Thursday, October 11, 2012

Book giveaway: 'Hijacking the Brain'

Last night I stumbled on a new reality TV show on TLC called "Cracking Addiction," in which a mom and her formerly heroin-addicted son stage interventions for the families of addicts and the addict. I watched a pregnant heroin addict reluctantly agree to an inpatient program in order to save her child and herself (see part of the show here).

An addict has no control - the drug is controlling his or her life, according to Brandon Knauss and his mom, Debbie, a registered nurse and chemical dependency counselor, who "star" in the show and organize interventions for a living. Brandon, who has a unique perspective as a former addict and ex-felon, seems to be able to relate to those who are in the throes of addiction. Sometimes, he and his mom can help convince them to get help.

But most people who are addicted to drugs and/or alcohol aren't the subjects of fancy televised interventions. Many turn to more common treatment programs and therapies - ubiquitous 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous as well as other forms of support and counseling.

A self-published book written by a physician and an addiction specialist takes a look at programs that break the hold a substance has over an addict. 

"Hijacking the Brain: How Drug and Alcohol Addiction Hijacks Our Brains. The Science Behind Twelve-Step Recovery," was written by Louis Teresi MD in collaboration with Harry Haroutunian MD ($14.95, Authorhouse, 2011, 277 pp.).

More than 23 million Americans age 12 an older need treatment of some sort for drug or alcohol addictions each year, according to a report from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

But how can a 12-step program help someone who is addicted?

"Experts recognize that addiction is an organic brain disease, yet most also promote the use of spiritual situations like 12-Step programs for addiction recovery," said Teresi. "But no one really knows why a spiritual solution works. 'Hijacking the Brain' connects the dots between a medical condition and a spiritual solution for the very first time."

Book summary:

Hijacking the Brain provides the first-ever scientific explanation for the success of Twelve-Step programs. Hijacking the Brain examines data provided by recent rapid growth in the fields of neuroscience, neuroimaging, psychology, sociobiology and interpersonal neurobiology that have given us new, dramatic insights into the neural and hormonal correlates of stress and addiction, cognitive decline with addiction, as well as for the relative success of Twelve-Step Programs of recovery. 

Addiction is recognized by experts as an organic brain disease, and most experts promote Twelve-Step programs (AA, NA, CA, etc) which invoke a 'spiritual solution' for recovery. To date, no one has described "why" these programs work. 'Hijack' tells us why. In 'Hijack' the role of 'working The Steps' for reducing stress and becoming emotionally centered is discussed in depth. A full chapter is devoted to the rewarding and comforting physiology of meditation and the spiritual experience. 

The author uses examples from animal sociobiology, as well as sophisticated human brain-imaging studies, to demonstrate that empathic socialization and altruism are instinctive and 'naturally rewarding' and, along with Step Work, act as a substitute for the 'synthetic rewards' of drugs of abuse. 

'Hijack' does not challenge the Steps or the Traditions of Twelve-Step programs. The sole intention of Hijacking the Brain is to 'connect the dots' between an 'organic brain disease' and a 'spiritual solution' with sound physical, scientific evidence. Avoiding strict scientific language as much as possible, 'Hijack' is written for the layperson and abundantly illustrated.

Notably, a percentage of proceeds from the sale of  "Hijacking the Brain" will help fund scholarships for those in need through the Betty Ford Foundation. 

For more information, visit the book's website,

About the authors:

Louis Teresi, MD,
  received his B.A. in biology from Harvard University. He earned his M.D. from Harvard Medical School, where he completed an Honors Concentration in Neuroscience. Trained in Diagnostic Radiology and Neuroradiology at the UCLA Medical Center, Teresi is a former chief of Neuroradiology, MRI director, and fellowship instructor, Long Beach Memorial Medical Center, Calif. Teresi is currently medical director, SimonMed Imaging, Southern California. 

He is a recovering alcoholic and touches on his own experience in the book.

Harry Haroutunian MD, physician director, Residential Treatment Program, Betty Ford Center, Rancho Mirage, Calif., is an internationally-recognized addiction treatment specialist and lecturer. 

Want to win this book?

This book might be of interest to someone in recovery, a med student, a medical practitioner, or a counselor. If you'd like to win my copy ,email me at with your MAILING ADDRESS. I will choose from among the entries and mail it out in the next few days. 

1 comment:

Michelle Karas said...

Congratulations to Carl S. of Arizona who is the winner of this book giveaway!