By Marvin “Rick” Sponaugle, MD
Female hormones are potent modulators of brain chemicals, neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. The utility of bio-identical hormonal replacement therapy commonly practiced by anti-aging physicians not only improves the quality of life in female patients, it also prevents unnecessary depression, anxiety and insomnia disorders all of which cause subsequent addiction.
At Florida Detox & Wellness Institute, we investigate all hormonal and brain chemical imbalance that can cause drug and alcohol craving. Our clinical studies have proven that many female patients develop addiction issues because of midlife changes in estrogen and progesterone production. These findings have historically gone undetected because most addiction treatment centers do not routinely examine the hormones involved in the pituitary-adrenal-ovarian axis.
We successfully treat addicted patients by integrating spiritual counseling with modern brain science. We evaluate and normalize brain chemistry with medication, bio-identical hormone replacement and natural supplementation. This scientific approach to addiction treatment balances electrical activity in the brain and thus eliminates the need for patient self-medication with drugs and alcohol.
A research-based practice
Our clinical studies indicate that addicted patients utilize drugs and alcohol either to stimulate under-active brain regions or to relax over-active brain systems. The aberrant electrical activity in the addicted patient’s brain is typically caused by inherited or acquired biochemical and hormonal deficiencies.
Accurate diagnosis, based on evaluation of neurotransmitter, hormonal and brain scan research facilitates the successful treatment of the addicted patient’s brain. Normalizing the underlying biochemical and electrical imbalance stops drug and alcohol craving. Identification of specific brain chemical and hormonal deficiencies allows more effective diagnosis of the “true cause” of the patient’s craving, thus eliminating alcohol and drug addictions.
Correcting hormonal deficiencies can eliminate various addictions that are prevalent in the middle age female population. The average age of menopause in American women is 51 years; however, the decline of female hormones is usually a gradual process with progesterone levels starting to decline approximately eight years prior to that of estrogen. Northrup, C. (2006) When progesterone production declines in middle age females, they begin to experience new found anxiety and insomnia. Retrospective clinical studies at Florida Detox & Wellness Institute have demonstrated that the “progesterone drop out” phenomenon is a common etiology of alcohol and drug abuse, with causation in over 40 percent of our addicted middle age females. Amazingly, the majority of these progesterone deficient females have never had hormonal evaluation by their doctors.
The biochemical explanation for the increased anxiety experienced by midlife females is that suboptimal progesterone levels occurring in the presence of normal estradiol levels cause an increase in brain electrical activity. Progesterone essentially is a brain relaxing hormone because it converts to another hormone, allopregnanolone. This metabolite of progesterone, allopregnanolone, activates the same “relaxing” nerve receptor, the GABA-A receptor, as does Valium, Xanax and alcohol. Torres and Ortega (2003)
When females experience a loss in GABA activity from diminishing progesterone levels while maintaining normal estradiol production, they can develop excess electrical activity in both, their central and peripheral nervous system. This phenomenon occurs because estradiol enhances the excitatory brain chemicals, dopamine and histamine. Their excitatory effect on brain electricity should be counter balanced with the GABA effect of progesterone. The new onset progesterone deficient middle aged female experiences newfound anxiety and insomnia that frequently precipitates the need for relaxing medication which ultimately causes subsequent addiction issues.
The progesterone deficient female will often begin to utilize alcohol to “relax her brain.” Alcohol is legal, does not require a prescription and is socially acceptable. Alcohol activates the GABA-A receptor like Valium. The woman who historically drank only one glass of wine with dinner will insidiously progress, normally over a few years, to two bottles of wine per night. The wine, once a social drink, has now become “medication.”
She may be courageous enough to visit her physician, however, if the physician has limited knowledge regarding the importance of hormonal replacement therapy, he/she will have even less biochemical knowledge regarding the powerful effect of estradiol and progesterone on brain function, specifically the hormonal effect on brain neurotransmitters like dopamine, histamine and serotonin. Her doctor may not appreciate the gravity of the patient’s situation, however, will frequently practice “symptom medicine” and readily prescribe her addicting medication such as Xanax or Klonopin, a quick and easy medical maneuver verses investigating her hormonal imbalance.