As anyone who has known an addict quickly realizes, no one just wakes up one day with an addiction. Addiction is a biochemical disease that is created over a period of time as one consistently uses substances resulting in increased deterioration of the body. However, once a ...ADDICTION 101

As anyone who has known an addict quickly realizes, no one just wakes up one day with an addiction. Addiction is a biochemical disease that is created over a period of time as one consistently uses substances resulting in increased deterioration of the body. However, once a person has reached the point of developing an addiction, the experience that the mind and body have undergone cannot be erased and has an impact on all future occurrences; hence it is a chronic disease.

It is much like the type II diabetic who, after years of a poor carbohydrate laden diet and lack of exercise becomes insulin resistant and eventually develops diabetes. This too is a gradual, biochemical change that cannot be cured once it reaches a certain point. But no one ever suggests that we should put diabetics into group counseling in order to treat their disease. Most medical professionals would condemn the notion of psychological counseling as the sole treatment for this biochemical problem as irresponsible and neglectful. The average person would deem any doctor who prescribed group counseling and an antidepressant as treatment for diabetes as negligent and incompetent. Yet few people tend to find it irresponsible to negate the physical complications caused by years of substance abuse when prescribing a recovery regimen. Furthermore, there have been occasions when the medical community has deemed biochemical restoration treatment for addiction to be ineffective or unnecessary.

Regardless of any practitioner’s ideological viewpoint, there are a few facts regarding the development of an addiction that are inarguable, very obvious and based on common sense.

1. Drugs and alcohol are toxic to the body.

2. Putting large quantities of any toxin into the body over a period of time will most likely change the way the body’s endogenous chemicals are produced and interact.

3. Changing the chemical composition of the body through toxin ingestion can cause severe damage that cannot be fixed through simple abstinence.

4. Restoration of the body’s systems is necessary to undo the damage of addiction and provides a more maintainable and complete recovery.

If you were to imply that excessive intake of saturated fats and simple sugars is bad for you and can cause damage to your body requiring medical testing, diagnosis and treatment, few people would argue with you. Yet when the same logic is applied to addiction, drug companies, insurance companies, medical practitioners and treatment professionals often argue that talk therapy is the best way to treat this very physical disease. I strongly disagree.

The presence and symptoms of drug withdrawal are all the evidence needed to conclude that there is a strong physical component to drug addiction. However we believe that medicating withdrawal symptoms in an effort to eliminate them can be damaging to the recovery process. Withdrawal is necessary for the body to engage its homeostatic response. This allows it to regulate chemical systems that are underperforming as a result of drug or alcohol use. Medicating this process can shut down the homeostatic response and prevent the body from restoring effective levels of the natural chemicals that are necessary to feel “normal.” Furthermore, almost all addicts suffer from some level of malnutrition as a result of gastrointestinal malabsorbtion. This is a natural response that occurs when the body is taking in too many chemicals. The GI tract stops absorbing to slow the intake of toxins. Unfortunately, it also stops absorbing vitamins, minerals and amino acids which are all necessary to maintain the body’s natural chemistry. When not adequately fueled the body cannot re-stabilize, much like starting a car with no gas. This is what causes withdrawal to go on for days and even weeks. But providing high levels of fuel directly to the body facilitates recovery, speeds up withdrawal and stabilizes the body quickly.

Systemic recovery of the human body in many cases starts with how it is fueled. Put simply, what you put into your body reflects what you get out of it. The gastrointestinal tract plays a critical role in any biochemical problem or disease and what symptoms are manifested. Ingesting large amounts of sugar when you have diabetes can cause a number of unpleasant and problematic symptoms. Intake of saturated fats when arteries are clogged or a heart condition exists can result in a number of severe and even fatal symptoms. Addiction and mental health problems are also good examples of this dynamic.

When a person takes large quantities of toxins into the body, the GI system stops absorption of many complex substances in an effort to inhibit absorption of the toxins. However, this also prevents absorption of many important nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and amino acids. When this process of malabsorbtion occurs, the body stops absorbing its necessary fuels in order to prevent being poisoned any further.

This is where the process of toxin intake begins to transform into an addiction. As the body continues to ingest toxins, malabsorbtion continues and can worsen, further depleting the body’s nutrient supplies. As the body becomes less and less nourished, body systems begin to malfunction or fail. As the body’s systems slow and operate improperly, it can often be less reactive to chemicals like drugs, facilitating a phenomenon called tolerance, or the need for more of the substance to induce the same effect that was achieved prior to malabsorbtion.

One of the most important systems to be affected by malnutrition is the brain. Neurotransmitters, the chemicals that interact in the brain, are synthesized from amino acids. Serotonin, an important neurotransmitter in mood, anger, aggression, depression, anxiety, metabolism and sexual functioning is synthesized from the amino acid L-tryptophan by two enzymes 1) tryptophan hydroxylase and 2) amino acid decarboxylase. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that cannot be synthesized by the body. Therefore it must be received in the diet in order to produce adequate levels of serotonin.

When the body is in a state of malabsorbtion it cannot absorb this and other amino acids effectively, even if they are present in the diet. This prevents serotonin production and negatively effects mood and the other body systems that require serotonin to function properly. This can cause depression. However, taking all the L-tryptophan in the world will not relieve depression if the GI tract is malfunctioning and preventing absorption.

Serotonin synthesis is only one example of how addiction affects the body’s ability to function at optimal levels. There are hundreds of body chemicals, interactions and functions that can be significantly impaired when a body is undernourished from malabsorbtion. That is why it is essential to repair this system if complete addiction recovery is to occur. Excluding GI restoration in any recovery program allows body systems to continue being deprived and undernourished, increasing drug cravings and protracted withdrawal and serving as a significant obstacle to a healthy, happy and sustainable recovery.

The good news is, with basic testing, diagnosis and proper treatment, the GI system can undergo significant repair and be a very effective fuel system and ally in recovery. When repaired, it can deliver much needed nutrients to a starving brain and body, allowing natural biochemical synthesis to occur and fill the body with all the fuel it needs to be as productive as possible. That is why our recovery program has a significant GI restoration process to diagnose and treat each patient’s malfunctioning fuel system and provide all the nutrients necessary for the body to heal itself, the way it was designed to recover, without the additional toxins and systemic disruption caused by medications.

To those who do not approve of how we utilize the human body’s extraordinary natural functionality to help facilitate recovery without medications, we recommend that you promptly submit a complaint to the body’s manufacturer.
For more information on systemic addiction recovery contact Arche Wellness at 724-444-1333 or visit

Author's Bio: 

Erin McClelland has over 12 years of experience in the addiction field and has worked as a counselor, program director, researcher, process improvement specialist and entrepreneur. She started her career researching alcohol and smoking addiction at the University of Pittsburgh and substance abuse wrap around services at St. Francis Medical Center. Her clinical career includes addressing addiction in methadone maintenance programs, outpatient drug-free programs and specialized services such as women, family and prevention program development.

In 2002, Mrs. McClelland began a private practice in which she developed a community based prevention program designed to reach parents and educators through school and community seminars and home sessions. She also began developing a more holistic treatment approach that included diet and exercise evaluation. As a certified personal trainer and certified lifestyle and weight management consultant, she believes diet and exercise are paramount to attaining a true, maintainable recovery.

In 2003, she was hired as the Practice Improvement Collaborative Manager at the Institute of Research Education and Training in Addiction (IRETA). In her time at IRETA, she was trained by the Pittsburgh Regional Healthcare Initiative (PRHI) to implement the Toyota Production System in healthcare settings in order to reduce waste and errors and improve performance. This training consisted of the case method training approach of Harvard Business School (HBS) and TPS case studies created by HBS professor Steven Spear, who wrote the first article interpreting the TPS for implementation in the US.

In 2006, she conceived and developed Arche Wellness, the first licensed orthomolecular addiction treatment program in Pennsylvania. Together with Dr. Ralph A. Miranda, they have created an intense biochemical recovery approach that begins with the body’s fuel system, the gastrointestinal tract. By starting repair in the GI tract, they are able to quickly and efficiently help their patient’s overcome the severe physical damage caused by years of addiction. The GI concentration in the Arche Wellness model is now one of the most advanced and intensive addiction treatment processes in the world.

Her experience and unique education in process improvement strategies have helped to make Arche Wellness a state-of-the art learning organization dedicated to achieving perfect patient care.