A Chicken And The Egg Story--Addiction, Sensory Processing And Cognitive Function

Addiction recovery is one of the things the Secret Genius Project addresses. After having read the article, Improving Cognitive Functions For Sustainable Addiction Recovery by Cesar Gamboa, January 28, 2017, I was compelled to add some thoughts on the connection between cognitive behavior and addiction. The article established that cognitive behavior is required for some forms of the recovery process to be effective and those very cognitive elements necessary for use as a tool in the recovery process may have been impaired by the substance abuse that facilitated the addiction.  Strengthening these cognitive abilities in conjunction with some forms of supporting medication was the most prudent approach to the best chances of full recovery.

I am certainly in agreement with the notion that education is one of the best defenses against addiction and toward recovery.  See, e.g., this article from Addiction Now.   I would also interject the concept of “prevention” to the arsenal. To that point, let’s take a step back to where it may have all begun, and allow me to illuminate a different facet of the same prism. Consider that, perhaps, unaddressed difficulties and impairments in cognitive functioning are very likely a cause of self-medication that could result in substance abuse and subsequent addiction. The cognitive impairments and difficulties with which one might contend, could predispose an individual to self-medicate.  In many cases, it is the impetus to how substance abuse and addiction begins. There seems to be a "chicken and the egg" component here.  

My good friend and colleague, Cynthia Duffy, an occupational therapist and expert in human behavior, discusses the work of psychologist Dr. Ross Greene, author of The Explosive Child and Lost at School, and originator of the Collaborative Problem Solving approach.  Greene addresses the tough journey of helping a behaviorally challenging child.

Cynthia states, “I am excited by Dr. Greene’s work as he seeks to support an empathetic and supportive environment for children who are struggling to be able to function in a society that values conformity. Children are labeled  as behavior problems, disciplinary problems, oppositional and defiant, and unwilling to cooperate. Dr. Greene proposes that these children are simply wired differently and do not come to the same conclusions about situations that most people do. He identifies these behaviors as a result of absent skills in the cognitive process.” Duffy continues, “I agree with Dr. Greene that one must build these skills in order to be able to make proper choices and decisions to meet this society’s definition of success, especially when trying to succeed in public education, but I also propose that these cognitive skills  arise from the mastery of underlying sensory processing skills.”

Attention given to the sensory processing component of basic human development in order to strengthen cognitive skills in our children and adults at a root level will help to circumvent negative behaviors that many times result from frustration. Early awareness removes the propensity of those who could otherwise be compelled to self-medicate in the face of the inability to master effective cognitive skills. Offering tools to strengthen cognitive ability and validating the very real elements of sensory processing combats any lack of validation from peers, teachers and those in authority with whom they must comply. Prevention in the name of early detection and support fight that which one would otherwise feel---- futility and hopelessness that the deck is stacked against him/her and as though they might be fighting an uphill battle. It thwarts any sense of becoming a victim, which is a component of addiction, and instead hands the control back to the individual to support

Duffy goes on to say, “I propose that these individuals who are wired differently with sensory and perceptual differences are not handicapped, but in fact may be gifted. The gift being that their model of processing the world differently lends a gift of enrichment to our society if we would allow them in. The loss is ours because we miss out on their Secret Genius” from which we would all otherwise benefit.

 Stay Creative,

Donna Marie Redman