Addiction is a significant problem for Americans. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 24.6 million Americans used illicit drugs in 2013 and one in ten were dependent on alcohol. Approximately 65% of those who did not struggle with an addiction, were negatively affected by a family member’s addiction.
Addiction is a chronic brain disease that causes a person to pathologically pursue reward or relief by using a substance or behavior. Their inability to abstain causes destructive consequences to their mental, physical and spiritual health, relationships, finances and life success.
Each person who struggles with addiction has unique needs and there is not a one treatment fits all remedy. A combination of treatments is the most effective recovery plan. The top nine treatments that have been shown to be effective include:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is based on the idea that a person’s thoughtscause their feelings and motivate their behaviors. Changing the way they think will change the way they feel, leading them to respond better, even if their situation does not change. In 2010 the National Institute of Health published a study showing that approximately 60% of individuals diagnosed with a substance use disorder were able to remain abstinent for 52 weeks with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
- Recovery Support Groups are based on people in the group supporting the common goal of abstinence from drugs and alcohol. Some recovery support groups include Alcoholics Anonymous or 12 step groups, SMART Recovery, Rational Recovery, Women for Sobriety, and Celebrate Recovery. These groups provide an opportunity to build healthy alliances and accountability. Research professor Dr. Scott Tonigan at the Center on Alcoholism, Substance Abuse, and Addictions says, “Having a group dynamic involved in your support system, is a critical piece of long-term recovery.”
- Mindfulness teaches people with a substance use disorder to create distance between their impulses and cravings, so they have a chance to change their behavior. Mindfulness is deliberately paying attention, non-judgmentally so they can be aware of what is present for them mentally and physically each moment. The National Center for Biotechnology Information published research in 2009 showing that Mindfulness interrupts the tendency to respond using maladaptive behaviors such as unhealthy substances.
- Meditation is when an individual shuts out the external world and brings his/her attention to his/her breath. During meditation, alpha brain wave activity increases creating a wakeful rest state. One of the techniques in meditation is to be able to allow thoughts, feelings and sensations to arise while maintaining a non-judgmental, detached attitude. This meditative practice decreases the effect ‘using thoughts’ have that can make a person who struggles with addiction vulnerable to relapse. Dr. David Simon, author of Freedom from Addiction says, “Daily meditation decreases relapses.”
- Nutrition and Exercise is critical for biochemical balance in the body. Poor nutrition, stress, exposure to toxins and genetic vulnerabilities are the top 4 risk factors that usually result in compulsive substance use. Dr. Charles Gant, author of End Your Addiction Now, says, “Eating natural foods and exercising 30 minutes a day treats 3 of the 4 risk factors.”
- Body work is based on the belief that your emotional history is stored in your body. Therapeutic massage, Acupuncture, Reike, Somatic Experiencing, and a Sensory Deprivation Chamber are all body treatments that help release stored emotional trauma and abuse. Dr. Pat Ogden, author of Trauma and the Body says, “Body work manipulates your body to help relieve the cravings and other symptoms associated with compulsive behaviors so that the person does not seek substances and compulsive behaviors to soothe uncomfortable emotions.”
- Journaling develops a person’s creative, personal and emotional process. Journaling can be used as a written emotional expression to clear the mind, deepen self-reflection and gain more perspective. It allows a person struggling with addiction to track their recovery progress. Writing down distressing thoughts and experiences helps the person to relieve negative emotions, rather than using substances or unhealthy behaviors to cope. The Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment published research in 1999 stating, “Clients who used journaling as a treatment reported lower values for craving intensity and a decrease in substance use.”
- Self- Respect is pride and confidence in ones integrity, a feeling that they are behaving with honor and dignity. One of the symptoms every person struggling with an addiction has in common is they do not unconditionally love themselves. A few ways to build self-respect include, not being self-critical, not allowing other people to mistreat them, recognizing their individual talents and abilities, forgiving their mistakes, encouraging themselves to reach their goals. A persons choices are a direct reflection of the value they have for themselves. When a person respects the gift of life they have been given, they will make choices that do not destroy it.
- Spirituality is increasing the qualities of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. This can be done by asking Spirit -Creator of all life to fill them with spiritual qualities, using their breath and intention to focus on expanding spiritual qualities within them, and consciously practicing spiritual responses in their daily life. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse, spirituality focused addiction treatment programs have resulted in up to 10 percent greater abstinence rates than non-spiritual forms of treatment.
When people who are struggling with an addiction make a commitment to stop using unhealthy substances and behaviors, combining these nine effective treatments will support them in long-term recovery. Treatment and sobriety will enhance their mental, physical and spiritual health, their relationships and their ability to have a successful life.
Written by Elisabeth Davies, MC
Author of Good Things Emotional Healing Journal: Addiction