation because sweating in desert conditions probably appeared to ancient camels as a very wasteful thing to do.

Well this is it for today. I hope you found the information interesting. Have a nice day and good-bye. [Bleating goats]

Jonathan: There are some of those smart goats there.

Tiffany: You hate to go from a show on addiction to talking about addictive pork rind recipes, but nevertheless... [Laughter]

Jonathan: Yeah, it's something that we've been talking about doing for a little while so I think it would be good to cover this for our listeners. That's one thing, when you start doing the low carb diet at first. I guess this relates back to our topic, is that it can seem boring because you're used to eating all these foods that provide a certain kind of hit and they're really exciting to eat and then all of a sudden you're left with butter and steak and pork chops, which to a lot of people can seem pretty boring. But there is a lot you can do. There's a plethora of pork rind recipes to make low carb pancakes, bread, hamburger buns, pie crust, pizza crust, brownies, pumpkin pie filling.

Tiffany: Pokies.

Jonathan: You guys do that a lot.

Tiffany: The possibilities are seemingly endless and I have to credit another SOTT editor, Karen. Maybe it was out of desperation, if not of creativity. We've made all those things and they're all delicious, like the bread for example. I don't know if any of you have ever eaten cornbread, but it has that same kind of sponginess and the little air bubbles in it that you get with cornbread. I always hated cornbread but this pork rind bread is fantastic. So there are recipes out there.

Yeah you just grind the pork rinds down. A lot of people have noticed if they try and make pork rinds themselves, the pork rinds aren't super-super fluffy like they should be when you want to make a recipe with pork rinds. If you're going to buy pork rinds, you just want to make sure that the only ingredients are pork and salt. Since pork rinds do have salt in them, you want to reduce the amount of salt that you put in the recipe and you want to grind it up as fine as you can grind it using a food processor and then go from there. It's really fantastic.

We've made bread. We've made nan bread, like the flat little Indian bread for Indian curry dishes and that was really excellent too. We've made pancakes and sometimes add a little arrowroot powder into the batter and it's a really good pancake. You can just put some sugar-free jam on it and it's really good. Brownies were a big hit. All you do is just put your cocoa powder into the pork rind dough and put some Xylitol in there and you've got your brownies. It tastes really, really fantastic. We do put a lot of bacon fat in there. It can be a little greasy, but it still tastes fantastic.

And speaking of pie crusts, our other SOTT editor, Shane he made a lemon curd chocolate pie. It had chocolate pork rind pie crust and it was to die for. So just because you're going keto or paleo/low carb, doesn't mean that you can't have an occasional treat. The thing about the pork rinds is its very, very filling so it's not like you can just sit there and gorge yourself like you used to be able to eat a whole packet of cookies in one sitting. You're satisfied with just a little piece of bread or brownie or a little piece of fat bomb cake, which is another miracle. But you can't gorge yourself because it's extremely filling. That's kind of a good thing too, so you can't over eat your pork rind deserts.

We've made fat bomb cake and it's really just the pork rind crust serving as a crust and you can do a little fat bomb layer and then put flavours into your fat bomb that you want your cake to be and it's really turned out to be quite a hit. So we're all very, very happy with pork rinds. Maybe it'll turn into a cookbook one day. Have you guys made pork rind bread or tried anything?

Doug: We made pork rind pizza at one point. Like you were saying about how filling it is, Tiff, it was crazy. We made this pizza and I thought "Great!" and I grabbed myself two pieces. I ate one and I was kind of like "Whoa! I think I'm done!" It was not the kind of thing you can gorge yourself on.

Tiffany: Yeah, that's one of the things people say they miss the most is pizza. It takes a long time to make because you have to make your own sauce, but you can still use pepperoni or strips of ham, put your onions or garlic or whatever else you want on the pizza and it turns out fantastic. It's not really floppy like a regular pizza, but it's good. It's a worthy substitute.
Jonathan: I actually like that a lot better than the regular floppy pizza. I noticed that too. I did the pork rind pizza crust and aside from it just being really filling, it was sturdy. There's something about a sturdy pizza that's awesome. I've done the bread and the hamburgers. I'm looking at the recipes here. A couple of things I haven't tried yet are the pie crust or the brownies. The brownies look really good. And there's even a recipe here for pork rind noodles which sounds really interesting.

Tiffany: Yeah, you can make pork rind noodles. I forget the exact dish that we were having because it's become such a thing around here. There's not a week that goes by that we don't have some kind of pork rind something or other. Yeah, you can make pork rind noodles too. It's fantastic.

Jonathan: Just looking at the recipe for the noodles here, it looks like essentially crepes that are then cut into strips. I guess one other question that our listeners might have while we're talking about this is do you have to have access to a pig skin from a butcher to make pork rinds? Have you made your own I guess would be my first question, from pig skin and if you buy them, what do you look for?

Tiffany: Yeah, we just look for just plain pork rinds and salt, no extra flavourings or anything like that. We haven't made our own pork rinds from pork skin yet but one of my roommates has made pork rinds before. But one of the issues with that is getting it as fluffy as the store-bought pork rinds and the fluffier the better when it comes time to make the pork rind batter.

Doug: Yeah, we've done quite a few experiments with pork rinds here. They weren't turning out at first. We'd end up with a lot of really hard pieces that weren't really chewable. But one of the revelations of it was when one of my roommates went down to Mexico and saw how they did it. They actually boil the pigskin first, and then dry it out in the oven. Actually down there they dry it out in the sun.

But we did those steps here. I shouldn't say "we". It was all my roommates doing. But he boiled the pigskin first, then dried it out in the oven at a very low temperature overnight and those pork rinds turned out perfect. They were absolutely super fluffy. We could get the pork rinds from US Wellness Meats every once in a while and these were quite a bit better. We didn't grind them up into flour because we ate them all. They turned out really well.

Tiffany: Another thing you need to keep in mind besides it being really filling, is that when you're making a pork rind batter and you add eggs into it, it can really make it super, super thick, so you want to have some water on hand to thin it out a little bit so you can work with it a little better and it's not just a pasty ball. You also want to flavour it. Put herbs, if you want more of a savoury - type bread, or you can put the cocoa and Xylitol if you're looking for a dessert type of thing.

Jonathan: Cool. I'll have to try the homemade pork rinds. That's something I haven't delved into yet so I'll have to see if I can get some pig skin and try that out. We'd encourage all of our listeners to try that out. We didn't give a specific recipe today but there are a lot of recipes for pork rinds that are available on the SOTT forum. If you go to and then just click the forum link you can find the recipes there. There's also a lot of recipes online if you do a Google search for pork rind bread, pork rind pancakes, things like that and see what you can find, then tailor the recipe to fit your needs and play around with it. It was definitely a revelation for me when I first learned about this and it's been fun to play with.

So, that's our show for today. I'd like to thank everybody for participating in the chat and for listening and we encourage you guys to check out the other two shows that are going to be on the SOTT radio network tomorrow and Sunday, The Truth Perspective tomorrow at 2:00 p.m. eastern and Behind the Headlines on Sunday at 2:00 p.m. eastern. They've got some really good topics coming up.

Tiffany: Actually, there won't be a Truth Perspective show tomorrow. The hosts are otherwise engaged, but they'll be back next Saturday.

Jonathan: Okay. So, that leaves Behind the Headlines on Sunday and then the full complement next weekend. So be sure to check those out and we will see all of you guys next Friday. Thanks very, much for listening.