The Biology of Addiction and Recovery: Unpacking the Biological Component of Mental Health and Addiction
Today, we’re talking about the biology of addiction and recovery with Dr. Evelyn Higgins, who is an internationally recognized expert in the epidemiology of addiction and the Founder of Wired For Addiction®. We’ll discuss everything there is to know about interpreting an individual’s physiology in order to make informed treatment decisions based on objective biomarkers.
Wired For Addiction® specializes in the biological component of mental health and addiction. Through their patent-pending custom diagnostic panel and treatment process, they address specific biomarkers highly correlated to substance use disorders, process addictions, and mental health conditions. Coupling genetically informed treatment with the traditional modalities available at treatment facilities allows for long-term recovery of an individual suffering from a bio-psycho-social condition. Going far beyond traditional MAT, functional MRIs (or brain mapping), Wired For Addiction® is truly individual to the unique biochemistry of each patient.
- Specializing in the Biology of Recovery
Dave: Hey everybody. This is Dave Closson from the team here at Drug-Free America Foundation, and you’re listening to the Pathways to Prevention podcast, the show where we chat with stakeholders from across the drug demand reduction spectrum about current trends in the global substance use pandemic strategies to reduce drug,
how to best adapt those strategies to the ever-shifting substance use landscape. But before we start the show, have you visited the Drug-Free America Foundation website recently? It is full of excellent resources and information. Two particular highlights are the current research blog and their new.
Just last month, for example, we published a brief from the Drug Abuse Warning Network, also known as Dawn. They recently released its nationwide report on the 2021 findings from drug related emergency department visits. Just a couple highlights. Patients age 26 to 44 had the highest percentage of all drug related ED visits followed by patients age 45 to 64. the top five drugs involved in drug related ED visits were alcohol, opioids, methamphetamine, marijuana, and cocaine. And then the last little highlight to share with you, young adult patients aged 18 to 25 had the second highest percentage of ED visits related to marijuana and fentanyl. Great information there.
So if you’re looking to stay up to date on the current research, but don’t have the time to constantly scroll to search the web, then you need to head straight to dfaf.org and subscribe to the newsletter, and I’ll put the link in these show notes as well. All right, so today’s episode. Today we are talking about the biology of addiction and recovery.
With Dr. Evelyn Higgins, who is an internationally recognized expert in the epidemiology of addiction. We’ll discuss everything there is to know about interpreting an individual’s physiology in order to make informed treatment decisions based on objective biomarkers. I’m intrigued. I’ve got a lot of questions.
I can’t wait. So without further ado, thank you for joining us, Dr. Evelyn Higgin.
Dr. Higgins: Thank you Dave. It’s my pleasure. I really appreciate it.
Dave: All right, so your bio phenomenal. Rather than read it off, would you mind sharing with our audience a little bit about yourself and maybe what led you to your current role today?
Dr. Higgins: Sure. I am a dual diplomat in disability pain management and in addiction and compulsive disorders. That started because in my initial role in pain management, I was seeing people start to become dependent, and this is over 30 years ago. And I’m in a rural area, and then 20 years after that I’m in a metropolitan area and I’m seeing people becoming addicted, not just dependent.
And I’m seeing this at a faster, faster rate. So that was my area of practice and I, I was seeing that commonality. And then personally, I married a man who was an alcoholic and we had a child together. About a year after my daughter was born, we found out that he was adopted and that led a lot of health history questions for me, for him as well, that we wanted to find out.
he, he really had several addictions. If I’m, if I’m being honest with myself, he’s no longer with us. He’s, deceased in his early. but that had so many burning questions for me of why are we not advancing this area of healthcare the way we are with other areas of healthcare? Why aren’t we using technology to further where we’re at?
Dr. Higgins: You know, so often in the addiction substance use disorder world, we’re practicing the same way as we did in 1970 or 19. You know, we haven’t taken those advances and really ran with them here. So it’s a combination of all those things professionally, where I was, what I was seeing, and then personally my own life and what I saw and, and found this need of, you know, if we’re finding out so much about genetics, why are we dropping the ball here?
And I spent 16, over 16 now, 17 years in, in r and d to create the panel that we now. Wired for addiction that looks at combination of neurotransmitters and hormones, our stress hormones, our stress response to life, as well as genetic SNPs polymorphisms errors in genetic coding. So that’s kind of the Cliff Notes version of what got me here.
Dave: Well, first thank you for, sharing the personal aspect as well with our audience. Definitely, thank you for that. That is very powerful and important when it comes to the work that we do. We all do have that personal aspect that does bring us to, to this work.
Dr. Higgins: right.
Dave: Yes. Now, in my, my prep for our conversation, I saw somewhere where it said, wired for Addiction is a DNA company. What does that mean?
Dr. Higgins: So we look at the biology of addiction and recovery. We, we measure somebody’s DNA to see what within their makeup is going to make them more predisposed to a substance use disorder or a mental health condition. So often in the substance use abuse world, there’s a co-occurring disorder. you know, someone winds up reaching outside of themselves to self-medicate, either a diagnosed condition, an undiagnosed condition, or a trauma.
One of those, two of those are all three of those, and those things overlap. So we took a whole broad spectrum of being able to analyze someone’s DNA and say, what part of this would make this individual more likely to reach outside of themselves to self-medicate.
Dave: Fascinating. And my, my bachelor’s is in biology, and so the, the science guy in me wants to just ask all the, the science questions. but I’ll, I’ll save that for a little bit. If I were to say, folks can be wired for addiction,
Dr. Higgins: Mm-hmm.
Dave: what would your response be?
Dr. Higgins: I’d say absolutely. We can be, you know, we’re, we’re born, here’s your DNA, play your cards out. Right. And we all come into the game with less than perfect DNA in, in, in different areas. That’s just reality. So if for, for myself, for my lineage, let’s say it’s cardiovascular disease, for someone else, it’s different types of cancers.
For someone else it’s mental health. So knowing that can be such a powerful tool. At the end, we all still have free. We all get to decide how we wanna play out our lives, but knowing that information can really make someone say, is this a road I want to go down? Oftentimes when I talk to parents and young people and I see the same, the same genetic snips in a parent as I am in the child and similar behaviors as a result of that, I’ll talk to the the kid and say, you know, you’re in an age now where your buddies are gonna say, Hey, I have a great.
After school, why don’t we go do this and let’s try this out. You know, say there’s four of you there next day. Three of you say, no, that’s cool. I don’t wanna do it again. And you’re standing there saying, I really like that. Why don’t we do it again today? So having that power of knowing. That, that’s where you’re at, and you need to find another place to dabble and call fun, you know, at that age and, and what, what peers do to each other.
It’s really, really powerful information. I’m also wise enough to know that it’s coming from me, not, I’m not that child’s parent or that individual’s spouse or, or partner, but it, it has a different message coming from me or one of our clinicians than it does from someone within their. And, and that’s, that’s the really cool part of this.
It’s, it’s being identified in your D N A and coming from a clinician.
So taking that information and saying, do I pass or play on some of these activities that are gonna be offered to me can be a game changer in somebody’s life.
To me, that would be the sweet spot, , the prevention side of things and my.
Optimist wants to believe that we can get there one day.
Dave: The prevention side of it. It makes my wheels turn. Some of the things that that I was hearing was that one, the testing, the, the biomarkers, the scene of somebody is, is wired for, for addiction. To use that, that phrase, wired for addiction will better inform them, providing them more information so they have more data. To base their decisions on their own behavior. Now that, of course, is still up to them, but it it’s arming them with more information and it’s hard data. It’s not subjective, it’s not emotional, it’s just facts.
Dr. Higgins: Exactly. You know, you think. Up until this point of what we’re talking about here, the way people are diagnosed is by observation and by vocabulary. So what if my vocabulary is different than your vocabulary, Dave, are we gonna arrive at the same place? If I describe, say, anxiety or depression using different words, is that actually what’s happen?
We have no objective data unless we look at these biomarkers to say, okay, clearly this is what’s happening. So we get to fast track treatment instead of the try this, try that method and literally guessing.
Dave: like the the smiley face Pain rating scale.
Dr. Higgins: Right on the one to 10, how are you feeling today? You know, it’s, and, and what if you then you don’t see that same clinician because it’s in a group practice. You see a different clinician who says, what’s a seven to them?
Dave: Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm.
Dr. Higgins: So this gives us data points. This is objective rather than subjective. And, and in addiction world, we, we talk about it as a bio psychosocial disease, but there’s no bio in the bio,
Dr. Higgins: It’s, it’s talk therapy. It’s, you know, getting to the deep of where your pain is and all those things are necessary. But no one had that bio.
Dave: interesting. As you can see, I’m lost in thought here.
one of the, the other things that I, I heard was the importance of having the conversation in, in prevention we’re, we’re encouraging parents, teachers, folks to talk about substance use, misuse with youth, with each other, with their peers.
But this just adds. Data to that conversation.
Dr. Higgins: Exactly. And by having these conversations, we’re also reducing the stigma, which still exists and is ridiculous that it still exists, but it’s still there. We have to look at it factually. So having open dialogue, having conversations, reduces that stigma and say, this is, this is real. Let’s talk about it.
And how are we gonna.
Not just admire so often we admire the problem. Yep, it’s there. Okay. Watch our action
Dave: So let’s talk about that. what happens next after somebody does go through the the testing.
Dr. Higgins: Right? Sure. So we look at 85 biomarkers from neurotransmitters, which are our brain chemicals, things like serotonin, dopamine, gaba, buric, acid, phenylethylamine. The list goes on and on, and hormones, stress hormones. And androgen sex hormones as well. And then these, as I called the polymorphisms, the single nucleotide polymorphisms.
What those tell us is where there’s an error in genetic coding, that error creates things called aberrant behavior. What’s that? Aberrant behavior is things like risk taking impulse. addiction, anxiety, depression. We take all of that information and put it together, look at the biochemical pathways for each one of those, and then create a protocol for that individual.
So it truly is individualized precision treatment. you know, seven and seven and a half billion people in the and we treat everybody the exact same way. And we know that no two people have the exact same DNA. N I mean someday Dave, we’re gonna look at this and say, that was so barbaric. Did we really think that was good But that’s how we do things.
Dave: So after looking at those biomarkers and you’ve identified a, I’ll just say a handful. Then how does that get translated into a, a treatment plan?
Dr. Higgins: So then we use, depending on the lab, the results there. It’s either, nutraceuticals, neuro peptides or pharmaceuticals, just depending on what the outcome is for that individual and or a combination of both. So we’re taking, we’ve pinpointed an exact pathway and say, this is where we have to support, this is the area we have to support to see a, a, a different.
and, and the the, the goal of that is to actually have someone realize this is measurable, this is identifiable, we can make changes. I can’t tell you how often when we talk to people, myself or our clinician, someone starts crying, and they use the word, and I say this with, parenthesis, crazy, I’m not crazy, and start crying.
Say, no, you’re not. This is just what we need to support in you. And those changes can be made. Or someone example has been on an an SSRI drug, an antidepressant for decades, which they were never. To , have somebody be on them for decades, they, for acute situations, but they, this individual is on for decades and they’re not seeing any changes.
That’s because no one has done this type of testing to see, in fact, they have what’s called a cert gene. A gene where they are going to be, an S S R I drug is going to have a less outcome. It’s not going to help that individual. Well, the power behind that is, because that individual starts to own because you got a doctor, after doctor, after doctor and they’re changing the SSRI drug, but you’re not getting any results.
They start to say, this is me. I just don’t wanna be better. And the blame goes on the individual. It’s it, and we’ve never done the lab to see, hey, this is where their problem lies. Somebody with, treatment resistant depression, for example, they’re not going to get help that way because an S S R I drug isn’t gonna work for.
So that alone can make somebody say, you know what? All of a sudden I feel like there’s hope for me. All of a sudden I feel like there’s a game plan that makes sense. That’s huge.
Dave: you may have seen me tense up a little
Dr. Higgins: Mm-hmm. ,I did.
Dave: Because being a, a combat veteran here in the US and using the the VA health system, you hear a veteran saying, they’re just throwing pills at me, got all these pills and veterans are looking to, don’t want to take all the pills. Could this shortcut that and say, Hey, here’s what would be most effective.
Dr. Higgins: Absolutely. Absolutely. And, and for someone who’s been in combat, for someone who’s been in the military, a soldier, you, you have seen things that other people haven’t,
and as a result of that, that’s, it’s changed your biology.
So if we can fast track and say, let’s do a panel, let’s see what we need to get right on top.
The outcome of your life. I’m preaching to the choir. You’re the guy who served and I thank you for that, Dave. Isn’t this a much better way to approach that situation instead of, well, let’s try this. Come back in three months. Okay, we didn’t get anywhere. Well, let’s half it. Let’s see if that works.
Or, you know what? Let’s come back in three months. Let’s put you on something else. Okay? Come back in three.
You lose an individual. Right? Doesn’t somebody get tired of that?
Dave: Yeah, I know some, some listeners, longtime listeners know that I’ve shared that, you know, I struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder, went with an undiagnosed traumatic brain injury for years and, and drinking. And actually, so today is January 18th, 2023. Yesterday the 17th was my three year sober anniversary for three years now .
so that’s fun and exciting. But I still got work to do. And just knowing the, the place I had to get to, to reach out and ask for help. And then you stack on months, years of what feels like experimenting.
Dr. Higgins: Mm-hmm.
Dave: And I just want to, veterans, we just want to feel happy, we want to feel normal. And yeah, drawing that out for.
Yeah, you just, yeah. I, I’m getting chills over here just thinking about it and going there, but hope you, you mentioned, you know, shortcut, you lose hope, you feel defeated.
Dr. Higgins: sure. And, and you’re saying, I am, I’m doing the work I have to do, I’m going, I’m, I’m making my appointments, I’m showing up, and maybe this is just my life from here out. You know, when you start to believe that you start to own it.
And it doesn’t have to be that way.
Dave: Ooh, maybe this is my life from here on out. That’s where I was before I decided to make a change. I just thought, well, this is just how I am, and I got sick and tired of being sick and tired, so I made a choice, and yeah. I’m, I’m getting a totally sidetracked for this episode,,
Dr. Higgins: Oh, that’s great. Cause it’s real, you know, it, it’s real. And, and, and there’s nothing better than somebody that’s lived it. That gets to see, wow, okay, this, this could be different. And in, in your case, Dave, it it’s not just that vet with the P T S D, it’s everyone in your world. It’s your spouse, it’s your children, it’s your, your coworkers, it’s your everybody that you interact with.
The domino theory of, of how many people are affected as a result of that,
Dave: I’ve only seen a little bit, but the impacts of extended stress. So I was in Iraq for a year and I, I’ve seen just enough that that can impact. Your brain, your hormones, and then I think about folks that are, living in traumatic environments as well, and that that chronic wear and tear, what, what’s out there as far as that impact on our biology, our brains?
Dr. Higgins: So cortisol is our stress hormone. So when you’re under initial acute stress, your cortisol is gonna go up because your body is trying to always stay in that thing we call homeostasis or balance. Instead of saying, okay, fight or flight, I’ve got a lot going on here. I need to produce more cortisol. Makes sense to the body.
But if we stay in that situation long term and we’re producing so much cortisol, eventually. We burn out our cortisol, we don’t have enough. Now we know that the, the neurological system, the endocrine system, and the immunological system are all tied into what we call one n e i super system. We used to think each one acted on its own.
It doesn’t. Those are all tied in. So if your endocrine system with you, cortisol is crying. I’m in fight or flight 24 hours a day. It’s going to affect the nervous system, your brain chemicals, and your immunological system to turn everything on and have a hyper response to whatever’s going on with you. That’s when someone gets sick.
so interesting. And yes, I could take us down a whole nother family related rabbit hole, but I’ll cut that part out. Sure. Sure. Yeah. That’s usually what happens. People start thinking like, okay, now I can identify all this stuff within my own family, and how did that person get there? How did that person get there? What was the starting point for all of us?
Dave: Mm-hmm. . So this, this brings hard data to treatment.
Dr. Higgins: correct.
We’ve had quite a few judges that look at our, what we call our biomarker evaluation report and say, this makes so much sense. We have to put this individual through this treatment while you are paying the price for whatever you did. That’s, that’s supposed to happen. But part of the legal system is to make sure that you and I are.
When that individual comes out, as well as everybody else, to protect society as well as that individual. So they’re starting to say, thankfully, we have a tool that uses hard data for the first time, and they’re loving it.
Dave: Yes. Where is this taking place? The testing?
Um, so we are, a, a remote telehealth because we literally have global patients. We drop ship lab kits to an individual so they can do it. Some have done it in prison, those people that we’re talking about, right? They’ve done their samples in prison, or at home, wherever it may be. So it’s really available for everyone to use.
Dr. Higgins: We have a lot of first responders, because as you know, here, again, I’m, I’m, I’m preaching to the choir. You’ve lived it, but how your physiology changes as a result of what you’re seeing. So we make it so easy for everyone to be able to do this and then follow that individual through with six months of treatment, making sure that they are on track with their protocol and where it should be, and the changes that we’re seeing along the way.
Dave: So what, what sectors, do you work with? Do you have partnerships or is it more open to the public?
Dr. Higgins: So it’s open to the public. We have partnerships, as I said, in in the legal community, in the criminal justice space. whether that be with attorneys, working with their clients or judges looking for something like this, the prison system, individuals that come to us just saying I know I have a problem.
and treatment isn’t for me. I can’t go away for 28, 30 days and leave my job, leave my family, but I know I have to do something, so I wanna get treatment with you guys. and then treatment centers themselves, mental health and, addiction facilities, using this as a value for their patients while they’re with them. And then as a continuum of care, someone leaves. How often do we hear the stories of this individual’s been in rehab 3, 4, 5, 6 x amount of times? Well, their physiology was never addressed. We did all the talk therapy. We need to do that. But this physiology piece is just like all the others. You know, you have a dry drunk or somebody who’s white knuckling it.
Dr. Higgins: I, I don’t drink anymore. But that person, no one wants to be near, right? There’s just anger pouring out of every pore in their body because they, they’ve never addressed their physiology and they’re struggling and, and it’s like, life doesn’t have to be as hard as we’re.
And, and our numbers are just growing and growing and growing with the result of Covid and what that did to people and, our vets coming back.
It, it’s, the numbers are growing out of control.
Dave: clearly, you’ve got me thinking. I think you already know that
Dr. Higgins: Yeah.
Dave: but I, part of why I reengaged with the VA for mental health treatment is that the longer I’ve been sober, I’ve been very intentional about personal growth, building healthy habits, healthy lifestyle. Almost textbook, but I still. I’m not where I want to be and you know, three years into it like, well, what’s next?
What’s, what’s that next step? I feel like I’ve done the work, I’m doing the work. What else do I need to do to reach that, that next level of happiness, of joy?
Dr. Higgins: We get a lot of people like that, that say that exact same thing. It’s my next step, , like I, I’m, I’m now a meditator, you know, , I’ve found my, whatever it is, where, prayer, whatever that might be, that’s that quiet time. my diet’s cleaned up.
You know, obviously I don’t use any substances anymore, but I’m still not where I want to be. I’m still not finding that joy. It’s still hard.
It’s cuz the Physiology’s not where it should be yet.
Dave: , so you were talking about it being open to the public, working with specific sectors.
The veteran in me is curious, have you engaged much with the military or the va?
Dr. Higgins: Yes, we have. In fact, we are working on trying to get a pilot program going as we speak.
Dave: Sign me up.
Dr. Higgins: yep, yep, yep. It’s so, it’s so necessary. If we owe anybody, that’s the people we owe. and, and, and people, like I said, it’s kind of like the judges thing. They’re like, okay, give me something that I can grasp onto to, you know, and, and we’re interested.
So we’re, we’re working diligently on that. Now, hopefully that comes to fruition. but that’s where it starts, you know, and then that pilot program becomes successful. And now, Roll it out into different campuses and it becomes available for more and more people. There’s not a veteran that, I’ve talked to that says, yeah, I don’t need that.
Everybody does. You know, everybody does. It’s when, when you see that kind of pain and suffering, it changes us, and that doesn’t just change our emotions, it changes our physiology.
I, I won’t even get into the, the debate about, Adding another layer of here, take this to feel good. That becomes a problem in itself, reaching outside of ourselves all the time to find that what we need, but we’re still skipping the step of objective data,
Dave: objective data. Well, let’s use that as a nice segue because data-driven prevention is one of the things we preach. We, we push, and you mentioned sort of the, the dream, the goal that we’re striving for is to pull this into prevention.
Dr. Higgins: Mm-hmm. , right?
Dave: What could that look like?
Dr. Higgins: Oh, that would be the perfect world, Dave. In fact, I did a TED talk and that was what I wrapped the whole Ted talk around. What if in your youth you were armed with the facts of your physiology? and you found out that you had a predisposition to addiction, would you make different choices knowing that, to me, that is a sweet spot.
That’s when we’re really, really starting to use science for good
and that can change someone’s life. We still have free will. We still all get to make our own choices, but knowing that, would you make different decision?
Dave: A comparable, at least in my mind, a comparable story would be that I wear a fitness tracker
It’s just so much data and I, I love all of the data on how my body reacts from my, my respiratory rate, heart rate variability, skin temperature, resting heart, all kinds of data. It tracks my sleep like you wouldn’t believe.
And what I’ve found Is that it has helped me change my behavior because I now have raw data and I can say, Hey, if I have gluten, if I have dairy,
this is what it’s gonna do. So not just my sleep, but my heart rate, my respiratory, like how it’s gonna impact my body. I have that just raw data that I can’t, can’t argue with.
It’s there. And now that I have that, I make different choices for my behavior, whereas before I had that data, I would brush it off or make an excuse and I I didn’t have that direct link from the behavior to the impacts on my body. It was all more subjective and little, little different.
But in my mind it’s a same,
Dr. Higgins: right right now it really is. It’s because it makes it black and white,
you know, and, and it becomes, okay, this is what happens when I do that. And you sit there and say, Hmm, is that really worth it? Because I know what the outcome is beat rather than, I shouldn’t have eaten that. I feel horrible. Well, next time you do it, the same thing is gonna happen, but yet you do it.
Right? So if we had something to look at, it does change people’s behavior. I mean, the original Fitbit was like, here’s the how many steps we took today. I’m gonna beat myself. Let’s go, let’s go. Right? It it we’re, we are driven by that as humans. So it makes sense to employ it.
Dave: what kind of, barriers or sort of hesitation have you seen or experienced from folks?
probably the initial, believe it or not, biggest barrier was in treatment centers of, wait, these people won’t be coming back and this is our business. Believe it or not. That’s the hard reality. nowhere else. Was there any, I won’t even call it pushback, just kind of a, Hmm, do we really want this? You know, because I’ve been told by business guys within that area that part of the model is recidivism.
Dr. Higgins: I’m like, we need to do better than that. We need to do better than that. And you know, someone going into a facility should say, You guys have this right? You know, this is cutting edge. I’m gonna choose you because I want to do this while I’m here.
Dave: Do you, do you foresee any pushback to pulling it into prevention?
Dr. Higgins: No, no, I do not. I do not. I think it’s a win for everybody across the board.
Dr. Higgins: You know, even regardless of where someone sits politically in the end, everybody, everybody makes out on this because we have healthier people cost society less money. And that’s always what bottom line politics is about. Right?
So there’s, we have had no partisan issues whatsoever. Everything’s just been, gosh, this makes so much sense. Let’s do it.
Dave: What opportunities are there for our listeners?
Dr. Higgins: Sure. So, you know, if this is something that resonates with you, yourself or a loved one, you, you can go to our website, wired for Addiction. You can take a look at it, see where you fall in. I mean, we offer a consultation. If you just want to talk about, is this even for me or is there something else that I should be doing?
it’s, we’re there to help. And that’s exactly what we wanna do and open up that conversation.
Dave: we’ve got a lot of listeners that are both in prevention, but also treatment. Is there a formal process to to partner or to work with you as that sense?
Dr. Higgins: great question, Dave. It would just be, reach out to us again. You can, you can do that via the website. And we have people that will meet with them. Tell them how we get started within their facility. Beautiful. Beautiful. we have government liaison people where, like the Pilot Pro program we’re, we’re getting going.
so we have a lot of people dedicated to going and educating and starting this in whatever area it is. Great question.
Dave: marvelous. And listeners, there’ll be links in these show notes for you to be able to access the website. Get in touch, find out more information. y’all have a, a blog as well where you post articles if I am not mistaken.
Dr. Higgins: Yes, we do. We have white papers on our website. we have Facebook, LinkedIn, where we post. Every day. I think yesterday’s was about, bringing back the Purdue Pharma information and, and what that hearing, the actual hearing itself and the conversations, the dialogue that went on there. yeah. So we, it, it’s in all of our lives.
It’s everywhere. And we, we keep that relevant to what we do. It’s applicable across the board.
Dave: Mm-hmm. Wonderful. And when I was doing some research for our conversation, I found a quote that is one of yours
I I loved it. I loved it so much so that I, I copied it so I could read it here for our listeners and I’d like to, to share it and then just see if you would unpack it a little bit more for me.
Totally putting you on the spot,
Dr. Higgins: sure. . No worries.
Dave: So the quote, health is more than simply the absence of disease. We’re not healthy one day and sick the next. It’s all the living that we do in between that brings us to either end of the spectrum.
Dr. Higgins: that probably has so much in it and is my favorite go-to because that’s life, right? We’re not healthy one day and sick the next. It’s all the living that we do in between, and I talk about what I call the four pillars of health. We have our physical health. . We have our emotional health, we have our intellectual health, and we have our spiritual health, and we have to have a balance of all four of those to truly have health.
You know, there can be someone who’s like, you know, I, I eat clean, I run four miles a day. I am doing everything. Yet they are so angry. You know, it’s in the physical realm of your health. You’re doing everything and going overboard, but in the other parts, you’re neglect. So we have to have all that and someone doesn’t.
There’s a day that you die, but that’s not the day that you got sick, right? It’s all those days in between that. Get our closer to that, and the more that we can understand and mitigate risks within our health, we can bring ourselves to the end of the spectrum that we wanna be on for much.
Dave: Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. . Yes. And for me, I would catch myself accepting that, hey, the, these are the consequences of the life that I have lived. But where the real power came was when I switched my paradigm to. Accept and understand that that’s empowerment. That, you know, life doesn’t mean life has to be that way.
Life can be different. I can make change and I, I just kind of keep thinking that, you know, with this say I, I, I go through and biomarkers, oh, Dave, yes, you’re wired for addiction. That’s not a determining factor. That doesn’t mean it, it’s empowerment. I see it as an empowerment.
Dr. Higgins: Exactly. Exactly. And that’s what we want it to be. We want it to be empowerment. We want it to be inspiration. We want somebody to say, Hey, I just got this information, and it’s a game changer. Because I can change the outcome of what my life looks like. That’s the ultimate joy. You know, when, when you become part of making it better.
And, and that’s, that’s really what we wanna see with this perfect world of empowerment, hope. make changes, paradigm shift, all of it to say, this is just as important as every other area of my health and I can live a happier, healthier life. In the end, that’s what we all want. There’s, you know, it’s to put all of those things together to experience joy, to experience happiness and, you know, we have to have the, those other things to understand what they are.
But to say, I want the majority of my life to be in that area of joy, o of happiness. What can I do to get myself closer to that?
Dave: And I know you said it earlier, but I want to just mention it here too for listeners so you don’t, doesn’t slip, slip minds that it’s not just, okay, here are your results. You, you pair that with treatment, with ongoing conversations, not, okay. Boom. Here you go. Good luck.
Dr. Higgins: No, no, no. That would and that would never work. You know, that’s why we stay with someone for six months through, through that treatment, because we wanna make sure you are reaching the markers we want you to during that time, and that when your body is operating better, so will your mind. And you are now creating new habits because you do feel much better and you are more motivated to do those things that are gonna give you the happier, healthier life.
So it’s all part of the same package.
Dave: So right now as it stands, it’s the, the treatment for six months. What would the, the, the parallel be if we brought this into prevention? What I’m, I’m trying to picture is parents, they, they bring their youth, their child for testing. They, they then have a, a consultation afterwards, Hey, here’s what we, we saw what kind of extended coaching, counseling to, to empower them
now that they have that data for their child.
Dr. Higgins: Sure. So we know where they’re at. We know the changes that we have to make from a, a biological standpoint. Then we have to make those emotional changes, those habit changes for that individual too. So during this six month period of time, you’re not just seeing the clinician who’s working on your protocol, but you’re seeing therapists who work with whatever was particular to that individual that are trained in this area of, substance use, misuse, and mental health.
So they are working with the individual well, because when someone’s physiology is where it should be, it’s much easier to work with that
person. All of a sudden the suggestions become the light bulb that they say, yeah, that makes sense. Instead of, I’m not doing that.
Dave: Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. . So what, what would it take for, say, a counselor that’s listening, a treatment professional that’s listening like, Hey, I wanna learn.
About this so I can start incorporating it into my practice as well. Where can they get educated to, to learn about it, to use.
Dr. Higgins: Right. So per Perfect. Good question, Dave. So contact us again and we would have, you meet with one of our outreach people who would say, this is how it would work within your practice. And then this is, this is kind of the, the, the methodology and the science behind what we do. So that therapist understands, to me it’s always, if you understand the theory behind something, it’s much.
To work with and figure things out. So a therapist says, you know, I want to incorporate this into my practice because I wanna have better outcomes. We’re also giving more tools to the therapist to say, my job is not as difficult because people are now, I’m not getting the pushback that I got with some individuals before.
So it’s, it’s a win for them as far as their, their workload goes. And then the results that you get in the.
So really great. Yeah, we do that all the time, that with individual therapists, you have your own practice, group practice. Contact us, we’ll show you how to get involved, the science behind it, and how to employ it into your practice.
Dave: And I hope that the, the overworked, the overloaded, the stress to the max treatment and counselor’s, therapists out there hear that because, Everything I hear, I, I get it. I get it. I mean, it took me three and a half months to get my first appointment, so I, I Y’all are working hard
Dr. Higgins: right, right. and we want to keep those therapists in their
positions, right? We want them to stay doing what
they do, so we wanna give them every tool that we can possibly offer to keep them empowered in doing the work they’re doing. Because today, more than ever in our history,
we need those numbers to stay where they are from.
Counselors, therapists, psychologists. Coaches. We have coaches that come.
Dave: Ooh, tell me more about that.
Dr. Higgins: Yeah, so coach is working with individuals and I say, you know, there’s more than just little habit changes I have to tweak. There’s really something going on with this person that’s outside of my wheelhouse. Would you guys, you know, do a lab panel on them and see where they’re at?
Dave: I like it. Okay.
Okay. I’m taking notes. I, I could, I could come up with questions for days and days and days, but I think we should probably bring this one close. But before we do, I’ve got one last question for you. So if you were to tell our listeners. If you’re gonna remember one thing from this episode, remember this, what would
Dr. Higgins: Great question. Remember that there is a resource available for empowerment, for wherever you at you are at in your mental health or substance use, misuse journey. and take advantage of what’s available. It’s a game changer.
Dave: And with that folks game changer. Check the show notes, get connected. Learn about the fascinating work they are doing at Wired for Addiction. This has been an absolute honor. I’m feeling more informed already and inspired and feeling hopeful for the future of prevention, treatment, and recovery.
Thank you for doing the work you’re doing. Thank.
Dr. Higgins: Thank you, Dave. My pleasure. And thank you for your service and the work that you’re doing. You bring this to the masses and I appreciate you doing that.
Dave: together is better.
Dr. Higgins: You got it.