Growing up in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan (an area known in the 1950’s and 60’s for its resident gangsters and ethnic conflicts) provided Alexander Schauss plenty of opportunities to observe drug addiction first hand: by the time he reached middle school, 50% of his classmates were using heroin. During his university years, he would return to his old neighborhood to carry out a groundbreaking undergraduate research project at one of the drug addiction treatment facilities located there.
His interest was the correlation between addiction and diet. It was the early 1970’s, a time when the medical establishment had not yet considered any relationship between diet and behavioral health, and Schauss questioned why that was so. He had recently come across research showing that Vitamin C interfered with methadone treatment. By testing several hypotheses, he would discover that mega-doses of sodium ascorbate, one of several forms of Vitamin C, mediated opiate receptor sites which allowed addicts to withdraw from heroin without the normal side effects.
A person caught in a cycle of addictive behavior must be willing to thoughtfully examine every aspect of their lives, not for the purposes of assigning blame, but to gain the knowledge necessary to help them make better choices.
Mitigating painful opiate withdrawal symptoms was fabulous work but it did not address the fundamental causes of addiction nor did it eliminate desire. Even if an addict used Vitamin C to kick heroin, once they moved back to their home, neighborhood and other familiar environments, chances were high they would find their way back to the needle. Regardless, two-time Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling was so impressed with the young sociologist’s achievement, he asked Schauss for the honor of writing a preface for one of his publications, Orthomolecular Treatment of Criminal Offenders.
Schauss’ work would later take him to South Dakota as a Youth Services administrator. There he visited every one of the state’s juvenile detention facilities and noticed that those that did a significantly better job of rehabilitation were the family-styled homes in which the youths were not allowed junk, processed or packaged food. He was most impressed with a small group home known as “Our Home,” where the teens stayed only an average of three months instead of the state average of eighteen. At this facility, residents maintained a garden where they grew their own fresh, unprocessed vegetables. Meals were limited to the vegetables and fruits they grew and other wholesome, nutritious and whole grain foods. No coffee, tea, refined sugar or foods that contained sugar like sodas or candy were allowed, and physical activity was required every day – even in the midst of winter. Schauss observed that the teens living in this home-like environment thrived.
The bureaucracies we empower to ‘handle’ drug addicts as well as juvenile and adult offenders are not capable of providing the level of personalized care that can make significant differences in the lives of those caught in the cycle of addiction.
Schauss would also supervise pioneering work in one of Washington State’s adult correctional facilities by introducing color therapy: when a specific hue of the color pink was painted on the walls of the cells and hallways where violent offenders were housed, their behavior became tractable. As sociologist who had incorporated both nutrition and behavioral psychology into his work, he deduced that environmental conditions mattered regardless if the addiction was classified as physiological or behavioral. Schauss realized that along with nutrition and exercise, true and lasting change required a supporting environment, both internally and externally.
Today, those pink prison walls have been painted over, the current sixty-four residents of the “Our Home” juvenile ‘group home’ facilities are required to feed their teens a USDA approved diet or risk losing federal funding, and megadoses of Vitamin C have been suppressed as a treatment for facilitating pain-free heroin withdrawal due to the fact that it interferes with the effectiveness of federally funded methadone treatment. Clearly, the bureaucracies we empower to ‘handle’ drug addicts as well as juvenile and adult offenders are not capable of providing the level of personalized care that can make significant differences in the lives of those caught in the cycle of addiction. Program directors might be competent at administering policy, but their operational philosophy reinforces the notion of ‘once an addict, always an addict.’ Complicity with such a belief impairs the manifestation of other potentials: specifically, our innate capacity for true healing.
When a specific hue of the color pink was painted on the walls of the cells and hallways where violent offenders were housed, their behavior became tractable.
Vast archives of empirical and anecdotal evidence suggest that conquering addiction requires a comprehensive, holistic approach and such practices are not limited to any specific modality. Instead, the concepts of health and wellbeing require the consideration of the whole person: body, mind and spirit. Pharmaceutical-based medicine and methodology seeks to address the relief of diagnostic symptoms only, but holism asks the question, “What does this person require to reach optimum health?” In most cases, the answer to that question will take a person through a comprehensive re-evaluation of their life and for those willing to address their addiction, the psychological and spiritual questions are integral to the physiological because ultimately, the three are inseparable.
Pioneers like Dr. Alexander Schauss continue to leap beyond the constraints of pharmaceutically directed health practices, and in doing so, they generate a pool of anecdotal and empirical evidence that provides direction for the next generations of researchers and scientists. Only a few decades ago, a person’s diet was not even considered a variable when diagnosing health issues, but today questions about food preferences are standard on any doctor’s office health questionnaire. History shows that both western medicine associations and social policymakers are slow to evolve their models of health care. But despite bureaucratic resistance to change, a vanguard of health care professionals is emerging. They comprehend well the implications of new clinical and research data and are trailblazing practices that transcend the ‘addiction is destiny’ model. For them: there is life beyond addiction.
Mega-doses of sodium ascorbate, one of several forms of Vitamin C, mediated opiate receptor sites which allowed addicts to withdraw from heroin without the normal side effects.
A person caught in a cycle of addictive behavior must be willing to thoughtfully examine every aspect of their lives, not for the purposes of assigning blame, but to gain the knowledge necessary to help them make better choices. Every person who successfully overcomes their addiction adds to that pool of knowledge which can help even more addicts break through. It is inevitable that the medical industry will eventually relinquish their fatalistic perspective, and the sooner, the better. In the meantime, there is a broad range of holistic technologies and trained professionals to assist those who are committed to do what it takes to create a new life and achieve that potential of optimum wellness.