Addiction In Sight



So why is there any blindness with this? After all, the elephant fable only makes sense because the men are blind – otherwise they would see that they’ve described different aspects of a complete animal. It seems to me that this blindness comes from specialization.

Dr Menzies, the gut peptide researcher, is a scientist at the Centre for Integrative Physiology at the University of Edinburgh. His web page says:

“The gut produces many peptide hormones that act in the brain, and mimicking these may lead eventually to medicines that can suppress our desire to overeat.”

So he studies appetite hormones in order to develop a pharmaceutical solution. One thing we can be fairly sure of is that he doesn’t spend his days speaking in depth with those who struggle with compulsive overeating. So he’d be unaware of shifts in attitude that could make the difference between failure and success.

This is not intended as a criticism; it’s just that he’s got hold of one part of the whole. So, for example, it would be of little interest to him that the appetite hormone ghrelin is highly responsive to placebo. In other words, it’s released by expectation and not necessarily by the biochemistry of the brain or body.

In one paper, Menzies begins, “Decisions about what, when and how much to eat are made by the brain.” Clearly that’s how his elephant looks to him – but it doesn’t look like that from where I’m standing!

Similarly, Dr Nora Volkow lets us know she’s funded specifically to develop pharmaceutical interventions. It’s likely that she is the Director of the (USA) National Institutes of Drug Abuse precisely because her focus is on the ‘chronic brain disease’ model of addiction.

Dr Volkow and her team have done an outstanding job of describing the problem in terms of brain function, and I’ve quoted her published research on many occasions. However, she appears to have no interest in the bit of elephant that is our brains’ own ability to change the way it works, known as neuroplasticity.


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