Jay Faber, MD

substance abuser

Several months ago, I took one of my quarterly weekend vacations to relieve my level of stress. On this trip, I decided to stay at one of my favorite hotels in Los Angeles. While reading, I started hearing some bothersome buzzing noises from my 5th floor room. At first, I thought it may have been the air-conditioning misbehaving from another residence. However, the noise never went off and it sounded as if it was coming from outside.

Subsequently, I decided to figure out what was making this obnoxious sound. I went to the window and wondered if I could find the source. While appreciating the Sunset Boulevard view, I suddenly saw a white fast moving object go right past my window. “What was that?” I thought. “Was it a bird? Was it a paper object that was blowing swiftly in the wind?” It was moving way too fast for my mind to logistically register.

Suddenly, the fast moving object went by my window again. This time I pinpointed it and was able to label it. For the first time, I observed a 4-propeller drone flying at a very rapid pace between my hotel and another luxury residence across the street. As I hypnotically gazed at this fast moving machine, I was awestruck by the fact that it was flying up to levels at least 20 stories high.

Wow! These machines were not even existing 2 years ago. No one could even get their hands on something like this. Now, all I had to do was go down to a local hobby store, pick one up and start flying.

Over the last 10 years, our culture increasingly has become even more digitized with electronic machinery. Notably, our mobile phones have actually now become small portable computers. These nifty devices can quickly locate great restaurants, indicate memorable places to visit, and play our latest hit songs. Not
only that, this micro circuitry takes portraits with greater clarity, brilliance, and speed than any camera 25 years ago.

These cameras are just not in cellular phones! They have exponentially multiplied. Moreover, they are located everywhere. These small inexpensive devices are located on street lights, garages, hallways and elevators taking consistent video of how we behave, what we say, and how we appear. Never before in history has there been such an availability of constant real-time play back on what people are really doing.

As a result of these changes, the world has become a more transparent and vulnerable place to live. Behaviors, actions, and utterances that were once thought to be more private have the possibility of becoming personalized public nuisances. As famed rock singer “Sting” so poignantly sings in “Every Breath You Take”:

Every breath you take and every move you make
Every bond you break, every step you take, I’ll be watching you Every single day and every word you say
Every game you play, every night you stay, I’ll be watching you


What was initially meant to be a romantic song about a passionate pursuer of his long desired love has now become a paranoid ballad of what can happen when people are watched, evaluated, and sadly judged by the cold sterile technocratic creations of the 21st century.

For the substance abuser, this new world has become increasingly difficult. Those who have been connoisseurs of denial, rationalization, and minimization are no longer able to hide. In fact, they stick out…like a sore thumb.

How so? Socially, significant others are more apt to find glaring inconsistencies in alleged alibis from accessible “selfies” about where one spent their time on Friday night. Legally, the entire world can discover charges including DUI’s, public intoxication, disorderly conduct, and other mischievous behaviors quickly on the Internet for approximately $25 per request. Occupationally, one’s ability to hide locations of leisure can quickly be deciphered by looking at the location finder on a cellular phone.

Just as Kodak painfully discovered that the digitized world has no longer accepted traditional film pictures, so, too, has the substance abuser poignantly been exposed. It’s harder to fabricate. It is more difficult to deceive. It is more challenging to manipulate. In essence, the substance abuser’s ability to change the reality of stories just plain outright does not work.

Although the substance abuser may not like this new reality, there are many opportunities that can be gleaned from our advancing technologized culture. Because anonymity has markedly eroded, we are now challenged to become more genuine, authentic, and credible. We are forced to make sure that the heart, our head, and behaviors are synchronously aligned. We are pulled to become greater people, with higher values, who strive for more noble causes.

If he/she so chooses, the substance abuser now has an opportunity to take advantage of some other new exciting breakthrough advancements. These technologies give a better understanding of how the human brain functions and what can be done to genuinely optimize its function. Through these scientific developments, there is great hope to enhance the brain’s ability to think more clearly, feel happier, and behave more constructively.

Given this reality, would it not make sense for the substance abuser to learn ways to optimize their brain function such that they are content the majority of the time without the use of artificial substances? Would it not make sense for those addicted to learn how to think more effectively such that they make wise choices that optimize their chances for success? Would it not next make sense for those painfully trapped to enhance brain physiology such that they can make great choices to avert future legal disasters?

So what exactly are these cutting edge technologies? Currently, I utilize some of them at the Amen Clinic in Costa Mesa, Ca. At our clinic, we use SPECT Scans, that measure blood flow, and Quantitative EEGs, that measures cortical electricity, to better understand the brain’s overall functioning. These tools help us understand where the brain may be overworking, underworking, and functioning appropriately.

With these tools, we scientifically assess regions of the brain frontal lobes, temporal lobes, thalamus, anterior cingulate cortex, and other neuro-anatomic areas. Through that assessment, we are able to get a unique profile on that individual’s brain and how it is working. Through this personalized approach, we are then able to have a collaborative discussion with the substance abuser about why it may have been so difficult to make more constructive, higher quality of life choices.

Subsequently, we use this information to help optimize brain functioning. Our conversations are catered to help guide that individual to a lifestyle that is more likely to be filled with contentment, constructive behaviors, and sound choices. Treatment may potentially include medications. However, it often includes more holistic approaches using supplements, psychotherapies, and other advanced therapeutic technologies.

Moreover, our clinic works closely with trained integrative medical physicians. The close alignment of these working professionals offers our clients the best of “Mind-Body” integration therapies. The medical community is learning a lot about how both the mind and body work together and our clinic is creating constructive treatments to help our clients experience beneficial emotional as well as physiological improvements of well-being.

So in closing, if anyone else happens to see a drone flying high above their next vacation trip, I would hope that they might be able to take a different perspective than my initial impressions. Our world is changing. Our world is growing. Our world is expanding. The current tools of neuro-scientific advancements offer the substance abuser, as well as others, a chance to live healthy lifestyles filled with purpose, meaning, and significance. Does it not make sense to take advantage of this opportunity?

John A. “Jay” Faber, MD is a clinical and forensic psychiatrist, child psychiatrist, and adult psychiatrist at Amen Clinics. In addition to his work at Amen Clinics, Dr. Faber is President of BrainSource, a corporation founded to teach adolescents how to build successful lives. Supporting the work at BrainSource, Dr. Faber is creating
a series of programs to help guide teens to go from being good students to great leaders. The first of these programs, “Fortified Friendships” is a 3-part CD series for adolescents, teaching teens how to build successful relationship.