Impulsivity & Its Relationship To Alcohol & Drug Addiction (Pt. 2)

In episode 270 of the Elevation Recovery Podcast, Matt Finch continues the discussion on impulsivity and personal stories dealing with this aspect of addiction. He continues to touch on some of the remedies for impulsivity and the other areas of life impulsivity can affect. 

To access Part 1 of this episode click here.

Links to Resources Mentioned in this Episode:

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Matt Finch: And I also noticed that I became less and less anxious. I had more energy. I had less cravings for things like sugar and things like junk foods and things like that would normally impulsivity would lead to engagement in substances and behaviors, things like that. I was noticing this really positive mood effect, mood stabilizing effect, anti-impulsivity effect.

Announcer: Thanks for tuning into the Elevation Recovery Podcast, your hub for addiction recovery strategies, hosted by Chris Scott and Matt Finch.

Matt Finch: Hey friend, this is Matt Finch and thank you for joining me on episode 270. Today, I'm going to be continuing the discussion of impulsivity and its relationship to addiction. Two episodes ago, Chris Scott and I started to begin this topic but we want to break it up into two parts because it's a pretty dense and very important topic, especially related to substance abuse, mental health, decision-making, really, this is a huge one. And so, in this episode, I wanted Chris to be able to join me for this but he has been traveling so much. He went to New York and then he went to the Caribbean and then after that he went to, I think, New Jersey. So, after all that traveling, he needed a few days to reset so I'm going to do a solo cast on this and where we're going to take off is this, I'm going to ...By the way, I love the Wikipedia page on impulsivity, it is really, really long, I learned so much from it.

Matt Finch: I highly recommend that as a resource. So, what I'm going to do is I'm going to scroll down to the section on the impulsivity Wikipedia page on substance abuse and impulsivity and then after that, I'm going to talk about how you can measure your impulsiveness with the online free assessment on impulsiveness and you can score yourself. I did it, it was really, really awesome. If I would've scored myself 15 years ago or something, I would've scored off the charts. As it is now, I think I got it like around the average score so about average impulsiveness. So, that means I still have lots of work to do. And anyways, then we're going to be talking about resources that you can use to become less impulsive over time through things that you can think, believe do and to even say and supplements and that kind of jazz.

Matt Finch: So here we go. "Impulsivity appears to be linked to all stages of substance abuse. The acquisition phase of substance abuse involves the escalation from single use to regular use. Impulsivity may be related to the acquisition of substance abuse because of the potential role that instant gratification provided by the substance may offset the larger future benefits of abstaining from the substance. And because people with impaired inhibitory control may not be able to overcome motivating environmental cues such as peer pressure. Similarly, individuals that discount the value of delayed reinforcers begin to abuse alcohol, marijuana and cigarettes early in life, while also abusing a wider array of illicit drugs compared to those who discounted delayed reinforcers less. Escalation or dysregulation is the next and more severe phase of substance abuse. In this phase, individuals lose control of their addiction with large levels of drug consumption and binge drug use.

Matt Finch: Animal studies suggest that individuals with higher levels of impulsivity may be more prone to the escalation stage of substance abuse. Impulsivity is also related to the abstinence, relapse and treatment stages of substance abuse. People who scored high on the Barratt Impulsiveness Scale, BIS, were more likely to stop treatment for cocaine abuse. Additionally, they adhered to treatment for a shorter duration than people that scored low on impulsivity. Also, impulsive people had greater cravings for drugs during withdrawal periods and were more likely to relapse. The effect was shown in a study where smokers that test high on the BIS had increased craving in response to smoking queues and gave end to the cravings more quickly than less impulsive smokers. Taken as a whole, the current research suggests that impulsive individuals are less likely to abstain from drugs and more likely to relapse earlier than less impulsive individuals.

Matt Finch: While it is important to note the effect of impulsivity on substance abuse, the reciprocating effect whereby substance abuse can increase impulsivity has also been researched and documented. The promoting effect of impulsivity on substance abuse and the effect of substance abuse on increased impulsivity creates a positive feedback loop that maintains substance-seeking behaviors. It also makes conclusions about the direction of causality difficult. This phenomenon has been shown to be related to several substances but not all. For example, alcohol has been shown to increase impulsivity while amphetamines have had mixed results." So at this point, I want to direct you to the website, psytests.org, that's P-S-Ytests.org, .O-R-G. This is where you can take the free online assessment called the Barratt Impulsiveness Scale, the BIS/11, which is a questionnaire and this is designed to assess your personality/behavioral construct of impulsiveness.

Matt Finch: The person who invented this assessment, it's his perspective, Dr. Barratt's, is that impulsivity is a multifaceted construct and that the multidimensionality of it is reflected in the BIS/11 factor structure. So basically, it is 30 questions, takes about three minutes and by investing the time, a few minutes to do this, what that can do is it can give you a gauge somewhere to check yourself. So, if you imagine a spectrum going from left to right, let's say on the very left side of the spectrum, that's total as high as you could score on impulsivity. Then in the middle is a zero, that's the neutral point, that would be average, not really impulsive, not really not impulsive so it's an average score. And that's where I scored maybe a little bit on the positive side, the right side, but not too far over there. So then, on the far right of this horizontal spectrum, that would be somebody that has no impulsivity at all or very, very little impulsiveness.

Matt Finch: So, this is a great gauge to help you improve your current self knowledge of yourself and it gives you something that you can work on to become less impulsive if this area is a problem for you and it's causing problems in your life. Now, I'm going to read off a list of nine things that I came up with that may be able to help a person decrease their levels of impulsivity. Now, this is not a comprehensive list, there are so many, there's dozens and dozens and dozens of things, maybe even hundreds, but this is a really cool list of nine things that has helped me quite a lot and that has helped a lot of clients and readers and podcast listeners, et cetera. Number one, obviously biochemical restoration and ongoing optimization. That includes things like diet, which is customized for your individual biochemistry, preferences, needs, food allergies, et cetera. Genetic predispositions and more. Fitness or movement supplementation that's customized and beyond.

Matt Finch: Towards the end of this, I'm going to list a couple of supplements that has really helped me to become less impulsive, more mood stabilized, way less anxious, pretty much almost no anxiousness these days, which is a completely different life than before, which was riddled with anxiety, both generalized and social for decades with panic attacks here and there. At least in my experience, it was only when I started to focus on biochemical restoration and continuing optimization. It was only when I got really consistent with diet for my own individual needs, what I do best on. Fitness, even if it's light fitness as long as it's consistent. And supplementation and other biochemical restoration strategies. Right now, I have my essential oils diffuser and I have two different blends in there, one is ... or two different types. One is just organic lavender and the other one's called calm. It has organic lavender, organic camomile and a few other ingredients in there.

Matt Finch: And I can tell that this really my little home office here, it really improves my mood, raises my vibration and frequency. It's just such pure stuff that is diffusing into the air that I'm breathing. And what we breathe through our nose and smell, that actually goes straight to our amygdala. The amygdala is the emotional and also the fear center of the brain. What do you think would be more pleasant for smelling and make you more impulsive? Say a person is 30-day or two weeks off alcohol let's say, and they have to go, maybe they're a musician and they're playing at a bar, but they're two weeks sober but that's their job, that's their gig is playing at clubs and bars and most of the places, if not all serve alcohol. So, you've got all these cues while you're working, the smells, especially of the alcohol, the visual cues of seeing the people drink. But we're talking right here about the smell, how it goes straight to the amygdala.

Matt Finch: So, what do you think you're going to be easier situation to abstain from alcohol when you're constantly smelling beer and hard liquor and wine and sweaty, hot people and just nasty smells of the bar, gross smelling bathroom, typically at least for the men's room, wouldn't know about the women's room? Or in my situation here where I did some sacred smoke burning this morning, which I can still smell and also feel which I burned sage and Palo Santos, and now I got the essential oil diffuser getting that stuff into the air too. So, that's so calming, so relaxing, so mood lifting. And so, smell is a really important thing. That's just one way to biochemical optimize through smell, through sight, through supplements, through movement, through nutrition, through deep tissue massage, meditation. We're going to talk about some of these things coming up. But there's just such a long list of natural therapeutics that you can use to both boost mental and physical and emotional health and also to reduce impulsivity.

Matt Finch: Number two, we have mindfulness-based therapies. Mindfulness is a weird word, when I first learned about the word mindfulness, it sounded really weak but the practice of mindfulness is instrumental, paramount in becoming less impulsive, especially for people like I was that were ... mine was the impulsivity probably led or at least played a huge part in leading to my addictions. And then, like Wikipedia was saying, then the addictions also exacerbated my impulsivity way, way, way more. So, it became this downward cycle of impulsivity that led to addiction, drugs and alcohol abuse, which led to more impulsivity, which led to more abuse of substances and more relapse and more slips and harder time to get recovery and maintain recovery. So, mindfulness-based therapies, I have recently been reading a lot of Thich Nhat Hanh, a very famous Buddhist who recently passed away. And after he passed away, I decided to start reading some of those books. I had been recommended his stuff since probably seven years ago, but I just never, I guess it wasn't the right time.

Matt Finch: Now, I've been practicing mindfulness since very early recovery. I learned about it in the school that I went to become a certified substance abuse counselor. But Thich Nhat Hanh, in my opinion, at least for me, he's like the ultimate authority on mindfulness, silence, acceptance. And we're going to talk about acceptance and some other things too. One of the books that I ... my favorite book that I've read of his so far, which is probably about a week ago is called Silence. And he's got the four nutriments. He talks about thundering silence, noble silence. It's all about mindfulness but the way he writes is so poetic, it's so beautiful, it's such a joy to read. He comes from the depths of his heart and yeah, he's very intellectual too but his writing comes off as so heart-centered so you can feel it's a very high vibration book, all of his books. The vibration, the frequency of these writings, these teachings were super high, it lifts you up.

Matt Finch: Never mind getting to the practicing of mindfulness-based therapies, just reading or even listening to some Thich Nhat Hanh on mindfulness and silence and meditation and acceptance and surrendering. Oh man, it's just beautiful. So anyways, he's not everyone's cup of tea but he's definitely my cup of tea. All right, moving on. Number three, we have neurofeedback. Neurofeedback is humongous at becoming less impulsive. Now, I have never done ... well, actually no, I have done neurofeedback but it wasn't serious. I dated a girl maybe about six years ago and on her Apple MacBook Pro, she had this cool software that also had, I think it hooked up to your fingertip. Anyway, she had a computer software and I think this thing, this little sensor hooked up to my fingertip and they were neurofeedback-based video games. So, it was really, really cool.

Matt Finch: And nowadays, they have even more fancy and high tech neurofeedback system that you can either do on your own from home or that you can do the one step up from that, is to work with a neurofeedback therapist. And you can do that virtually too, they have apps for it now and it's a really good deal. What it does is it helps you to control your central nervous system basically. Most people are stressed out, they're forgetful, they don't have a lot of focus or attention span, they're not able to regulate their autonomic nervous system, they're not able to shift into parasympathetic nervous system, which is the rest and digest, repair, replenish, rejuvenate division of the autonomic nervous system, the ANS. Most people are in the sympathetic nervous system overdrive, chronic stress, flight or flight, at least to a mild degree, if not moderate or more for a large part of their adult lives, especially with how stressful things have become in the world lately.

Matt Finch: So, neurofeedback teaches you with software with real life instant feedback, how to better enhance your brain health, reduce your impulsivity, reduce your stress, reduce your anxiety, increase your focus, increase your attention, increase your peace, increase your serenity, increase your joy, increase your self-efficacy into your agency over controlling your state, controlling your vibration, not being a victim to the laws of the universe but being a causer. Instead of being an effect like a pinball getting popped around by the laws of life or being moved like a pawn in a game of chess, now you have become a creator, now you have become the causer of effects rather than being affected by things reactively and it's like, "Why can't I get my life together?" So, neurofeedback, mindfulness and then the next one I'm going to ... I guess, I won't talk about meditation because you know about meditation.

Matt Finch: But mindfulness-based therapies, neurofeedback and meditation, those three right there, oh, even if you just use one of those things can really help over time, not instantly, not in a day or a week or probably even a month, but over the long term doing one of these, if not more consistently, you can really, really tackle high impulsivity and begin to reduce it, go as far as you can because this is so important. So yeah, I won't go into meditation, you know what meditation is. I won't go deep into journaling either but I have that for number five. Journaling really helps because nowadays there's so many inputs, there's so many things that we're seeing, that we're smelling, that we're tasting, that we're touching, that we're listening to, now with our smart devices, so many of us have either addictions or overuse of digital technologies and internet stuff because they provide so much dopamine and novelty and certainty and entertainment and education so they can be very habit forming, very addictive.

Matt Finch: And so, what happens is when we have all these thoughts in our head and when we have all these inputs, it begins to burn out our system. And then, we become more confused, our attention spans go down, our awareness goes down and we can start to procrastinate as a form of stress relief, which ultimately leads to more and more stress the more we procrastinate. So, that's a gnarly cycle that keeps going on too. We're stressed out so we procrastinate but then that procrastination causes more stress, which leads to more procrastination, which leads to more stress and that's a horrible cycle to be in as is the impulsivity and addiction cycle. What journaling does is by writing things out on paper. What you do is you get all these things out of your head, all the things that you want to do that you need to do, that you forgot to do, that you've been putting off doing, all the unpleasant emotions and why those may be all the stressors, resentments if any.

Matt Finch: Journaling helps you as a form of free at home self-therapy that really helps you to get these things out on paper. The more of these thoughts in your mind that come down onto paper, well, now they're written down and they stop causing this whirlwind of the same thoughts over, "Oh, I got to do this, oh, I forgot to do that, oh, I really need to quit drinking, oh, I need to do this, oh, I need to get off opioid." The more we keep thinking about these whirlwind of thoughts, it's like a hurricane or a tornado of these automatic negative thoughts, repeating ones, the same themes going over and over. So journaling, especially journaling daily, what that does is that helps you to organize your mind, it helps you to integrate these things and it helps you to have more sanity. Okay so moving on, number six, cognitive behavioral therapy, CBT. I'm not going to go deep into that but that is something there's CBT workbooks, lots of cool CBT courses online. You can go work with a therapist that specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy.

Matt Finch: Cognitive, that's your thoughts and then behavioral, that's your behavior. So, your thoughts and behaviors and how those two are married. Your thoughts create your behaviors so that's a real helpful one as well that can help to reduce impulsivity. Number seven is nature immersion. I am so into nature immersion. Any of you that have been long time listeners will know that. And I'd like to go barefoot in nature. The more I can submerge in nature, the better. I have a park close by that's really beautiful and pretty darn huge too. I love barefoot walking there and getting sunlight and then we also have a slew, a protected little natural park area, really close to my house that despite the loud airplanes that go over, which is pretty intense. But other than that, other than the airplanes, it's a nature submersion for the most part and since it's protected, there's so many different birds, a few different butterflies, bees.

Matt Finch: I even see cats over there that are outdoor cats. But my favorite is the birds and the butterflies and just walking mindfully, peacefully, barefoot, preferably in the sunshine, not listening to anything, no audio books, no music. Typically, I don't even carry my phone with me, just my keys in my pocket and that's it. Some shorts usually and a shirt, maybe a hat, some shade for my face. Yeah and I just walk slowly, mindfully, just enjoy the beauty of Mother Nature, God's creation, the universal sources, beautiful creation and I just admire it and feel gratitude that I get to be a part of it. Oh, and I don't even have that on this list but gratitude. Yeah, gratitude's something that can surely make us less impulsive. Yeah, gratitude's huge like mindfulness, like meditation and journaling even, these words get a lot of lip service but they're so powerful.

Matt Finch: So I mean, oftentimes just these fundamentals, these basics can form a really nice, effective, synergistic addiction recovery and impulsivity reduction, customized protocol that each person can customize. Moving on, number eight, I wrote SAD, the acronym SAD, which I learned from Dr. Scott Mandelker. I love his YouTube channel. The name of his channel is T-W-S Mandelker, M-A-N-D-E-L-K-E-R. He's got almost a thousand videos, he's been doing Youtubing for around 10 to 12 years. None of them actually have video, it's all just audio and I think he just records it on Skype. I don't even think he has a professional microphone. So, the quality's not the best but I don't care because it's good enough. And he's done hundreds of videos on Buddhism, transpersonal psychology, Cosmic Plan, seven chakra healing system, self-healing, The Law of One, mindfulness and let's see what else, yeah, a lot of different cool, eclectic things and he combines all of his knowledge and wisdom in a lot of his trainings and I find it very fascinating.

Matt Finch: So, I learned this SAD acronym from him, stands for surrender, accept and detach. And particularly this has to do with things that you cannot control. If we think about the serenity prayer, God grant me the serenity to accept the things that I cannot control. What are things that we cannot control? Well first, what are things that we can control? We can control, some people more than others, our thoughts, our words and our actions. What cannot we control? What can't we control? Other people's thoughts, deeds and actions. We can maybe influence others at best but we can't control. We don't have full control over other people, places or things. So, when it comes to this, this drove me nuts for decades of my life, obsessing about wanting things to work out my way and depending on the weather or other people, school work, all these things I would let it ruin my mood so much and ruin my mental health because I couldn't accept and surrender and detach from things that I couldn't control.

Matt Finch: And I wouldn't focus on increasing my own agency over being better at controlling my own thoughts, words and deeds. It took me a long time to develop a lot of these different skills, which I think are pretty important for most people that have had long-term severe multi addictions like I did, to actually obtain and sustain over the long-term recovery with hopefully the end goal of transcending, outgrowing addiction altogether to where there you're just totally invulnerable, totally immune to ever becoming addicted again. I don't think everyone probably thinks that they can do that. I believe that all of us have the power to do that, but I believe for many people it's a lot harder done than said like just, it can be so difficult. For me, it certainly was. So, that's a cool acronym, SAD, surrender, accept and detach. And this has to do with just things that are the way they are. We can either let those upset us and this really helps with lowering impulsivity.

Matt Finch: Impulsivity, like the Wikipedia was saying, comes from a large part, some type of pleasure, some type of payoff, typically like, "Oh yeah, this is going to be great," so we make an impulsive decision without thinking about the consequences, maybe because we're looking for some type of instant gratification, some immediate pleasure, some immediate moving away from pain and moving towards pleasure, getting those instant gratifications instead of delaying gratification and not giving in to the temptation, to the impulsive feelings, thoughts, desires, urges and doing what's very healthy for us, really being mindful about and discerning and very cautious of our decisions and living a more healthy and spiritually ethical life here on earth. Number nine, finally, I just have three supplements right here. Perhaps when I talk with Chris again we can even discuss this further I'm not sure, but I wrote three supplements down that have definitely helped me and many other people that I've spoken with to become less impulsive.

Matt Finch: So, the first one is lithium orotate. You might have heard of lithium, I think carbonate before, which is a bipolar manic depressive and type mood stabilizer. But lithium carbonate has such a low bio availability that the dosages have to be really high to be effective and that can lead to lots of side effects like weight gain, bloating, water retention, skin problems and more. Lithium orotate is an over the counter dietary supplement that it has a very high bio availability so people can get really good benefits. Some people can get really good benefits with a much lower dose that causes either zero or very little side effects. Lithium orotate has been known as a mood stabilizer, anti-anxiety and an antidepressant. So, for people with bipolar or like I used to have, super high impulsivity. I only took lithium orotate for maybe the first, I don't know, four or five months, maybe six months after I quit drugs and alcohol.

Matt Finch: And I did it by accident. I was sent some supplements from a family member that knew I was quitting heroin, opioids, Xanax, alcohol and other benzos. So, she sent me some supplements specifically targeted to provide micro neuro nutrients to rebuild my GABA, my dopamine, my endorphin and also to be a mood stabilizer. So, one of the supplements, one of the main ingredients in it was lithium orotate. Meanwhile, the whole time I was taking it, I was like, "Wow, this stuff is amazing, I'm feeling so mood stabilized, so just calm and stable." The stability of my mood was something that I had never experienced and here I was stable in my mood. And that was due in large part, come to find out probably years later, a big part of that was the lithium orotate. Lithium orotate also increases BDNF. BDNF is brain-derived neurotrophic factor. BDNF has been compared to Miracle Grow but for the brain.

Matt Finch: So, it leads to neurogenesis, which literally is the creation of new, brand new healthy neurons brain cells so you increase your brain health. Next supplement is N-acetyl cysteine, NAC, which is a precursor to glutathione. This stuff act, I started taking this actually when I learned that it was good for skin health so I actually began taking NAC, I don't know, maybe six years ago, five years ago, seven years ago, long time ago for skin health because glutathione is the master antioxidant, which is a beautifying agent for the hair, skin and nails and also improves energy, mood, focus, gets rid of the cobwebs and the fogginess in the brain. And so, I took it for skin health at which it worked for and I also noticed that I became less and less anxious. I had more energy, I had less cravings for things like sugar and things like junk foods and things that would normally impulsivity would lead to engagement in substances and behaviors, things like that.

Matt Finch: So now with NAC, I was noticing this really positive mood effect, mood stabilizing effect, anti-impulsivity effect. Finally, the last thing we're going to talk about on this episode is the supplement L-theanine. I'm trying a new L-theanine right now and I go on and off with L-theanine. Up until maybe five, six months ago, I don't think I had taken it more than a few times in the past few years, but recently I got back into using it, I was like, "Wow, I forgot how great this stuff is." L-theanine increases dopamine, serotonin and GABA, plus it produces Alpha brainwaves. So, Beta brainwaves, especially high Beta, that can lead to more impulsivity. In my experience, the more relaxed and calm and centered and balanced a person is, stabilized in their nervous system and mood and thoughts and emotions and more agency over their mood states and being able to positively affect those, L-theanine bringing those brainwaves down to Alpha waves. Alpha waves are below Beta waves so what that means is, it's more of like a meditative, hypnotic, idling state of mind to where you're in flow state, you're just calm.

Matt Finch: When I do those mindfulness-based barefoot nature, sunlight walks, oftentimes I'll just naturally go down from Beta down into Alpha waves. And if it's a really deep meditative walk, I might even be able to get into high Theta waves. And so, it goes Beta going from the highest brain waves down, goes from Gamma to Beta, to Alpha, to theta, to delta. And within all those brainwaves, there's different degrees of those so this is a spectrum as well. So, with all this being said, this is not medical advice or psychological advice as you know all this stuff, but these are just things that I thought would help you to learn more about many different things that you could look more into, get back into, try for the first time, learn more about, embody more, et cetera. So with all that being said, thank you so much. Love you guys very, very much and we'll see you on the next episode. Take good, good care of yourself and take care.

Chris Scott: Hey everyone, Chris Scott here. If you like the information on today's episode regarding supplementation and empowerment strategies for addiction recovery, then please subscribe to the Elevation Recovery Podcast and leave us a rating and review on iTunes. And if you benefited directly from this information, I'm confident in saying that you'll love the information-packed online courses that Matt Finch and I have created. Matt Finch's Ultimate Opioid Detox 4.0 is a six-module 30-activity course that contains video lessons, written lessons, PDF downloads, worksheets, audios and much more. And it has everything you could possibly need to know to conquer opioid addiction in the easiest and most comfortable way possible.

Chris Scott: My own course, Total Alcohol Recovery 2.0 is the most cutting edge resource for anyone who wants to transcend alcohol and build their best lives. To get these courses to learn more and to read testimonials, simply go to opiateaddictionsupport.com/ultimate. Again, that's opiateaddictionsupport.com/ultimate. For Matt's course or for my course, go to fit-recovery.com/course. Again, that's fit-recovery.com/course. You can also go to elevationrecovery.com to see the show notes for this episode.

Author

  • Chris Scott founded Fit Recovery in 2014 to help people from around the world dominate alcohol dependence and rebuild their lives from scratch. A former investment banker, he recovered from alcohol dependence using cutting-edge methods that integrate nutrition, physiology, and behavioral change. Today, Chris is an Alcohol Recovery Coach and the creator of an online course called Total Alcohol Recovery 2.0.

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