The Epidemic We Don’t Talk About [transcript]

Written by Christopher Kelly

Feb. 1, 2018


Christopher:    Hello and welcome to the Nourish Balance Thrive Podcast. My name is Christopher Kelly and today I am delighted to be joined by my special guest, Erik Kerr. Hi, Erik.

Erik:     Hi. Great to be here.

Christopher:    Thank you for being here. I'm really grateful to have you. Erik is the owner of a truly wonderful company that have produced some amazing whiteboard videos for me recently. If you come to the front page of my website,, you'll see one of Erik's wonderful whiteboard videos. Erik, I wanted to get you on the podcast today to talk about your role as the host of the Healing Addiction Summit. But, first of all, can I get you to tell us a little bit about your services as a whiteboard video illustrator?

Erik:    That's very kind. First of all, I'm not an illustrator and everybody thinks I am.

Christopher:    Sorry.

Erik:     No. But I have remarkably talented illustrators as you've discussed. We are The Draw Shop and our role and mission is to make your most important message impossible to misunderstand to your most important audience and do it with clarity. It's the silver bullet of communication and we're fundamentally as business people and humans terrible communicators and it's hard for us to say what we really should say in 30 seconds. We usually ramble and make it confusing for the listeners. So, we do that via illustrator whiteboard videos. We talk brand language. People watch it, remember it and we'll move on to the next action that you want them to do or just get to the end of it and say, "I totally got it."

Christopher:    I love those videos. I've loved those videos for a long time. And when I found out that you made them I just couldn't resist. I think they're completely brilliant. And my overall experience producing one of those was really, really fun. I get to talk to one of your copywriters and I do exactly what you just said, ramble for 30 seconds or maybe even ten minutes, and then somehow the copywriter comes back at me with this script that makes perfect sense and it's so neat and it's short. It's so short I just can't get over how short, how much he's been able to condense that information without losing any of the content. And then they beautifully hand draw it. It's absolutely amazing. So, an incredible experience. Congratulations on everything you've achieved there.

Erik:    Thank you very much.

Christopher:    Well, let's talk about the addiction summit. You and I have something in common and that is we'd been acting like the chairman of a board, right? It's a very privileged and interesting situation to be in. Last summer, I recorded the Keto Summit where I interviewed 35 experts on the ketogenic diet and it was amazing because you'll get an expert that may have spent four decades in the field tell you all of their best stuff in an hour and then you get to go to the next interview and maybe something that you've learned from the first interview is relevant in the second and so you get to be this incredible chairman of the board thing which is so much fun. Like I say, such a privilege. So, tell me about how you first became interest in being the host of the Addiction Summit.

Erik:    It's a really interesting story. Fundamentally, what my mission and my interest in is finding out why we have such a high relapse rate and why people who built their treatment centers, for example, in the US, $35 billion a year is spent on addiction treatment and support for people who suffer from addiction, and that $35 billion fundamentally is spent on 11.2% of the people who suffer from addiction.

    So, 11.2% of all people who suffer from addiction get into some form of treatment in the US but within 90 days after treatment -- and these treatment centers are something like $100,000 a year, I mean, a month. They go in and essentially what you do is they're trying to teach you new skills or trying to get you to think and get clean. So, you leave and you essentially are clean and supposed to be empowered with all these tools, resources and knowledge to go out and thrive and succeed in life.

    But what happens is 75% to 80% of all people who exit that treatment center will fully relapse into the full addiction, sometimes higher levels of addiction. And, actually, most people who die from use, many of them will die within that 90-day period because they come out clean and use at the same levels that they were using at before they went into the treatment center.

    If you look at that failure rate, which is 80% of the 11.2% of all people who suffer from addiction and you have the 89% who can afford treatment, who are embarrassed to go to treatment because of the stigma, we got almost 100% failure rate and yet have an industry that is profiting $35 billion a year. I personally have seen that in my life.

    I've got nieces, cousins, family, friends, I've seen suicide, I've seen prison, I've seen all kinds of things and that kind of started me asking the question why. I made the basic assumption. Two years ago, my dad passed. A year before he passed, he was 89 years old and my sister who's a 30-year registered nurse, we were playing cards.


    May dad's hands starting dropping and he started slurring a little bit of speech and his cards started dropping out of his hand. He thought he was just tired. My sister said, "Dad, you're starting to have a stroke and I'm going to call 911." I didn't recognize it. He didn't recognize it and ends up he had a really bad stroke.

    The point is, because I couldn't recognize it and he has the [0:05:22] [Indiscernible] of the stroke, couldn't recognize it, he would have died that night if I was there with him or if he was alone. My sister was trained to understand the early warning signs or signals or symptoms of the brain saying, "Here we go, stroke." It's a distant whistle.

    I thought, well, after going through that experience, doesn't relapse do the same thing? Because fundamentally, are we driven by the brain and is the brain saying, "Relapse, here we go?" And if we can identify that really, really early then we can intervene and support sooner and prevent before relapse from happening. That's the journey that I started going on.

    Nobody had ever approached it from managing addiction from a point of relapse. So, as I went out there I got really people that are super way smart than me. Right now, we're partnering with the National Institute of Health in the US on a HeroX challenge, a technology challenge, to identify relapse. I've talked to all the smartest people all over the world and they are happily engaging in the conversation because I was curious and here we are today.

    Fundamentally, that led to educating and supporting people who don't totally understand it because we can develop a technology but how do we help people the most? It's by empowering them with knowledge. And when people come out and are addicted that large population, worldwide it's about 287 million people who suffer from addiction, the collateral damage and the people who are emotionally traumatized by this are the family members and loved ones who are doing their best but don't know what to do.

    They don't know why it's happening so they respond in the wrong way and they're actually creating more trauma and more damage than good in many cases. That's the mission of this summit is to empower family members, loved ones, people who suffer from addiction to both prevent full addiction and manage full addiction.

Christopher:    Can you say those numbers again? Because I'm not sure I heard them right. You said it's $35 billion problem and the treatment can be $100 million. Can you just repeat those numbers?

Erik:    So, 11.2% of all people in the US who suffer from addiction get into treatment. Treatment centers cost anywhere from $10,000 a month to $100,000 a month and family members and loved ones will mortgage homes, do everything like that because they want to heal their loved one or their friend.

Christopher:    And the total number of people affected, say that again?

Erik:    So, 282 million people worldwide suffer from some form of addiction and I'm talking about alcohol, drugs, substance.

Christopher:    That's absolutely extraordinary.

Erik:    That doesn't consider sex addiction. It doesn't consider right now technology addition, work addiction, which is also an addiction. They are fundamentally the ones that we pay attention the most because they do the most harm or the most harm is represented and manifest in a most devastating state in terms of death, joblessness, dysfunction, social responsibility, social cost. From that, $35 billion a year is profited in the industry.

Christopher:    That's absolutely extraordinary.

Erik:    In treating that 11.2%. But we've almost got 100% failure rate. So, if we had something like heart disease, could you imagine going in for a heart, like if you had a heart problem and you went in and 97% of all people who went in for heart surgery, just imagine if that many people died? Do you think we'd keep doing that?

    But we continue to do it because we don't know what the problem is. We never paid attention to it enough. But we have all the data and the science now to pay attention and say, "Hey, there's a better way to do this because the current way is not working." Addicts will go on to treatment 12, 13, 14, 15 times before they are in sustained full recovery. And even when they are in recovery, the brain is always the enemy and there's a number of different reasons for that. Those are your numbers.

Christopher:    I think of an addiction as being any behavior that's associated with craving, temper relief, negative consequences, and the lack of control. Would you agree with that definition or would you like to modify in any way?

Erik:    No. I think that's an accurate definition. Everybody will say addiction is fundamentally when you choose a certain behavior regardless of consequence. So, if I'm an addict I will leave and spend four hours to go get my drugs, go get high with my drug dealer or my friends while I put my two-year old in the closet and put a bowl of cheerios with her and she'll be fine or leave her in the car or not show up for work or just not eat or whatever. It's regardless of the consequence. You just don't care anymore because the only thing that your brain has been programmed to drive you to is that hit. Fundamentally, your brain gets hijacked.


Christopher:    What sorts of addictions were discussed on the summit?

Erik:    There's a lot of addictions that we talked about. We talked about opiate addiction. We talked about alcoholism. We talked about sex addiction. We talked about the big one that is really fundamentally killing America right now is the prescription opiate problem.

    In 1996 is when hydrocodone and OxyContin came out through the pharmaceutical companies. At that time 1% of all pain management was opiate based, synthetic heroin, and that was for late in life care. So, the elderly who there's just not much you can do with them anymore. In '96, the pharmaceutical companies came out and told all the doctors that, "You're letting your patients suffer needlessly, we have this new solution. It's called hydrocodone and OxyContin and it's not addictive." They referenced the obscure New England Journal, which wasn't even a medical journal, and wasn't even scientifically based or study based and they pushed it down the doctors' throats. And so if you go into a hospital right now, doctors are rated on how well they manage your pain, not how well they heal you.

    My son just went in about six months ago. We found that he was type I diabetes. Up on the white board were sad, medium sad, kind of not sad and all the way up to super happy. That was their pain scale. They always came in and said, "How is your pain?" And that was the driving question. I interviewed a number of doctors who went through medical school in the '80s and '90s and they said, "We were taught that success in medical treatment is how well you manage their pain."

Christopher:    Right. And do you think that's what's driving this then? The doctors are motivated to deal with the pain and the most effective way to deal with the pain is a potentially addictive drug?

Erik:    Yeah. I visited a friend yesterday. He went into -- Well, my son is 15. He cannot leave the hospital unless he had [0:12:05] [Indiscernible] hydrocodone and took it with him. That was an absolute must. I had a friend who got a knee scope two days ago and he said, "I could not say no to the synthetic heroin that they were giving me to manage my pain." You take them, hopefully you throw them out, or you dispose them in a proper way but the system is fundamentally built on this right now and that is what is driving to--

    Because when you run out of money or the prescription runs out, the cheaper more affordable solution and the more accessible solution to be honest with you is heroin because you can get a $5 bag that will take you for a couple of days. This is happening to moms. This is happening to everybody.

    I'm working with a woman, Rachel, getting involved in the homeless community because there's a lot of addiction and suffering there and we're trying to figure out how to curb that. She said she was homeless for eight years, had kids, became homeless because she got addicted to the opiates. She said the primary reason why most people that are homeless right now are homeless is because it came through the opiate door, it came through the prescription opiate door, now it's just all heroin.

Christopher:    Does everybody that takes the drug become addicted?

Erik:    You will fundamentally over time. To put it in context, right now, the US is passing a law where doctors are only prescribing for a seven-day period instead of a three-day period for the very reason of managing that pain. So, once the pain becomes tolerable then they'll take you off of that and put you on ibuprofen or something of that nature.

    It's not that there isn't a place for it. It's just that the system became so wild that doctors were prescribing 120 oxycodone to 16 or 17-year olds who became addicted because they didn't tell them that was going to happen. They didn't tell the family members that was going to happen.

Christopher:    I certainly had that experience when I crashed my bike and gone in and had surgery on something broken and they sent me home with a bunch of tablets that I've never taken because the pain wasn't that bad. But I don't know what they were. I think Vicodin is the name I know. I don't know anything about pharmacology. It just did seem a little bit over the top. I guess, maybe that's what the doctors are thinking is if this guy complains that he's hurting then I'm going to get badly reported.

Erik:    People will follow behavior based on how they're incentivized. Doctors right now are incentivized to treat and manage pain. And this is a very, very good solution for that because it does take away the pain. But it doesn't heal. I interviewed a doctor, Dr. [0:14:39] [Indiscernible], who's a functional medicine therapist right now and she specifically focuses on heroin addiction and she's been very, very successful using functional medicine approach to get people off of heroin addiction because she's taking everything into consideration. What is the stomach doing? Are you exercising? What does your menu plan look like? All these things.


    And over time your brain will develop a dependency. It hijacks your brain because prescription opiates hydrocodone, OxyContin and the variations of that are high grade synthetic heroin. It's high grade that you can get on the street.

Christopher:    So, what can be done? If not these drugs, then what? I mean, we've still got the problem that people are in pain, right?

Erik:    We do still have the problem and we're exploring that right now because the system has become so dependent on the opiates and it's so fundamentally built into the system that everybody's starting to ask that question right now. So, if you sprain your wrist and we do a localized ice pack or a localized numbing solution instead of giving you an opiate.

    And again, there are places and times for that, for limited windows, but to become dependent on it over time, there are enough question asked. Because right now patients could call in and ask for a refill for their opiate prescription and the doctors will give it over time. A lot of doctors are getting class section suits are being filed against doctors who just called in the prescription and give them out.

    We have a lot of awareness around this right now because this is no longer the hood that everything is happening. In fact, it's less in the hood than it is out in just suburbia. Moms, dads, CEOs are fundamentally using this. And they're functional but they're still addicted.

Christopher:    Talk about some of the other things that were discussed in the summit, some of the other things that people might be becoming addicted to?

Erik:    There's a lot of different things that people are becoming addicted to. They're becoming addicted to their phones. Children are becoming addicted because as the use of social media has gone up there's more pressure to look like everybody else and you feel like you're in a community of people which is a huge brain stimulant and fundamentally we as humans need community but what the use of cell phones and social media does for adult but primary children because those are the ones that are the heavy users right now and they're becoming very dependent on it. They are creating a virtual community but they're becoming very isolated locally. And you need that face to face fundamental interaction.

Christopher:    Right. It can't be replaced with social media. So, what do you do? You've got four boys. What do you do? What would you like to do? What would you like to happen?

Erik:    It's easier said than done. I had a really interesting conversation with the founder of One Year No Beer. I asked him that. I said, "What would your advice be to somebody who was trying to help somebody not become addicted or overcome addiction or not go down the path of addiction?" He says there's one question you always have to ask yourself first. Are you living by example?

    That's a very, very powerful thing. Because we were talking about alcohol. He's just trying to help people understand how much better life is by just not drinking, period. Whether you're a casual drinker, whether you're an alcoholic or you're addicted or not to alcohol, fundamentally, life is better. But I said, "We're kind of brought up seeing alcohol on alcohol on TV."

    He says, "Erik, let me stop you right there. We're not being brought up. It is being jammed down our throat with a gorilla fist." We see our parents drinking for social occasions. We see it on football commercials. We see the best commercials are always the beer commercials. So, how do we not grow up as children seeing that being programmed towards that behavior?

Christopher:    Right. That's how we have fun is with this thing in our hand.

Erik:    Yes. So, to answer your question, my kids do pretty well. It's hard to gage that because you don't see them all the time. You don't see them in the room. And I'm not one for absolute total control. It's a really tricky conversation. What are the early warning signs? I will tell you one thing that my son did. My son is 15. He told me the other week -- About a year ago, he said, "Dad, I'm not using social media anymore."

    I was really proud of him. I thought, well, it's because he doesn't want to compare himself to other people and all these reasons. And he said, "When I was 12 I was on Instagram and some pornography things popped up and I shut them down but then I started looking for them again and I started looking for them more."

    So, he started to become addicted to pornography. I didn't even know this. And he said he talked to one of his mentors and his mentor said, "You should just not use social media." And he was brave enough to do that. I didn't even know. So, I think you just have to look on your own behavior and say, "Is this leading to distracted behavior? Is my behavior driving towards this more than it should be?"

Christopher:    Right. And did that come up in the summit as well, the idea of porn addiction? We work with a lot of guys that have, including myself in the past, who've had problems with sexual function. In some cases, it's not really a mechanical problem or a plumbing problem. It's something that's going on inside your head. We think that pornography may be damaging because it leads to dopamine resistance. You need something even weirder, even harder in order to get the same effect that you got yesterday.


    And so when that transitions into real life like good luck trying to find something that gave you the same amount of stimulation that the online porn did. Did anyone talk about that at the summit?

Erik:    We have talked about this. And what's very, very interesting is fundamentally the brain is working in the same way with virtually every addiction. It's driving towards -- Because we have the essential chemicals in the brain. We have oxytocin, dopamine, endorphin, glutamine and so forth. But the primary driver in addiction is dopamine.

    I spoke to Dr. Volkow who is director of the National Institute of Drug Addiction here in the US and they've got a $1 billion budget just to study and find solution for addiction. What she said is what we used to think about addiction, and this is just for every possible addiction in this category, because fundamentally the brain is driving the same way, is that we have been in modern society less than we were in a world where we had to go out and fight a T-Rex or we had to bring down the big woolly mammoth.

    We are driven towards -- Our brains are chemically wired essentially the same way but we're not doing that anymore but our brain has the drive to survive. So, dopamine drives us to sex. It drives us to use stimulating situations.

Christopher:    Right. It's about learning.

Erik:    Yeah, it's about learning. It's about a lot of different things. And it's all primarily driven from the emotional limbic areas. And so you have two parts of the brain, the limbic area and prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex is essentially the parent side of the brain. The limbic areas are the primitive areas. It's motivation, emotion, learning, memory, shame.

    And what happens with addiction, particularly if you start out very young, because as we're joking earlier, the prefrontal cortex is not fully developed until you're 25. And so anybody who's trying to be like the millennial kids, like why is this kid bashing his head on the floor because he can't get a candy? Why is he throwing a fit? It's because the limbic area, the emotional area of the brain is one that's in charge really fully or mostly until you're about 25.

    You make very irrational decisions because the parent isn't saying -- And this is the difference between behavior. Because the prefrontal cortex will say, "Okay, when I go out to drink, when I go out to dinner, I'll have one wine." That's somebody who has both the emotional limbic area and the prefrontal cortex firing and supporting each other.

    When you become addicted it's primarily the limbic area that's in charge because you hijacked the prefrontal cortex and essentially the synapses that are firing back and forth have been disengaged. And so then once you start drinking you start feeling good, it's just another drink, another drink, another drink. And sex is the same way.

    If you're watching a video and you're getting that satisfaction again and again and again then it's the emotional side of it and you're not rationalizing very well. That's why addiction is making choices regardless of consequence. Because I'm watching porn all the time, well, now my sex life with my wife who is my moon, my star, my universe is not that anymore. She's not even in the picture really. There was a study done where people who go on and watch pornography on different pornography sites are only on there for an average of seven minutes.

Christopher:    Right. Which makes sense.

Erik:    Yeah, exactly. I mean, how much can happen in ten minutes? Well, we know, right? Particularly as men. It's just everything is getting hijacked. And yet when you become fully addicted the dopamine as an addict, and Dr. Volkow taught me this, what happens, and the new science that we have right now, because we used to think that the dopamine boost was the primary thing, the ultimate reward, like the drink or the sex or watching the porn was the ultimate reward, when we hit the reward we're actually very unsatisfied.

    What happens in the addicted brain is the bread crumbs driving to the reward are where the dopamine hits happened because your brain is driving you to the ultimate reward so that's where it incentivizes you.

Christopher:    Right. I think this is a really subtle but important point that dopamine is not about reward. It's about the anticipation of reward. It's a subtle but important difference.

Erik:    Yeah. Primarily in the addicted brain. That's why people who get clean for 90 days they go onto a treatment center or longer and they come out and they rap the door and they're leaving and they're saying, "I'm never ever going to use again." Their friend who they did the drugs with or their mom will come up and they -- Remember memory is an important part of the limbic area, the emotional limbic area. That memory of, "Oh, there is that buddy. There's that car that I always took my hits in. That will lead me down the road to this house." So, that's where you get the boost and that's why people fail. There's such a high failure rate.


Christopher:    Right. And, of course, it could be the same with an alcoholic who may have been sober for decades and then they go back and see those old friends, that place where I used to drink again and then suddenly those feelings come roaring back and before you know it they've relapsed after maybe decades of being clean.

Erik:    Yeah, exactly. It' kind of like if you remember when we were in high school. I have songs that I associate with an old girlfriend and I maybe haven't heard that song for 20 years but as soon as I hear it I have all those emotions come back again because that's because the emotional limbic area, the memory part of that area got stimulated by something that was asleep for 20 years but it was still there.

Christopher:    Talk about food. I feel like that is something else that people become addicted to. I've interviewed a neuroscientist, Dr. Stephan Guyenet, who's talked about hyperpalatable food and food reward and addictive behavior regarding food. Was that discussed much in the summit at all?

Erik:    Yeah. I had a really interesting conversation with Dr. Hyman, Dr. Mark Hyman who is the director of the Cleveland Clinic and a functional medicine. We went into that quite a bit. Because there was a question. I think you posed the question to me and I asked him, "Who's responsible for the behavior of food addiction right now? Is it the food industry or is it the people consuming the food?"

    He without hesitation said it's the food industry because they absolutely know what they're doing. And if you look at the people who are going into prison right now because -- Just to back up a little bit. If you look at food and you look at serotonin, 95% of serotonin is produced by the microbiomes in your stomach, 95% of the food to stimulate serotonin.

    There was study with inmates. There were, I think, about 240 inmates who were given a different diet which was essentially better vitamins, better nutrition, and then there was the other half who didn't get it. They weren't told who was who but there was a 35% reduction in prison violence with the people who were given better nutrition over the period of time in the study.

    So, food is an extremely important part of it because food drives anxiety. Because fundamentally we're driven by food. If we don't have the proper nutrition which most food doesn't have right now then that creates a stress on the system which in turn creates an anxiety level that increases all different types of behavior.

    But here in the US, anyways, if you look at the groups of people who are primarily coming through the prison systems, these come from lower income areas that are primarily driven, the kids, there's a high level of diabetes in the kids because they're buying what they can afford and they're buying potato chips, they're buying soda, they're going to McDonald's. And these are very -- They taste really good. So, the food industry is really essentially creating food that we become addicted to through the taste buds.

Christopher:    I was going to say they know exactly how to do it right. This is what a flavor chemist does is they use our knowledge of physiology, biochemistry and food flavoring to create uniquely palatable combinations of things that they know were going to sell really well.

Erik:    Exactly. And I raise four boys and I'm even the same kind of situation is when they start getting angry or stressed or reactive, my first question my wife and I ask is, "When's the last time you ate?" Nutrition is a very important part of this but people are becoming addicted -- I mean, sugar addiction is one of the main driving addictions here. It's not just sugar. It's flour. It's processed food. It's caffeine. We don't eat enough fats. We don't eat enough nuts because price wise it's not as affordable. Plus we have to make it ourselves if we buy that stuff. Who does that anymore?

Christopher:    Yeah, absolutely. Again, it comes back to understanding that dopamine is about the anticipation of reward. Stephan Guyenet talked about that in my interview. Okay, let's say you're addicted to potato chips or pizza. Well, getting the thing isn't that much of a reward unless the thing turns out to be really bad in which case you really notice it. It's the environment leading up to the reward, the anticipation of the reward that you need to watch out for. So, Stephan talks about pizza and how while I'm in the car and I'm driving down the street and I start to smell the pizza at the restaurant, that's when you need to be worried. Not once you're in the restaurant. It's too late by them.

Erik:    Yeah, exactly. Fundamentally, we're still cavemen. We're driven by our instinct to survive. Our instincts to survive include sex, include food. These are fundamentally programmed into us. And so it's no wonder that they're such powerful forces.


Christopher:    Yeah, now I understand it a little bit better. I wonder whether I've been addicted to some extreme sports, shall we say? It started with snowboarding and then wakeboarding and then when that wasn't enough it was kite boarding. I'm seeing that same sequence of what was good enough yesterday is not good enough today, will be even worse tomorrow. I think that if we understand how the whole system works then we're likely to see how we become addicted to something.

Erik:    And I talked to Dr. [0:30:35] [Indiscernible] who talked about parenting as well because a lot of people who suffer from addiction whether it be food addiction, whether it'd be sex addiction, many, many, many of them will tie it back to trauma as a child or how they were raised. These days if a child is crying, I've seen parents put Diet Coke in a bottle into a one-year old bottle.

    This is a real thing. This is happening to us as a society. I don't know how it's going to get reserved. It's driven into us. We're very emotionally driven. And this is how people become enablers. This is how parents become enablers. This is how spouses become enablers. Because we fundamentally hate to see people we love and know suffer.

    But that is part -- Particularly with children. If children are throwing a fit or if they're crying we have to look at this, and this is what I really love about it and some people might not like this, but we fundamentally know that this is a mechanical problem. The machine is having an issue and the machine right now is freaking out or not working properly because the emotional limbic area is just taking off.

    But it's the only thing that that machine knows how to do right now. Because the prefrontal cortex is not developed. The parent is not there to say, "Hey, you shouldn't freak out because you're really going to have something good to eat in 30 minutes." That doesn't work. And so we try to solve the problem by quieting the problem and that does not develop a functional adult because they don't have the opportunity to work and suffer through things which is really how we learn how to manage things.

Christopher:    Right. And so do you think this may be a vicious cycle then? I know this is a very leading question because I already know the answer but abuses or certain life experiences early on in life can make people more susceptible because their reward systems don't develop properly and so that's why I'm wondering now are addicts having children who are then have the environment that's conducive towards addiction later on in life?

Erik:    Yeah, absolutely. I was just talking to Allison Hudson who is part of the summit as well. She said there's actually a phenomenon going on right now where grandparents are raising the grandchildren now because the kids had died, their kids have become addicted.

    It becomes such a crisis to society, either through death or prison or just dysfunction. They can't raise their kids so the grandparents are raising the kids now. This is becoming a very common phenomenon. But the kids fundamentally are having the same problems. So, in answer to your question, the grandparents raise the kids who are dysfunctional and now they're starting to raise the grandkids who are essentially being raised by the same parental and management style, maybe, maybe not.

    But there will be kids who families were one of the kids died from heroin overdose and then you will see the other kids become addicted to heroin. Because it's in a vicious cycle. But we don't know enough and they're not educated and empowered enough to identify the behaviors and they don't know how to take care of themselves. It's a vicious cycle but it's also a very sad cycle. Because I don't think most people come out of the womb saying, "I want to grow up to be an addict. I want to raise addicts and I want to have a very dysfunctional life." I don't think we intentionally get into this.

Christopher:    No. And then even stress during pregnancy is another risk factor. Absolutely terrifying. Because the thing that I find most depressing about it is there's not really much of a way that you can go back and fix that.

Erik:    Yeah, not yet. I believe in a day where, for example, I went to Capitol Hill and I talked to different senators. In Maryland right now there's been two years state of emergency around the opiate crisis and yet nothing is changing. But in West Virginia I talked to the senator's office from West Virginia, both of them, one out of every ten babies in West Virginia right now is born a crack baby. One out of ten.

Christopher:    That's extraordinary.

Erik:     And there's a lot of reasons for that and it can be economic level, it can be opportunity, it can be -- Because you have to ask why people fundamentally will use and abuse. That's to mask distress, trauma, anxiety because they don't have any other outlet. I'm not saying that's an excuse. But essentially when you go and you look for these high adventure activities, I wouldn't say that's really -- It's a level of addiction but it's fundamentally built into you because you're going out to kill the woolly mammoth because that's what you were built to do.


    You're seeking that opportunity to go slay the big beast but the big beast just isn't there so you have to find that stimulus somewhere else because it's fundamentally programmed into us.

Christopher:    Right. And the danger is you have to move on to the next thing and then you stop noticing the things that everybody should enjoy in life like a walk in the woods in autumn, like looking at the color of the leaves. And that's not enough for me anymore. I need to be on a mountain bike flying down a rocky trail at 25 miles an hour with a risk of breaking my neck before I'm satisfied. It's a dangerous track.

Erik:    Exactly.

Christopher:    I watched this video online with Robert Sapolsky. He's one of my favorite authors in this area. He had a video but it's quite old. It's like 2011. And I'd forgotten the name of the doctor who he was presenting with. He's got a Ted Talk online as well that I watched. I'll link to that too. But they were talking about how it seems like the greater the harm the more socially acceptable the addiction.

Erik:    I love this because this is something. If you're a workaholic and you're working 80 hours a week but you're making $10 million, that's acceptable. You're a success. Let's look at Steve Jobs as an example. Very successful, obviously. Changed the world. But at the end of the day, what were his biggest regrets?

Christopher:    Spending too much time at work? Not spending enough time with his kids?

Erik:    Exactly. So, here it comes into regardless of consequence. And people who work hard, work hard, work hard so that they're doing it for the kids but fundamentally we as a tribal human race thrive community. And so in an effort to, when we get recognized, when we get pressed, when we go on podcast, we really feel good about ourselves. But maybe I should have been at my kid's game instead.

    I will regret that later. There will be a time and a place, because I've seen it over and over again with super successful people. There will be a time and a place where I will regret the relationship I didn't have. Because fundamentally, in your pursuit your power and success, those are transactional relationships and not fundamentally transformational relationships.

    And there's a big difference but we get a lot of -- It's very sexy and very exciting to be in a very successful transactional relationship. But those don't last forever. I mean, I've had a lot that I've focused on above my family. I can't even remember the people's faces anymore. But they're at that time and place, they were superiorly important.

Christopher:    Yeah, I think that, not to compare myself to Steve Jobs, but I think that is an important warning for me right now as an entrepreneur running a small business, very excited about what I'm doing, spending a lot of time writing computer programs that I have a four-year old daughter and another one on the way in January and they'll be gone in an instant. Am I going to look back on this time and think, "Oh my god, how much time did I spend on the laptop?"

Erik:    Yeah. I think you will. Because everybody does. I have. I don't know anybody who hasn't. There's lots we can go into there. So, again, this is choosing regardless of consequence. But the reason we accepted is because we hold those people up on a pillar. And if we get back to the survival and the tribal part of it, like as tribes, as ancestors, the higher we are placed up on the pedal the more likely that we're going to survive long term and that our posterity is going to survive. So, that's the fundamental driving behavior of doing that.

Christopher:    Do you think that knowledge is going to be enough to change behavior? Because the body of science says that it's not. I did an interview with Dr. Simon Marshall on behavior change and that was one of the things that came up was knowledge is generally not enough to change behavior. I worry about this with maybe the summit, like providing people with all this knowledge is not necessarily going to lead to them changing their behavior.

Erik:    Yeah. It's a concern. It's a legitimate question. I don't know at this point. I've been involved in different kinds of coaching and setting up coaching programs really in my career with Tony Robins and a lot of influential people and everybody wants the end result but they're not really willing to do the work. Because it's hard to change behavior.

    And even if you look at addiction whether it'd be food addiction, sex addiction, and this is part of the problem with how we approach addicts and the conversation that we have of addicts is we think that it's a choice. Fundamentally, it's not a choice. It's kind of like telling my dad who had a stroke, "It's your choice, Dad. You can just get up out of the bed start talking normally, run down the hall if you want to." It wasn't a choice for him. Fundamentally, the brain had something to the body and was not firing right.


    This is the same thing that happens with addicts. So, there's a fundamental change, a real change in the way that the brain is working that it doesn't necessarily become choice. And Dr. Volkow called addiction the disease of free will. Free will and choice is one of the things that we hold most precious as a race, as humans. But as you become addicted, that focus and that vision become very, very narrow and your choices are very, very wrong but you don't realize that until you put your head above it.

    When you're trying to interact with somebody who is suffering from addiction or you were trying to talk to him about addiction, we approach it many times the wrong way. My friend who was homeless for eight years and a heroin addict here in Salt Lake, she has now got a job. She's got an apartment. She's back with the kids, right?

    I was offering solutions around how to motivate the homeless and change behavior and I said, "What is going to incentivize these people to take the proper actions? Is it we'll give you a free housing or cut your hair once a year? What is it? She says, "You're not speaking to them at the level that they are. Right now, they just want clean socks every month. Right now, they just want a tarp that isn't going to leak when it snows or it rains."

    And so we come from places of trying to solve the problem because we think it should be a certain way. We're not coming from a place of empathy or proper questioning. We're not going down to where they are because we don't really get where they are. We're not asking the questions to find out where they are. And so that's why we don't get a lot of good behavior change because people just want flip us the finger and say, "You don't get it."

Christopher:    Talk about the logistics of the summit. It's not a real summit in person, is it? This is something that I can watch online.

Erik:    Yes. The summit is going to be held the last week in January and the URL for the summit is You can go there and pre-register for the summit and we'll have about 30 to 35 experts in parenting, from neuroscience and functional medicine to diet. We're just taking a full scope approach.

    The goal of the summit is every conversation will empower you with something that you can go back into your life to avoid becoming addicted or help and support somebody in your life who is addicted and give you more knowledge and a better tool set to work with. That's really what our goal is. And start the conversation. We want people to come from the summit asking questions and coming back with questions because this is -- We're right on the edge of a very exciting time where I think a lot of the science is going to help quite a bit.

Christopher:    Good for you. I'm really pleased about what you're doing and I'm very much looking forward to watching the summit. Is there anything else that you'd like people to know about?

Erik:    No. And you talked about behavior change. I think that the most important thing that anyone can do today is just give a hug, say I love you, forgive yourself, give yourself a break and just empathy is really a big part of this with people who suffer from addiction. It's a long road. It's a tough road. But there's definitely hope.

Christopher:    Well, Erik, this has been fantastic. Thank you very much for your time. I very much appreciate you.

Erik:    Thank you. I really appreciate this opportunity. It's been wonderful. Great questions. I'm very grateful.

Christopher:    Thank you.

[0:43:18]    End of Audio

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