Zen Detox Discuss The Stigma Around Addiction

Friday 21 June 2019, 4:04PM
By Beckie Wright

Matthew Lee, the Community Outreach Coordinator at Zen recently wrote a presentation to the Government Mental Health and Addictions inquiry, part of which is included here. “I believe there are three factors that need to come inline for substance addiction or criminal behaviour to occur: a susceptible organism; a drug or activity with addictive potential; but most importantly, stress.

“Without going into too much depth about the functioning of the human brain it is essential however to point out that the pleasure centres of the child and adult brain are fuelled by endorphins. This is the reward system that sustains attachment. The attentive presence of the nurturing adult will trigger endorphin release in the infant’s brain, helping to soothe the infant.”

“A child can also feel emotional distress when the parent is physically present but emotionally unavailable. Even adults know that kind of pain when someone important to us is bodily present but psychologically absent. Given that the child’s dependence is as much emotional as physical, in normal circumstances a child who senses emotional separation will be stressed and seek to reconnect with the parent. Children who had not received the attentive presence of their parents are at greater risk of seeking chemical satisfaction from external sources later in life.”

“I put to you that the predominant number of substance dependent adults and criminals lived under conditions that left an indelible stamp on their development. Their predisposition to addiction was programmed in their early years. Their brains never had a chance.”

The three dominant brain systems in addiction are the opioid attachment reward system, the dopamine-based incentive motivation apparatus and the self-regulatory areas of the prefrontal cortex. All are exquisitely fine tuned by the environment.

Healthy growth of these crucial systems - responsible for such essential drives as love, connection, pain relief, pleasure incentive and motivation - depends there on the quality of the attachment relationship.

Societies miss understanding of addiction and the stigma that has been used by fathers and mothers, society the world over, “He’s weak willed and has no morals,” when the parents are often the cause of their child’s pain, only adds insult to injury, while further perpetuating the addict’s lack of ability to be accepted and function, they are ostracized by their own.

All humans have an innate drive to feel connected and accepted, to have purpose and love. The stigma proposed by the parents and society avoids responsibility by the cause, of the cause. It’s inhumane and drives the already desperately hurt into further pain, a continual treatment of brokenness and uselessness is bestowed upon them by their loved ones. Further isolation forced on them from the creators of their addiction. Those who took from their children a safe world view, emotional stability and resilience, self-esteem, unknowingly keep taking. Then often through no significant attachment, connection, instead subjected to further isolation, comes crime and imprisonment.

There is nowhere in the criminal justice system where connection is promoted and the dignity and mana of the offender are upheld. If we are going to judge our society on the way it treats its substance dependent and many ‘criminals’ who all suffer from mental illness, then our society should be utterly ashamed.

It is with this understanding Zen Detox & Wellness supply an ocean of calm, where fear becomes hope and possibility, where dignity and mana are upheld and life has connection, meaning and purpose.

To find out more about substance dependency, addiction treatment, assessment and drug rehab NZ  please go to