Not long after I graduated from college, in 1971, I was hired to work as a roofer on a job in Bloomington, Illinois as a repair laborer, actually on the State Farm Building.
The company doing the work was from Detroit, Mi. and one of my co-workers was at that time about 40 years old, and he loved his pot.
Being a child of the 1960's, I thought pot smoking was pretty new, but this man had been using dope since the 1940's, which was an eye opener to me.
And then later on, I began to become a little more aware of how humans had used mind altering substances in various religious and mystical traditions, which were very different than how drugs are used on the streets of the U.S., to alter mood.
There are other strands to the history of drug use, but somehow it got criminalized and stigamtized and treatment centers emerged across the land in the 1960's, as a result of the Great Society Lighthouse grants, part of Lyndon Johnson's agenda after the assasination of John Kennedy.
Those treatment centers were basically places to detoxify, or get sober, and begin an educational and 12 step path if you cared to.
Not too long after that research began to provide some discrimination for the workers in the centers.
For example, codependency became a watchword for a number of years, and I still speak to my discoveries about my family of origin and how my parents alcoholism impacted my life in my domestic violence groups now.
Dual diagnosis was and is important, because some folks self-medicate mental health issues with recreational chemicals.
As MADD became a factor in the DUI field, research described a certain population of folks who would drive under the influence no matter what the consequence, and how do you legislate against those folks?
And now, almost 30 years after my first exposure to the field, brain imaging is guiding our increasing knowledge about treatment for drug abuse.
Of course, there is one constant in the treatment field, and that is the 12 Step and 12 Tradition programs, which preceded all the research and still inform it, and was part of all those initial attempts at treatment for drug abuse.
The 12 Step Programs began to develop in the mid 1930's and actually are still evolving in response to all the changes in the area of treatment.
The 12 step programs are not a treatment in the sense of a physician determining a pathogen and prescribing a medication.
The 12 steps are designed to open a connection between yourself and a higher power as you understand him or her, so that you can sustain a day by day reprieve from the compulsion to use.
The 12 steps involve faith, and action to serve the Higher Powers plan for you.
As recovery time lengthens though, you as a recovering person will probably find yourself trying out various tools and techniques that are treatments in inpatient or outpatient programs, like cognitive behavioral therapy or rational emotive therapy, designed to help you manage irrational thoughts in the case of REBT or automatic thoughts in the case of CBT.
Those tools will help you manage thoughts and feelings so that you feel ok, and can learn to adjust feelings and thoughts perhaps as rapidly as they happen, and perhaps you will take up meditative or mindfulness techniques too, in order to enhance your attention to cravings or stress.
Mindfulness can be attention to your breath, and feelings on a regular basis.
One tradition, Transcendental Meditation, prescribes twice daily practices of 20 minutes each, utilizing a mantra or phrase to focus your attention on.
We in the west love our technology, and a tool I have used with great success with anger management clients and domestic violence clients is HeartMath, a computerized biofeedback training that can have you making significant changes in your physiology in a heart beat in five to ten practices.
The heart has a very sophisticated nervous system all of its own, and the study of that nervous system, called neurocardiology, has revealed that the brain in the heart can learn on its own and make decisions about its activity. In other words, the heart regulates itself, and sends lots of information to the cranial brain about emotions. Call it heart intelligence, and I can learn to access the hearts affiliative and cooperative intelligence on demand with the emWave tool.
HeartMath fits very well with the 11th step of the 12 step programs, and moves me from a stress physiology to a meditative, mindful physiology in a heart beat, and any treatment for drug abuse is going to involve stress management, mindfulness, and meditation work, if the 12 steps are involved. Please see the link in the right side bar.
And these days, after George Bush's decade of the brain, there is some very exciting and hitherto unknown capacities of the human brain which need to be a part of any treatment for drug abuse.
Those capacities are neurogenesis and neuroplasticity, both of which can be encouraged and enhanced for increased brain fitness.
Neuroplasticity is the ability the brain has to rewire itself, based on what we are paying attention to.
For example, if I am working on creating some using thoughts, my brain will build drug using connections, and if my brain is attending to a step of the 12 step program, my brain will build circuits and connections about the steps, and the rewiring can happen in minutes.
If recovery is the direction you want your brain to be going in, then many of your thoughts need to be about recovery.
Neurogenesis is the growth of new brain cells on a daily basis, which your brain will do for you, if you keep the toxins and the stress hormones out of your brain. (See HeartMath above). Those new neurons will move into existing circuits if challenged by novel learning experiences.
Living sober can be an entirely novel learning experience, and discovering how to do that may be all the challenge your brain requires to utilize the days new neurons.
However, there are some computerized tools which help in the novel learning process.
Here is a link to a program I have used to make sure my 65 year old brain retains some of its youthful curiosity. The practices are easy and fit into a daily routine effectively, depending on which you have chose. Your treatment for drug abuse cannot go wrong with any of these.
This program is fun and once you get the hang of it, can be quite easy to practice frequently. I won't say addictive, but it can increase your IQ, which is part of the package one needs to bring to the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness.