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Psychologist at BYU's Education Week speaks on addiction

PROVO, Utah — Addiction is a disease that affects the body, mind and spirit, and any recovery attempt must address those three aspects of a person, Dr. Rick D. Hawks said in a Wednesday session of BYU Campus Education Week.Hawks, a psychologist who deals with a variety of mental-health concerns, said addiction — either to substances like drugs or alcohol, or to pornography — have similar effects on the brain. And any meaningful recovery requires more than abstinence."Abstinence is not recovery. It means that the body is not doing the drug anymore, but you will miss the whole boat. You will have relapses," he said. "The mind and the spirit are addicted, too. You need to work on that."Hawks outlined the three stages of addiction, noting that individuals move from one stage to the next at their own pace, and that some never move past the first stage.In that first stage, a person experiences joy or euphoria induced by the substance, or in the case of pornography, the pleasure of sexual arousal."This is how it gets started," Hawks said. "If every time you used a substance you got run over by a truck, how long would you use it?"The second stage occurs when, instead of returning to a normal state after using the substance, a person experiences a low that Hawks typified as pain."In the second stage, the changes in brain chemistry cause the individual to feel pain when he comes down," Hawks said. "So he returns to the substance."At this point, quitting the behavior is relatively easy, especially if the individual is faced with unpleasant consequences."If you threaten divorce, if you confront the kid and they stop, then you know they are in the first or second stage of addiction," Hawks said.But in the third stage of addiction, the "disease" stage, the addict is consumed by his or her substance of choice."Nothing matters more than satisfying their desperate need," Hawks said. For the pornography addict, "lust or sex becomes the primary focus, and life is a distraction always trying to prevent him from doing what he constantly wants to do."Also in this stage, reaching the high involves larger doses of drugs, or different drugs, or, in the case of pornography, it involves viewing more explicit images.Recovery from the disease stage of addiction requires outside help, Hawks said. "Willpower and self-recovery efforts alone will not suffice."At the same time, changes in brain chemistry caused by the addiction make it difficult for the addict to be honest about his or her condition."Lying becomes a rule of thumb, especially with members of the LDS Church." he said. "These are people who start out normal. But addiction changes the way they think."In addition, recovery from the final stages of addiction requires treating the whole person, not just the body."We can get your body off drugs in two or three days. That's easy," he said. "But it doesn't cure them, because the spirit and mind become addicted, too."Outside help can come from a variety of sources, especially 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous. The LDS Church offers an addiction recovery program. Details of the program are available at lds.org.


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