Dr. Peter Swanz, ND, FHANP

Delving into coping behaviors

I want to follow up on the article I wrote for the Men’s Health Month in August. I had at first tried to include this information in my August submission, but then decided the topic was important enough to deserve attention alone. This particular behavior or mindset is not unique to males and so I have modified my wording to make this topic gender neutral. I hope everyone finds this information valuable.

There is a phenomenon that I observe regularly in my patients. Many individuals come home in the evening and relax with a few beers, glasses of wine, or other alcoholic drinks. These individuals aren’t drinking to the point of inebriation. They are winding down after the end of a long day and often feel that they deserve this release. Sometimes in my office, they will ask if I think they may have a drinking problem. Any time a question like that is asked, there should be some thought that the issue in question may not be a normal or beneficial behavior. There was a study on mice in 2008 that I believe sheds light on what may be happening in these situations. Before the 2008 study, the common practice was to put mice in a cage and offer them some form of cocaine through various means and observe behaviors and sensitivity to the stimulant. The mice consistently would develop a sensitivity to the drug and when allowed would self administer cocaine frequently. Study over, drugs are bad, mice are addicts.

In 2008, scientists decided to repeat a version of the cocaine studies while giving half of the mice an enriched environment after exposure. Instead of being trapped in a boring cage with no positive or invigorating stimulation, these mice were living it up in a mini mouse (see what I did there with mini mouse) playground. Guess what? They didn’t have the same level of sensitivity to the drug. They didn’t desire to keep doing the drug. In fact, none of the mice chose to self administer the drugs in a positive enriched environment.  The mice weren’t necessarily addicts after all.¹

So the question I pose to the individuals in my office is, “What type of cage do you have yourself trapped in that necessitates coming home every night and self medicating with alcohol?” “What can you do to enrich your life holistically so that you can transform the behavior patterns that are not working for your health?” “Is there something other than alcohol like food, pornography, gossip and trashy media, Facebook, etc., that you are using as a coping mechanism to escape an environment you have created?” “What can you do today to change your environment or the behaviors you are using to improve your health holistically?”

These questions do not have a simple answer. What is required is a willingness to ask them, honestly evaluate the situation, and then create a plan to liberate oneself from the unhealthy patterns. A plan and a team are vital to success in this journey. If you think this dynamic may apply to you, please reach out to a Naturopathic Physician in your community and begin to take the first steps towards health.

~Dr. Swanz

Swanz_headshot_revisedDr. Peter Swanz received his Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine Degree from the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, AZ.

Dr. Swanz was awarded the prestigious Daphne Blayden award for his commitment to Naturopathic Medicine,  Academic Excellence, Compassion, Perseverance, a Loving Sense of Humor and a Positive, Supportive Outlook by his colleagues and staff at SCNM.

He is a Board Certified Naturopathic Physician with advanced training in classical homeopathy and nutrition. Dr. Swanz is a Fellow of the Homeopathic Association of the Naturopathic Physicians. He currently supports individuals on the journey to health through his Vital Force Naturopathy practice, integrating the best of his conventional and holistic medical training. Dr. Swanz specializes in homeopathy, pediatrics and family medicine.  He is passionate about healing and is driven by the desire to see all people be the most healthy individual they can be.


  1. Solinas et al. From the Cover: Reversal of cocaine addiction by environmental enrichment. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2008; 105 (44): 17145 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0806889105
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