Do Brain Waves Cause Addiction?

Do Brain Waives Cause Addiction

A recent advertisement for an alcohol rehabilitation treatment center made the outlandish claim that the cause of alcohol abuse is brainwaves.  As evidence for this, they offered a testimonial from one of their clients: “They changed my brainwaves and helped me stop drinking.”

The subject of brainwaves continues to come up again and again when people discuss addiction.  In a seminar on gambling, I once heard a woman argue that out-of-control gamblers have a disease that changes their brainwaves.I challenged this assertion by pointing out that gambling is a behavior and has nothing to do with disease or brainwaves.  Her argument was that scientific studies have discovered a slight difference in brainwave activity between those who do not control their gambling and those who do.  The unstated implication of her argument is that some people cannot control their gambling because of their brainwaves.  She also argued that other behaviors were caused by brainwaves.For example, the brainwaves of some pedophiles are supposed to be different from those who do not sexually abuse children.

So, what does all of this mean?It may mean nothing more than this: engaging in certain behaviors may slightly alter brainwave patterns.  Viewing child pornography over a long period of time may change one’s brainwaves, but brainwaves are probably the least negative thing that can happen to you if you engage in this behavior.  For example, your view of sex will be negatively affected, you will have difficulty with normal relationships, and you can go to jail.

Those who ingest large amounts of alcohol over a long period of time may also have slightly different brainwave patterns in contrast to those who do not.  They may also have more health,financial, and relationship problems than those who do not abuse alcohol,but knowing about brainwaves does nothing to help them solve their problems.

Brainwaves do not cause people to abuse either alcohol or children.  The whole discussion of brainwaves is pointless relative to addiction.It suggests that our behaviors are beyond our control, or that some people cannot handle the strong desires and emotions they attribute to brain activity.It also overlooks the damage that certain behaviors can do to people by blaming the behavior on some vaguely defined brain condition.  Changes in biology, personality, relationships, and circumstance are often the result of behavior rather than the cause.  If people believe their behaviors are the result of mysterious and uncontrollable forces, then it is unlikely they will ever make the changes necessary to better themselves.

I do not understand why it is that some people like some things more than others.  My wife and I love pecan pie, but our three sons do not like it.  Some people enjoy sex more than others.  Some people like the feelings that certain drugs can produce more than others.  We are all different and wonderfully made by our creator (Psalm 139:14).  Not everything we desire, however, is healthy for us.  The Bible says that “each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed” (James 1:14).  Desire does not always manifest itself the same way in people, and some people will desire certain activities more than others.  When we add to this our different environments, experiences, and choices, we can account for the differences we see in people.

Therefore, we should attribute our behaviors to the choices we make and not to our brainwaves.  The whole subject seems pointless when it comes to helping people with addiction.  Why spend all this time studying brainwaves?  What difference does it make?  Even if researchers discover that brain activity is different for those who are addicted to certain behaviors, then what?  All that seems to be done with this kind of information is to reinforce the false negative beliefs that many addicts have about their inability to control their behaviors.

J B Myers

jbmyers1@gmail.com

Books:

Faith and Addiction

Elders and Deacons

Life Choices

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