“Constitutionally Incapable” is the term used in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous to describe a person who can not recover from addiction. In other words, some individuals are thought to be so morally and physically “bankrupt,” that providing treatment and AA for them is a waste of time. Because of serious flaws in their psychological makeup (mind), their physical/medical condition (body) and/or their disconnection to anything greater than their own selfish interests (spirit), they will find it impossible to stop abusing alcohol and chemicals or establish authentic sobriety.
The founders of AA, building on the work of physicians like Benjamin Rush (1) for over 200 years, offered a window of hope for those who are Constitutionally Incapable of recovery, predicting that someday, when science has advanced far enough, the physical cause(s) which explain(s) why some individuals who appear to be hopeless, will be discovered, and rational, science-based, medical interventions will become widely available. They envisioned that those who seem to be Constitutionally Incapable of recovery will be treated properly and “reformed” into people who are indeed Constitutionally Capable of making a complete recovery.
Age of Neuroscience
That hope basically entails putting the recovery of “body” into the promised recovery of “mind, body and spirit.” Until very recently, the “body” part of that triad was not available. However, the Age of Neuroscience has to come into vogue, and the brain mechanisms explaining the symptoms of mental disorders, such as addiction, depression and anxiety, can now be explained. This phenomenon has been popularized on top-of-the-charts TV crime shows like bones and CSI, where laboratory science investigators collect DNA and other data at the crime scenes to determine the perpetrator.
This technology has recently become available, and now we can realize the vision of the founders of AA and provide laboratory-based, scientific data about brain chemistry imbalances which undoubtedly cause the symptoms of craving, depression, insomnia and anxiety. Armed with this data, intelligent, rational interventions can be devised to abolish such post-abstinence symptoms. Those who were once Constitutionally Incapable of recovery are now perfectly able to recovery like other “less damaged” addicts and alcoholics. An analysis of outcome data regarding long term abstinence when these technologies are provided suggests that no longer is anyone Constitutionally Incapable of recovery.
Biochemical Risk Factors
Thousands of peer-reviewed, university-performed studies have virtually proven that these biochemical “risk factors”(2) for addiction can be found and reversed, which leads to astonishing outcomes (3). Insurance-covered, diagnostic tests are readily available to test for these risk factors which when corrected, can transform Constitutionally Incapable addicts. Some are food allergies (4), heavy and toxic metal poisoning (5), amino acid deficiencies (6), neurotransmitter turnover (7), essential fatty acid deficiencies (8) and many other imbalances, toxicities and nutritional deficiencies. Consumer friendly books (9) are available which introduces readers to this science.
Unfortunately the science has moved so quickly that most physicians are not trained in the biochemistry related to brain disorders, nor do they know how to order appropriate testing panels to determine the causes of addictions, or how to interpret the tests or how to devise science based interventions.
Generally, the best that conventional medicine and psychiatry have to offer are replacement drugs, which merely cover up symptoms with other, equally addictive psychotropic chemicals, and which do not address the root cause of the problem. Amassed studies strongly suggest that a failure to reverse these root causes of addiction, will trap those who are Constitutionally Incapable of recovery to remain in an endless spiral of addiction.
Functional Lab Testing
Diagnostic testing not only uncovers the root causes of addiction, allowing clinicians to intelligently reverse them. Diagnostic testing also helps to bring a profound change in the psychosocial and spiritual perspective of a recovering individual. Addiction has been recognized as a shame-based disease . Addicts have been prosecuted as criminals, treated as psychiatric patients with psychotherapy and psychiatric medications, and generally given the message that there is fundamentally and shamefully something wrong with them.
Once I lay out the functional lab testing results for an addict or their family, a different message comes through loud and clear – that certain biochemical risk factors unique to each individual are the actual cause of the addiction, and not any of these other moralistic or psychosocial excuses. Patients tend to forgive themselves immediately, and their families forgive them too. The shame is lifted. The self- and other-loathing, which contributed to the condition of “Constitutional Incapableness” melts away. The vision of AA’s founders, scientists and physicians throughout the ages is now attainable. Very few if any addicted or alcoholic people are constitutional incapable of recovery when they avail themselves of these marvelous diagnostic technologies.
(1) A signer of the Declaration of Independence and George Washington’s personal physician, strived to make freedom of religion and freedom of healthcare inalienable rights. He was an advocate of treating mental disorders as diseases instead of as moral or religious problems.
(2) Any medical condition can have risk factors which predispose a person to have that condition. This term is best known when applied to heart disease, which has certain risk factors such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes etc. Reverse the risk factors and the chances of succumbing to the disorder are lessened.
(3) Gant CE (2000) Functional Medicine:The Missing Link in Addictionology, JOURNAL OF ADDICTIONS NURSING, Volume 12, Numbers 3/4, Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.
(9) Gant CE (2009) End Your Addiction Now. Square One Publishers.
(10) Bradshaw J (1988) Healing the Shame that Binds You, Health Communications Inc, Deerfield Beach, Florida (available on Amazon.com – http://www.amazon.com/Healing-Shame-That-Binds-You/dp/0932194869#noop