Einstein, energy and electricity: One counselor's quest to treat addiction

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TULSA, Okla. - Frustrated by years of failures in treating addiction problems with traditional treatment programs, a team of three Native doctors implemented an innovative program that encompasses indigenous concepts of wholeness. The organization, T.K. Wolf Inc., offers education, counseling, consulting, research, electromedicine, addiction nutrition and art therapy to both Native and non-Native peoples.

"One of us, Clark Inkanish, was a long time alcohol and drug counselor of more than 30 years," said co-founder Ann N. Dapice, Delaware and Cherokee. "I'd been told that adding Native American spirituality and culture to counseling would make the difference, especially for addicted Indians, and Clark was not only a certified addiction counselor but also an Indian elder who held sweat lodge and other ceremonies."

T. K. Wolf, named after Tasha Kiowa, a female wolf and valued member of Dapice's family, was established in 1998 to offer workshops, classes, cultural events, ceremonies, sweat lodge and counseling. But a year later, the team found the methods were still unsuccessful. It wasn't until the key ingredient of Cranial Electric Stimulation (CES) was launched to balance the program that clients became free of addictions.

"At that point I didn't realize how bad typical success rates are, since outcome statistics are hard to come by," said Dapice, a graduate of University of Pennsylvania. "We would later learn that four years after treatment only 7 percent are sober."

Dapice found that at ceremonies, most people chain-smoked, prayed earnestly, and returned to drinking and using.

"Worst of all, I was astounded to learn that addiction counselors around us were relapsing, a little known fact, at least to me," Dapice said. "All my theories and research on human nature seemed useless. I told Clark that I couldn't continue doing what we were doing and charging people for, however little, when it wasn't working."

Meanwhile, the organization was popular. People liked coming to the classes. "But hardly any of our clients were getting better," she said.

Desperate to find something more successful, Dapice attended professional meetings for alcohol and drug counselors, and "got the distinct impression that we were not alone." Then one day, when a client was in counseling, Clark included guided imagery in the session.

"I usually participate in the imagery along with the client," said Dapice. "This time I visited the woods I'd often walked in my younger years, in Princeton, N.J. In the imagery I was told that I'd meet someone but realized I'd never seen anyone in my walks there. Then I remembered that Albert Einstein had once walked those woods so I envisioned meeting him. When told to ask a question of the person, I found myself saying, 'Please help us find an answer for alcoholism, for addiction.' In the imagery, we walked a little while together. Afterward, I said to myself, 'Einstein, energy, electricity.' That has to be the answer!"

For several months, she searched the Internet, but found nothing about the use of electricity in relationship with addiction. She learned that a physician in Texas was implanting electrical units in the chests of patients with serious depression.

"I called," she said. "I asked him if he knew if anyone had used this treatment for addiction. He said he didn't know but gave me the names of people in New York City who might."

Dapice called the researchers and learned that for decades there had been double and triple blinded published research studies from numerous institutions. 80 percent of clients remained clean and sober seven years after initiating treatment.

T.K. Wolf quickly obtained CES, FDA sanctioned for the treatment of stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia, addiction and pain to try for their clients.

CES units can be held in the hand, clipped to a belt or worn in a pocket. Tiny electrical currents similar to those naturally occurring in the body are applied through either clip electrodes to the earlobes or by leads attached behind the ears. The currents normalize electrical activity of the brain as measured by electroencephalogram (EEG). Dapice said the method has been found effective in addictions including alcohol, cocaine, benzodiazapines, heroin, marijuana, methadone and nicotine, with no lasting side effects.

Substance abuse is estimated to cost the country more than $410 billion each year, according to health care and justice records. Added to this is the recent $17 million budget cut to the 2004 Indian Health Services in light of statistics showing that in Indian country infant mortality rate was 24 percent higher than for the overall U.S. population; the rate of death from alcohol-related causes was 67 percent higher; from diabetes, 318 percent higher; from accidents, 180 percent higher; from suicide, 92 percent higher; and from homicide, 110 percent higher.

Dapice said for the cost of alcohol or cigarettes the least-expensive addictions, substance abusers can rent or buy their own CES units.

The team, now five Natives and two non-Natives, also learned more about the genetic origins of alcoholism and the connection of Type II diabetes often suffered by the same people. Many of the clients were victims of child and family abuse and had post-traumatic stress disorder. Their philosophy became grounded on the principles of Mitakouye Oyasin. This phrase comes from a Lakota prayer which translated means "All My Relations." Mitakouye Oyasin includes the "two-leggeds," "four-leggeds," "the winged things," "things that swim," "things that grow," and all of creation. The philosophy incorporates the medicine wheel that represents non-human life and all human races, the four directions - east, south, west and north, and the four aspects - mental, emotional, physical and spiritual.

Four years after expanding the services, T.K. Wolf was being asked to present their research at a variety of conferences and give professional guidance to addiction counselors across the country. Recently, they were honored by the Contact Crises Helpline of Oklahoma City for "Outstanding Leadership in Physical, Mental and Spiritual Wellness."