Biochemistry Of Addiction, Depression And More


By Rev. Suka Chapel-Horst, PhD, RN, QMHP


SukaI first realized I was different when I arrived in kindergarten. Growing up, being different was painful and lonely. When I became an RN at age 38, so I could support my children following a divorce, I quickly caught on to the wide gap between the medical establishment and my belief system.


The first inkling came as a new nurse working on a mental health unit. In those days people stayed on these units for up to three months thanks to generous insurance coverage. I had gotten to know a woman whose physician husband had placed her on our unit many times for depression. After her release she would be readmitted within another few months for another bout of depression. After many discussions, I introduced her to the concept of positive thinking, hardly considered medically therapeutic for clinical depression. She bought a set of cassette tapes on affirmations from me. A year later I got a telephone call from the former patient. She had divorced her husband, moved to another state, successfully returned to her field of journalism, found a positive thinking church, and was completely happy and free of all depression. She asked to meet me for lunch and presented me with a handwoven Navajo rug filled with colorful birds. It hangs over my desk to this day. And that was only the beginning.


As I continued my personal exploration of all things spiritual: retreats, conferences, books, and eventually going to an esoteric wisdom school, or seminary, where I studied ancient texts, Eastern religions, and partook of many healing energy modalities, I moved farther and farther from mainstream medical and psychiatric thinking. I quit nursing forever, many times, like the smoker who’s an expert in repeated quitting, only to return to it when I needed a dependable income.


I began teaching and speaking on personal and spiritual growth, eventually becoming a national speaker and trainer. It was in the late 1980’s that I discovered a book on orthomolecular medicine. I immediately recognized this as the path I was meant to follow. Unlike traditional allopathic medicine that focuses on diagnoses, prescriptions, and surgery based upon disease labels, orthomolecular medicine looks for the underlying biochemical cause of symptoms. Treatment consists of restoring imbalanced body chemistry to normal using the natural nutrients that are the body’s building blocks.


I had briefly worked for NutriSystem, gone to Weight Watchers, and checked out TOPS and just as quickly lost interest in them. Not that they didn’t have value. I just got bored and lazy. Then synergy put the book Seven Weeks to Sobriety by Joan Mathews Larson, PhD, into my hands. Here were answers about brain biochemistry and the methods and formulas for recovery from alcoholism and from aches and pains, insomnia, anxiety, obsessions, lack of motivation and energy, depression, suicidal thoughts, poor focus and concentration, and more.


Based upon her nine years of research and experience getting an 85% recovery rate with alcoholism, I created a program called Peers Optimal Health and opened five centers in Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN. Dr. Keith Sehnert, the medical director for Joan’s Health Recovery Center became my medical adviser as well. Allergies were still considered outside the box. Candida was a joke, not real.


My program was “far out,” yet people flocked to it usually hoping for weight loss. They immediately discovered that the program was about total health, with their weight normalizing naturally as they worked the program. It included sugar reduction, healthy nutrition, nutrient formulas that were far above the RDA (Ridiculous Daily Allotment), movement, stress reduction techniques, and lots of fun. The results were as expected. Weight loss or gain as needed, blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar normalized. Arthritis pain gone. Candida repaired. Allergies dealt with. Fibromyalgia pain reduced to low levels. Colitis and irritable bowel syndrome under control. Relief from depression, insomnia, moodiness, and irritability. Focus, concentration, and memory improved.


The program was a huge success, but I had to close it down only three years later. My grandson received a diagnosis of cancer and was given four weeks to live. He was eleven months old. I moved to Boulder, Colorado to take care of my daughter and her son who, by the way, is now a handsome, healthy young man of 21. It was necessary for me to return to nursing in mental health hospitals and residential treatment homes to pay the bills.


Two years later, in 1996, the three of us moved to Charlotte, North Carolina where I became the nursing supervisor to over 100 teenagers who were incarcerated in a locked treatment facility and group homes due to having criminal records and oppositional defiant disorders. In 2004 I moved to the Asheville area. For two years I was a nurse in the Buncombe County Jail and Hendersonville County Jail, while also working in a state facility for alcohol rehabilitation. It was the next job that solidified my frustration with allopathic medicine and took me over the top.


I went to work in a hospital detox unit. Prescription meds made the patients lazy and dopy. They had access to cola, candy, coffee, sugar, sugar, and sugar. The same patients returned over and over again. I was seething inside. The national recovery rate was 18.2%, yet, with the proper education and nutrient therapy, the recovery rate was as high as 85%. So, in 2010 I left the hospital and launched ARISE Alcohol Recovery LLC.


Since the early 1980’s we have learned so much more about the biochemistry of the brain. Even the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) announced in 2011 that all addictions are the result of brain chemistry imbalances. Kenneth Blum, PhD, a psychopharmacologist, gave it a name. Called Reward Deficiency Syndrome, it is the underlying cause of addictions, chronic depression, Tourettes Syndrome, PTSD, ADD/ADHD and other emotional and mental illnesses.


It’s interesting to note that before he died in 1939, Sigmund Freud said that “Psychology has its limits. Someday biochemistry would provide the solution for mental illnesses.”


In 1980 Joan Mathews Larson, PhD, pulled together the research from Abram Hoffer, MD and biochemist, Carl Pfeiffer, PhD, MD, and others to begin her experiential research and successful alcohol recovery program. Others have taken up the flag. Leaders in the field such as Hyla Cass, MD, Julia Ross, MA, Barbara Stitt, PhD, Christina Veselak, LCSW, Burton Goldberg – the voice of Alternative Medicine, and others became my mentors when I was elected to the Board of Directors of Alliance for Addiction Solutions, an international research and educational organization focusing on drug free recovery.


The key lies in the use of amino acids and healthy nutrition to rebalance brain chemistry. In the case of addictions, depression, and mental illness, there is a deficiency in one or more of the brain’s messenger chemicals, called neurotransmitters. (There are other contributors including hormonal imbalances, allergies, candida, leaky gut, and malnutrition.) By restoring the neurotransmitter levels to normal, symptoms disappear, naturally.


Amino acids are the components of proteins. They are what the brain is made of. Vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, trace minerals and enzymes are necessary for the amino acids to do their work, hence the need for a sound supplement program. Additionally, malnutrition has to be addressed. Hypoglycemia is a big problem and a contributor to depression and even suicidal thinking.


The GOOD NEWS is that optimal health, recovery from addictions, which include shopping, gambling, over-working, food, and more is possible when the neurotransmitters and malnutrition are addressed. As far back at the 1960’s it was discovered that what is now called bipolar disorder and schizophrenia responded to nutritional approaches, as well.


Pharmaceuticals? For sure, they are sometimes life saving and sometimes disease preventing. However, for many conditions, especially mental and emotional, a little dab, or none at all, will do ya when nutrient therapy is applied.


I couldn’t say “no” to the successes I was seeing with this approach. I developed two more programs. Brainworks Recovery helps people with mood disorders, from mild to more, recover naturally. Brainworks Alcohol Recovery offers DO-IT-YOURSELF alcohol recovery programs for the functional alcoholic, who may be also using marijuana and usually tobacco, to recover in the privacy of their home at affordable costs. ARISE Alcohol Recovery offers a residential Aftercare Program as well.


Miracles happen. When I officially began the ARISE program in February of 2010, it was difficult to get attention for my work. People were not beating the doors down for treatment as I had hoped. I began to get the strong feeling that I needed male energy. I had been single for 12 years and enjoyed it immensely. But now, I knew that a supportive partner would make a huge difference in moving the program forward, as well as being a life partner.


In December of that year David came into my life. I had just moved into a new home and he came to remodel it. He not only made the home beautiful, he became a permanent fixture in the home and in my life. We were married in May of 2011. Our coming together was made in heaven. He had a background in addictions. Without David the programs would not have developed and progressed as they have. (Soul mates can appear at any age. Don’t give up if you are holding the vision and desire for one to come into your life.)


Now, David and I, with our Pomeranian Peekaboo, travel in our motorhome throughout the country giving talks and trainings to educate both the public and healthcare professionals about this work.


There is an old saying about the response to new, far out, cutting edge ideas. “First they ignore it, then they laugh at it, then they get angry about it, then the idea is accepted as having always been true.”


For me, retirement is out of the question. I intend to spend the last quarter of my 100 years, as always, “on the cutting edge” researching and educating us all on the natural healing ability of the body and about how to maintain wellness joyfully. Let the ignorance, the laughter, and the anger melt away, and let the truth prevail.



Suka Chapel-Horst, PhD, RN, QMHP is the author of The NEW Alcoholism Story Everyone Needs to Know, Natural Relief from Moods and Depression, and “Why Do I Feel This Way?” – a self-testing manual, and several CD’s. All are available on her web sites. The book The NEW Alcoholism Story Everyone Needs to Know is also available at and on Kindle. Dr. Suka can be reached at 417-380-3254., and

Sandi Tomlin-Sutker
Written by Sandi Tomlin-Sutker