EP73 Testing Genetics & Biochemical Pathways Leads To Individual Treatment Rather Than A One Size Fits All Approach With Dr. Evelyn Higgins

Living While Loving Your Child Through Addiction
Living While Loving Your Child Through Addiction
EP73 Testing Genetics & Biochemical Pathways Leads To Individual Treatment Rather Than A One Size Fits All Approach With Dr. Evelyn Higgins

Addiction is influenced by bio-psycho-social factors, yet biology has been mostly left out of treatment considerations – until now. Dr Evelyn Higgins from Wired For Addiction® created a genetic test that measures brain chemicals, hormones, and specific genes linked to risk taking, impulse control, addiction, depression, and anxiety. Measuring those risk factors takes the guesswork out of treatment and make it specific to each person’s individual needs.

In this episode you will learn:

How the Wired For Addiction genetic test works

How the results of the test are used to form an individualized holistic approach to treatment

How our environment impacts our genetic expression


Find out more about Wired For Addition:

Website https://www.wiredforaddiction.com/


Resources From Heather Ross Coaching

NEW GUIDE ABOUT ENABLING – If you’ve ever worried about enabling, this guide is for you! https://heatherrosscoaching.com/perspective-about-enabling/

GROUP COACHING PROGRAM – Join the waitlist – New Group Starting soon! Be the first to get details. https://heatherrosscoaching.com/peace-of-mind-community/

If you want coaching about your child’s addiction or anything else Sign up for a 45 minute $17 call with me using the link below


There’s a new parent support group in Town. Use the link below to find out about the Invitation to Change support group Heather is hosting.

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This transcript has not been formatted or edited.


I’m Heather after many wasted years, trying outdated, approaches to my daughter’s addiction, that felt wrong to me harmed.

Our relationship and didn’t help my daughter.

I finally found an effective evidence-based approach.


That repair my relationship with her helped me.

Create my own peace of mind and made me an ally in my daughter’s recovery.

I teach you a loving and compassionate approach to help you encourage change.

And create connection addiction impacts the entire family system.


Family recovery is the answer.



I just got done recording today’s episode with dr.

Evelyn Higgins from wired for addiction and I’m feeling all the feelings.


One is excitement that I get to share about the genetic test that dr.

Higgins created.

And I would be first in line if I could do this test with Ileana, I’m hopeful that this test Up to change all of the stigmas about addiction and really changes people’s experience.


Another feeling I’m experiencing is grief that I can’t get the test for how Anna, which often comes up when I learn something new.

I’m also feeling grateful that as I talk to dr.


I was reminded that I did the best I could with the information that was available to me at the time I got helana pharmacology.


Genomic test I think I’m saying that right could be wrong it’s a big word but tells which medications are most likely to work for a depression anxiety, ADHD and other psychiatric conditions.

So it gives you like a red category for things you shouldn’t agreeing category for things that are most likely to work and yellow.


You know, like to be cautious with and that’s instead of taking the approach to just trying things and seeing what works but there’s Times that I feel inadequate when I’m around parents that found craft right away or other supports faster than I did.


Like my brain always tells me that I should have figured things out faster, but I have to override that self-judgment and reframe my thinking to acknowledge that things have changed in the last 10 years.

And I have to have compassion for myself that this journey has been really hard.


Hard, and not turned out like I planned.

And also appreciate times like this where I’m reminded how hard I did work and all the research that I did do to find a test where we could find out what medications would be most helpful for her.


So, my guest today, dr.

Evelyn Higgins, is the founder and CEO of wired for addiction.

She is recognized as an international expert in the epidemiology of addiction as a certified addictionologist, Diplomat of the American College of addiction, ology and compulsive disorders.


And a diplomat of the American Board of disability analysts specializing in pain management.

It dr.

Higgins has, had the honor of advising the US Surgeon General producing and hosting a Gracie award-winning, nationally, syndicated health, and wellness, radio program, and serving as a 1996 Olympic team, doctor and Olympic torch Bearer with 35 years in clinical practice, dr.


Higgins has designated over 16 years to research and Moment in the science of addiction recovery, at edx speaker, panelist at the 2022, International Society of substance use professionals annual conference in Abu Dhabi United Arab Emirates the 2022, International gambling conference and Auckland New Zealand and a 2021 nominee for modern Healthcare is top 25, innovators in healthcare.


Dr. Higgins finds herself at the Nexus of epigenetics Neuroscience and addiction.

I hope you enjoy the episode.

Okay, one more quick thing before the episode starts, if you ever worry about enabling, which I hear that word all the time.


So many parents are worried about it.

I made a guide for you.

This guide will give you a new relationship with enabling.

It will help you be confident in yourself and your decisions.

Also, it will give you three science back ways to To help your child.


So the link for the guide is going to be in the show notes today.

So, thank you for being on the podcast today, dr.

Higgins my pleasure.

Heather, thank you for having me.

Let’s start with you telling us a little bit about your background and how you came up with the idea for the wired for addiction custom.


Genetic tests sure like anything in life.

It was not a direct path. 34 35 years ago I was practicing pain management and Integrative Medicine in the rural area and I was seeing people Not necessarily at that time, becoming addicted but becoming dependent on pain meds.


And I was seeing a one-size-fits-all everybody that comes in here you go, you get the same thing, 20 years later, I’m practicing in an urban area, I’m seeing the same thing, but I’m seeing the rates of addiction rather than dependence, really start to kick up and it’s still the same thing.


Try this.

Try that with no Rhyme or Reason that was my professional part of why Why I wanted to look at doing things differently. 16 years ago, I started using neurotransmitters and hormones in my practice and then it wasn’t until the tail end of 2015.


That the ability to look at the genetic.

What we call Snips are single nucleotide polymorphisms became available.

So this was 16 years of R&D to get to the point where we are today.

The other reason the other layer of my why was because I Married an alcoholic.


Actually a man that had several addictions and we had a child together and a year.

After she was born, we found out that he was adopted so now I needed to know.

Okay, what’s the health history here?

What do we know and we had absolutely no information.


So it was a combination of all of that but then I got to the point of, you know, every other area of healthcare has used technology to advance helping people and this area we were just stuck.

In as if it was 1970 1950.


Doing the same thing over and over again?

Not getting the results.

You know, in fact have we gotten better results, pretty probably you.

And I would not even be having this conversation today because it would be no reason for me to look into.

How do we do more with this?

How do we doing advanced technology into the S?


This aspect of healthcare, it’s still that stigma of.

Hey you got yourself here.

Get yourself out.

What somebody has diabetes.

Why don’t we say that to them?

Why are you so weak?

Just stop eating.

But with addictions, we have this totally different mindset and to me in 2023 with what’s available, we should be able to advance and there shouldn’t be a disparity in health care equity.


And that’s what we’re really looking at.

Yeah, I’m really feeling that as a mom of a child that struggled with substance use disorder and the one-size-fits-all approach that we got and the Stig Matai, z’d belief system of a lot of people that are supposed to be helping that really don’t have a better way to help.


Like that will always weigh heavy on my heart that my daughter passed away from not getting the help that she needed.

So that’s why I when I heard about this I was like, oh my gosh, I have to share this with everybody because I think it’s so important and I don’t know why somebody didn’t do it sooner.


So right.


It’s kind of like once it’s there.

It’s the wow.

Why did we wait till now to do it?

But In fairness the we look at 85 different biomarkers.

So it wasn’t until that that word I used was single nucleotide polymorphisms or Snips that wasn’t available for us to measure in the lab until 2015.


Then we had covid we could say that we kind of halted everything else, but there’s no more excuses and I am so sorry for your loss.

I can’t imagine.

In the pain that you experience.

Thank you.

Yeah, yeah.

Those stairs things in life.

There’s no words for that one yet.


Yeah, thank you.

So, can you tell us more about the test and how it works?

What you’re testing for?


So as I said, 85 different biomarkers, starting with neurotransmitters, which are brain, chemicals, and hormones.

So brain, chemicals, things, like serotonin, dopamine epinephrine, norepinephrine, gavin.porter, Acid phenol.


It’s allowed me all those good guys and then hormone stress hormones, sex hormones and then these genetic polymorphisms.

So, it’s a combination of all of that.

There’s not one in, it’s how all of these interact within the individual and then how the environment plays out to turn those genes on or turn those genes off and see that behavior.


And that’s the hole.

Field of epigenetics, which is to me the most exciting part of what’s happening in science today because this is really one of somebody understands that and says, wait a minute, you can turn a gene on or turn engine off.

You get your jeans when you’re born.


Here they are, here’s a cards play them out, right?

But it’s the our interaction with the environment and then how we respond to that, how our body responds to that is what leads to the expression of the So, if somebody says, you know, I’ve never seen this behavior in my daughter, my son and all of a sudden it at 20 years old, I have a different human being living in my house.


All right, well, that DNA was always there.

Those jeans were always there, but it’s whatever is gone on in the environment that has changed.

How those genes Express themselves, and that’s where we see things that are called.

The signs were there aberrant Behavior, but all that means, Ins is things like risk-taking impulse.


Control addiction, anxiety, depression.

That’s all the error in the coding acting out and expressing itself in a different way and that’s why we look at that whole package.

So genetic polymorphism, what can you what does that word mean?


It means simply it’s an error in the coating, right?

So and there’s a gene comes in a pair.

So there’s there’s two in there and it can be like don’t want to use so many science words that you listen to say, oh my gosh that I can understand this, it just has a different language.


So there’s a pair.

If one in the pair is affected, that’s called a heterozygous result.

It Bowls in the pair are affected.

That’s called the homeless rate Vegas result.

So we can look at all this and see.


Is there one of the pair affected both of the pair affected in what area?


And what is that going to do to the rest of the body?

And how How is it going to affect the outcome?


And so, you’re not saying that there’s an addiction Gene, but just that there’s possible epigenetic modifications in any of our genes, correct, correct?


So let’s say like one of the genes that we look at is the Gad one gene, so glutamic acid decarboxylase, right?

So it’s an enzyme that’s responsible for Conversion of glutamic acid which is a stimulant to our nervous system to Gaba which is a calming to our nervous system.


And if we have a deficiency or a polymorphism in this enzyme, we get things like the half glass empty syndrome.

So somebody that’s always saying somebody else says, oh my gosh, what a day.

It was fabulous that personal say, yeah, but that thing happened, and that’s all that they can see.


So if somebody’s got this, are they going to be reaching Reaching outside of themselves to find pleasure from somewhere else, probably sell, right?

Or a comt gene, which catecholamine methyltransferase.


This makes for prolonged anxiety or prolonged depression in an individual.

They just can’t kick it where somebody’s hanging out with their buddy and they’re like, get over it and that person just can’t get over it.

So, we measure those things and then we look at the biochemical Pathways and say, okay, where do We need to support instead of what we started the conversation with one size, fits all, there you go.


So we’ve got what seven and a half billion people in the world with seven and a half billion different DNA’s from yet.

We do the same thing for everybody.

That would be the definition of insanity right now.

There’s nothing else that that there’s that like kind of factory processing, right?


Like, I had breast cancer, I had my own unique treatment, right?

And, which was also, Oh, included a look at my genetics, quite extensively.

I had a genetic counselor.

Everything else?

I had this full picture help.

That’s why, as soon as I heard about this, I was like, oh my gosh, that makes sense.


Because I back in 2015, I got my daughter tested for the MTHFR gene mutation.

But that was the only thing I could get her tested for it the time.

So what causes these modifications?


Are there changes in their genetic expression.

And okay.

So like I said, you’re born with you DNA.

Here it is, but then when you are interacting with the environment, are their stressors, are there things that have happened in this individuals life that then that’s going to modify the expression of where we end up.


That’s when I use the example of someone, a parent says, I’ve never seen this behavior in my child, they turn 20 or whatever age and boom, were they turned 12 or 15 hormones kicked in how did those hormones affect everything else?

Else that was going on within that individual.


So it’s how we’re interacting with everything around us in our environment.

That’s so interesting.

You say that because that was what I noticed, with my daughter, like a big change, when the hormones kicked in and she was born with, she actually was born dead, lack of oxygen because I had a, My Placenta ruptured.


So I dread that, there’s not a lot of study on it, but that possibly, there can be some emotional problems with those kids.

And they’re fine up until their hormones kick in.

So it’s interesting that that was one of the things that you mentioned.

So this is just I think could be so valuable and any situation.



So these.

So when you notice these changes in gene expression after somebody gets this test then what do you do with that information?

Can these can there be changes or repairs?

Great question.


And that’s the exciting part of all this.


That’s it’s they can change.

They can repair.

And that’s when we look at the biochemical Pathways, someone we get the results of someone’s lab tests back.

We’re looking at all of 85 of these biomarkers.

And then, what do we need to do to support each one of these particular biomarkers and then understanding, now having a better picture of how that person thinks, so, how they interact out in the world.


Then you can look at the lifestyle parts of that person, you know, maybe with Person that always sees the glass half empty, it would be working on those ants.

Those autonomic negative thoughts, right?

Every time you have one of those and if we all stop and think even if that’s not an issue for us we stop and think how many times a day does that come into your mind, an automatic, just a boom natural because you were programmed from something that’s gone on that way or the negative self-talk or those kind of things but there’s so many there’s teaching someone to meditate all of those parts that slow.


Down our brains, to where we start to understand ourselves.

Those are all the really likes, very simplistic Parts, the lifestyle Parts, the hard parts are that physiology.

Looking at all of these biomarkers.

Then also we do another lab test called the pharmacogenomic lab tests, which takes that individuals DNA and says, what would be the best Pharmaceuticals for them?


The safest most cautionary, you know, we see, A lot of patients with adverse effects that started their downhill decline from another medication.

And oftentimes we see that’s on the list of that individual should never take.


So there’s so many advancements here.


And that’s the thing to get people to understand that there really is, and a lot of Physicians aren’t even aware, because it’s not in their toolbox.

So at the consumer to be armed with that information is really, really, really powerful.


In fact, in my I Ted Talk, I frame it around.

What if in your use you knew what your DNA was made up of you knew what your physiology was when you play out your life differently?

All right, we all have free will, but if you knew that, would you make different choices?


And that’s the power of this.

And I’m hoping people can start to understand all of our families.

We come with something, it might be cardiac disease.

Cancers mental health, addiction, whatever the case may be.

But If you know that you can then choose to make whatever choices we still have free will.


But what choices are you going to make armed with that information?

Yeah, I’m with choices.

We make as parents to educate ourselves earlier to start supporting our kids before they’re having a problem because we’ll know the possibility of what problems are going to come up.


So instead of like for me when my daughter was really struggling with substance use disorder, I’m behind on this process now and her addiction is changing faster than I can learn.

And so just having that advantage of knowing ahead of time of just lifestyle changes that you could start with and that test that you mentioned.


I can’t remember what you said that it was called but the one that tells what medications are best for you pharmacogenomics.

Okay, yeah, we did that as well and I like we got this like Print out saying, like, these are, like, Greenlight categories.


She should never take these.

And the, I mean, she’s are the most likely to be helpful.

And then there was a red light ones that you should not try, and then kind of the yellow, like be cautious.

And I had to ask so many doctors in a lot of, like, even psychiatrist were like, well, we’ll just trial and error.


I’m like, well, why does she have to suffer for months or even years while you try to figure out what works?

And when there’s this Big test.

You can take right?

It makes so much of a difference and I can’t like knowing when somebody wants to feel better course, they’re going to turn to a substance.


If it’s going to take six months or a year or longer to figure out what works for them.


So often we find, it’s either a diagnosed condition, an undiagnosed condition or a trauma, or all of them could be diagnosed but not being treated correctly.


If you’re not getting the right meds or whatever support that it is, that That individual needs.

They are going to go outside of themselves to try to self-medicate and the first thing that comes along.

That’s that.

Oh that feels good.

I mean every day we talk to people that say I started say drinking when I was 8 years old, 8 years old I was on the beach with my dad, he was surfing and he said, hold this I remember that first step and it was a wow and this this gentleman has a history of trauma and abuse.


You sand, everything that would make sense to say, I now feel anesthetized, my going to go back, I don’t feel anymore, I love it.

I don’t feel, I’m going to go back and try that again, even if there aren’t problems in an individual, especially teenagers, when I talk to them after they get their results on like.


So here’s the deal.

After school kids are going to say, hey we got a great idea.

We’re going to go try this and you’re one of the group you go ahead and try it.

You can’t Do it because the next day you’re going to want to do that.


Same thing.

When your buddy say no, we’re cool.

We’re going to do something else today.

You’re no.

No, I really want to do this.

Other feels good.

You don’t get that chance.


So that first time is different for every single person.




Know, anyone shares that first time they’re always you can feel it with them when they’re sharing.

What that first time was like because it hit every one of these things that were talking about.

And it worked until it didn’t work, right?


Yeah, it’s so powerful to know.

So going back to aberrant.

Behaviors, can we talk a little bit about what?

Those are little more about those and like how environment can impact them, sure.

So things like, you know, that the examples I use for risk for aberrant Behavior.


Risk taking impulse control, we always see these things with addiction addiction itself, anxiety, depression.

So, Often almost all of the time.

There’s a co-occurring disorder in that individual that isn’t being treated to help them and that person is going to reach out.


Okay, what can I do?

What makes me feel better in that moment and that’s the part where, when we identify these biomarkers, we already pretty much have a really good idea of what that person is either already doing or is going to do so we cut all that off at the pass.


Past and they understand that and then start to employ other things in your life rather than going with your buddies, who want to go get high.

Well, this is going to make you feel good and it’s this Behavior.

So to me, when someone understands this urea ball of it, that’s how my mind operates.



I don’t have to understand everything, but if I can understand the theory, then I can figure it out and then I’m still making my choice at the end of it, but I can make a real The educated choice if I understand the theory behind something.

Yeah, so could anybody develop aberrant behaviors under the right conditions?


Like that’s possible for any of us.

Any person, you have these particular biomarkers.

Sure, if you don’t, that may not be your go-to.

It may be something else.

That makes you get that feeling that you’re after.

Yeah, I can only imagine how it would feel if I I was struggling and then I got this genetic test that just kind of said like, this is just what was inevitable for you with your life circumstances, right?


Like then it no longer.

There’s the question of morality or weakness, or it’s all that’s just all gone.

It’s I can’t even imagine how good that would feel bingo.

So often header people start crying in a good way.

Yeah, yours.


Oh my gosh, you get it now.

You understand me and there’s it gets rid of the stigma, their morality, it’s not a moral flaw, it’s a disease, you know?

And all of a sudden it’s like, whoa, you understand yourself and your family.


The people in your life understand and now there’s a game plan, there’s a blueprint but the that kind of feeling of wow, A lot of times people are in tears and again edit.


So So how do you see this changing stigma about addiction in the future of how we treat addiction or even think about it?


Because now it’s identifiable.

So before as it’s people I thought, you know.

Why is it with an addiction?

Somebody said, yeah, I don’t think that’s the way to do it.

If someone needs a heart transplant, do we say, I don’t think that’s the way to do it.

Why is it okay with, in this field of Health that were still allowed to think this way?


It’s beyond reason, right?

So We identify and that’s what we do with wired for addiction.

We identify we isolate and we measure.

So it’s here, it’s objective information.

We work a lot with in the legal system to and when judges get this report, they’re actually really happy because they can make a decision based on biomarkers data points, objective information, rather than somebody subjective report of Year old came into my office unkept, this that, and the other thing, you know, bad attitude, that’s all subjective.


That’s your interpretation of that individual.

We have data points and that jug is like I can make a decision based on objective information.

Makes their job easier.


It takes the jet like the the Judgment out of eggs.



And then it makes everything I’m treatment Centric instead of punishment, Centric for that individual.

And then regardless of what somebody’s belief system is politically or anything else.

All of society loses at the end.


If somebody comes out from a time that they’ve been jailed, if they didn’t have mental problems, when they would end, they certainly would when they leave and then they’re back in society.

All of society’s of trouble, it just makes so much sense.

Yeah it does.


I mean jail It definitely is not treatment, it doesn’t it does not help with whatever made.

Somebody want to use in the first place.

That’s why people are so likely to overdose right after they get out of prison.




So, how can somebody combine this test along with working with a counselor or treatment or something else?


And that’s exactly the way to do it.

You know, if you’re working The counselor a coach like yourself a treatment center.


Your find yourself within the legal system, we work with all of those different people being a counselor and you know, whomever reach out to us.

Tell us, you’re interested.

We’ll say perfect.

Here’s how we do it.

We drop ship the lab kits to the patient even if using the jail example.


Again, if even if they’re incarcerated, we drop ship, the lab sent samples, do it and then we want you to continue working with your counselor, your You pissed your coach whomever because there still has to be that psychosocial.

So right we know addiction is a biopsychosocial disease only we haven’t been looking at the bio part.


We’ve been looking at the psychosocial and putting it on the individual whereas we have to have that behavior modification.

We have to have that talk it through, but we have to identify where physiologically we have problems now and that would make it easier even to focus.


Mike what their therapist works on with them, right, are gay, right?

Yeah, the just a couple of jeans that I talked about, you say, wow.

Okay, so they can bounce back from anxiety and depression, this makes so much sense about what we talked about every week.


Okay, let’s focus in there and say this is actually what’s going on in your physiology.

So what would be ways that we can turn this off?

Obviously, you’re doing your protocol that was created as a result of the biomarker, but if we NG to lessen that anxiety, depression rips.


Really focus on what makes you bring it down and calm your mind.

What is that for that individual?


And then added the right medication.

Say if they were taking an SSRI but they needed an ndr i– instead like I can’t tell you the amount of times patient will come to us and they’ve been on an SSRI for 15-20 years, which first off those drugs will never meant for an individual to be on for that long.


They were meant to work in acute situations not cry. 15, 20 years and their serotonin is in the tank.

So, it’s like, first off that was never doing any good for you and there’s a side effect to everything.

So, your kidneys, your liver, your be a bladder, everything had to process this to no avail because from the beginning, you were night treated the way you were supposed to be and what happens to an individual emotionally and mentally.


If you’ve done me, well, let’s try it to this SSRI.

Let’s have it, let’s double it.


Let’s do this.

Let’s do that.

You start to think it’s you you don’t want to be better and you start to own that and that’s not the case.

It hasn’t been identified of what’s going on with you from a physiological aspect and then is a loved one.


Even having that understanding May would make you able to be so much more compassionate and know how to support them and not constantly questioning.

Are they serious about recovery?

Do they want it enough?

It’s like know.


They haven’t been getting the help that they need.

So many questions answered.

I love this.

So, is it a cheek swab?

How is the test done?

Sure, it’s a cheek.

There’s two neurotransmitter portion of things saliva urine, because we’re looking at not what circulating, but W bioavailable and breaking down.


So your body we know can use these and then they snip portion of it is a cheek swab and all that information together gives us our 85 biomarker.

Oops, so if somebody wants to get this test for themselves that’s listening or their loved one, how do they go about that Source?


Our website is wired for addiction.

All spelled out wired for addiction.com.

Go on there.

We even offer a 15 minute complimentary consultation with one of our clinicians to see if this is something for you because everybody’s got a different story of what gets them to that place of addiction.


So, share your story.

What have you done?

So far and then we can go from there.

Like I said, we work with people from all over the world so we drop ship the lab kits as I said earlier even to a prison.

So wherever that person is that’s where we start with them.


And we work with someone over a six-month period of time.

So we create that report that protocol and then we stay with them during that period of time, to make sure everything that we’re expecting to see is happening.

So, there’s two parts to it.

There’s the actually, the test First, and then you guys follow up and make sure that they’re getting the support and help that they need.


And then even sharing that information with the therapist with the clinician with a coach is, as you said, helps that clinicians, say, wow.


Here’s what we really need to focus on and here’s why such a bigger understanding them.

Yeah, yeah.


Well thank you so much for just even your Having this in your heart to do it and then following through on doing it, I am so grateful to get to share this with the audience because I think that it’s it just takes out all the guesswork.


And I think we really needed something to come into like what our capabilities are hard today to be able to support somebody who’s struggling with substance use disorder because we’re so far behind in that.

And I think that this can really like I should be there in a second, having my daughter do this, if I could.


So I really thank you for doing this work.

And all of the people that you’re going to help with it.

Thank you, heather.

I thank you for the work that you do is so important.

Thank you.

Thank you for listening to this episode.


If you want to learn more about my work, go to Heather.

Ross coaching.com if you want to help other parents who are struggling with a child’s addiction, you can do it two different ways.

First, you can share the podcast with them directly or you can share it on your social media second.


You can leave a review, talk to you next week.

Thank you for listening to this episode.

If you want to learn more about my work, go to Heather.

Ross coaching.com if you want to help other parents who are struggling with a child’s addiction, you can do it two different ways.

First, you can share the podcast with them directly or you can share it on your social media second.

You can leave a review, talk to you next week.