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Josh Gordon's behaviors indicate addiction

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When it comes to substance abuse and addiction, I try to put things into perspective for people, as the details of how the brain works can get a bit cumbersome at times. Anyone who follows the NFL knows that Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon has immense talent, simply based on the numbers he was able to put up this past year without playing the full year due to a suspension for testing positive for codeine. Gordon also tested positive for marijuana 3 times while in college, so there is a pattern here. Many responses focus on his decision-making, which is obviously poor, and that it is up to him to make better choices. That is true, however when it comes to addiction things are not that simple.

Our brains naturally give us pleasure responses and emotional regulation. There are ways that we can enhance these things naturally, like exercise and experiencing an enjoyable event. Many times when learn how to regulate and deal with situations from watching our families. When that is done in a healthy way, we learn how to derive pleasure from daily activities, along with learning coping skills. This also assumes that conflicts, traumas and other negative events are at a minimal, or processed appropriately. That this occurs is a pretty big assumption (or hope). There is also a genetic factor when it comes to any disease, and that applies to addiction as well. Somebody does not have to have the genetic component, or necessarily need to have negative or traumatic events to trigger addiction, but it does increase the possibility dramatically.

I personally do not have knowledge of Josh Gordon’s history for an addictions assessment. What I do know is that he is currently making choices that do not make sense to people that are not familiar with addiction. One of the criteria for dependence and addiction is loss of job, family, relationships and using despite these threats or occurrences. Gordon is making a choice to use, but it isn't an even choice. A sober person that is functioning rationally can decide to go right or left at any given time, and there really isn't a reward for that unless it is a quicker way to their destination. This is not the same process for an addict, or your average person that wants to eat ice cream at night. You know you shouldn't, but you do. That is not about willpower, it is mainly a reaction to a brain function that includes impulsivity and lack of reflection to consequences. Add in one's mood at the time, if there is ice cream or a drug/alcohol in the house, if there is an event or others doing it as well, and you are on your way to changing brain chemistry. If someone is willing to jeopardize their career, something that I believe he worked for, a couple weeks prior to the chance of getting that career back, then the decision-making process has been greatly compromised. The DWI gives me the information along with past instances of this occurring, despite the consequences increasing.

There is accountability in this scenario, despite catcalls that this addiction thing is simply a cop-out. Self-awareness and taking steps to change with the help of others. The brain can change, your environment can change, and the choices can change. However, the key is asking for that help and taking the action. That is a difficult proposition for someone who is active in their addiction, as they don’t see things the same way based on years of being enabled and surrounded by those that support the distorted thinking. Add in a culture that is promoting alcohol and now marijuana, then wondering why you make a poor decision, and you have a great mixture for a situation like this.

Josh Gordon has an opportunity to turn his life around, and hopefully get the resources to have that happen. His part is utilizing those resources to change and take some action. He probably doesn't want to make many of those changes, and that ultimately is the challenge. An addict’s brain is on overdrive when it comes to pleasure, pain and emotion based on drug use, and nothing will match that for a while. That is why the choice is rigged. The fear can be overwhelming, and very few people understand, let alone message boards questioning why and calling him names. I imagine it would feel like taking the field 2 players vs 11 and expecting to compete. That is essentially the challenge that he, and every addict faces.

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