Treatment for Drug Addiction

Treatment for drug addiction has become very specialized over the years.

Back in the days of the early Lighthouse grants, from Lyndon Johnson's Great Society, when treatment centers were becoming free standing, and there was not quite the large number of recreational substances available, for example, ecstasy had not been synthesized yet, folks just all got put together in a center and went through the same one size fits all treatment process.

There was education and 12 Step work and detox.

Go to meetings and listen to others discuss their experiences of the 12 Steps or 12 Traditions, and talk about yours. 

Develop a relationship with a sponsor, and read the Big Book of your program, and prepare to complete the action steps.

Perhaps go on a 12 step call or two, to carry the message to the still suffering alcoholic.

Get some phone numbers and call folks, those were and are very significant aspects of any treatment for drug addiction.

Not too many years later, the codependence concepts and processes emerged, led by folks like Sharon Wegscheider-Kruse, Claudia Black, Terry Gorski, and Robert Subby among others.

Then there were hospital based programs, and of course the insurance companies demanded things like intensive outpatient treatment, which was cheaper, and drug courts began to emerge, and research began to describe the population more accurately, and out of that research, which continues on, more specific treatments for drug addiction emerged. 

There were experiential treatments, like psychodrama, and holotropic breathwork, and medical models emerged.

Then along came the EEG biofeedback model developed by Eugene Peniston, called the Peniston Protocol.

Efforts to work with addicts suffering from dual addictions began, and drug courts started and continue.

Gender based programs are springing up now, because research is showing that folks get a better start in men or women only programs.

For example, research on the DUI population has revealed that there is a segment of that population which will drive under the influence no matter what the legal or personal consequence is.

But treatment for drug addiction no matter what the chemical, still always involves cognitive, physical, emotional, and spiritual interventions of some kind.

In fact, there are computer based programs for cognitive behavior therapy now in the addiction field, which are very interesting, just as there are computer based brain fitness programs.

All of those approaches are still utilizing some capacities of the human brain that have been revealed only in the last few years.

One of those capacities is neurogenesis. Any brain will grow new brain cells on a daily basis if it is not unduly filled with stress hormones or toxic substances. Stress hormones and ethyl alcohol, for example, will kill neuronal stem cells before we get a chance to cement them into existing neuronal networks, but the brain works really hard to create them anyway.

The other capacity of the human brain is neuroplasticity, or the ability of the brain to rewire itself, depending on what we are paying attention to.

I think any treatment program for addiction should emphasize that neuroplasticity or increased helpful brain connections based on what we are paying attention to will aid tremendously in the recovery process.

Those neuroplastic connections can happen in a matter of moments, according to Simon Evans,Ph.D. and Paul Burghardt,Ph.D., co-authors of Brainfit for Life

which is an excellent primer on what is necessary for brain health and fitness. 

(Wonder if they ever read William James, or Carl Jung, whose work was very important to the early days of AA?)

While they do not speak specifically to treatment for drug addiction, any kind of healing process or disease process involves the brain.

So we can talk a bit about the pillars of brain health, which are physical exercise, (or activity), nutrition, sleep, stress management, and novel or challenging learning experiences.

If my brain is healthy, then I will be able to make wiser choices in regards to recovery from drug addiction.

The most important pillar of brain fitness is physical exercise, which may conjure up images of having to lift many large heavy objects many times, and getting all sweaty.

While that kind of physical exercise will certain help the blood flow to the brain, physical activity, or doing more of what you are already doing, like walking, will increase blood flow to the brain in the earlier stages of treatment for drug addiction.

It is increased blood flow which enhances neurogenesis and neuroplasticity, and that can be accomplished doing some calesthenics in the basement using a model of 30 second intervals of an exercise, like jumping jacks, then running, or walking in place, then skipping rope, ect. for 10 minutes.

I guarantee you will be winded. That model is called High Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT, and the exercise gurus have refined it expertly.

If you are looking for a model, I like this one by Angie and Scott Tousignant. Actually, one of the side effects of regular exercise besides increased neuroplasticity and neurogenesis, is the production of endorphins, again in the brain, which leave us feeling relaxed and content. 

Please check out The Aesthetic Muscle Plan, and book, More Love, Less Fat, by Angie and Scott Tousignant. 

It is a relaxed and content which is better than any resulting from a recreational chemical.

Those endorphins follow exercise.

Of course, no treatment for drug addiction program is going to neglect nutrition.

Your recovery requires giving your body what it needs in terms of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, phytochemicals, glyconutrients, and omega 3 fatty acids for those recovering neurons in your head.

Your neurons need omega 3 for replacement parts if you will, as neurons are about 60% omega 3 fatty acid.

The best source of omega 3 is ocean going fish, which involves the risk of mercury poisoning, so you may need to consider a supplement. Make sure the supplement is processed to clean out the mercury also.

Here is a good Omega 3 supplement.

Besides nutrition and physical exercise, novel learning experiences are required for the brain to maximize neuroplasticity and neurogenesis.

That novel learning experience is usually described as learning a new language or learning a new musical instrument, both of which may be impractical for someong who is in treatment for drug addiction.

However, there are some computer based brain fitness programs well suited to enhance treatment.

The research on the first program, Mind Sparke Brain Fitness Pro, says that the more you practice the more you improve and the tool used to measure the improvement is an IQ test.

The practice involves a time commitment of 1/2 hour a day for 19 days, and even the most jittery detox client can begin in order to get the brain ciruits firing in sequence again.

On a more personal note;

Any program that works with the steps will speak at some point to the 11th step, which involves daily prayer and meditation, and there are some wonderful tools available now that help me drop into the prayerful physiology faster than I did back in the early days of my sobriety.

When I am in that deeply relaxed physiology, I am able to focus on and hear that deep inner wisdom which can guide me to my next learning experience.

One tool that has really magnified this ability for me and many others is HeartMath. I really suggest that you use this tool anytime anyplace. It is computerized, but once you learn it, you do not need to be at the computer to practice it. Just use your cue thought and your heart makes its beat coherent and you relax, and can say the Serenity Prayer, rather than blow up at your kids.

Check here for more information. Good luck to you.

HeartMath. Step Away from Stress and Find Ease

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Would you share your favorite gratitude story by clicking here? Your story may be just what another person needs to renew themselves.

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