massage therapyIf you’re interested in a holistic approach to addressing your substance abuse issues, massage therapy may be an option to consider. Although it’s not a commonly used part of addiction treatment, massage therapy offers several benefits to people in recovery. Here are some of the reasons why:

1. Promotes Detoxification

The squeezing and pulling motions we associate with a professional massage do more than just feel good. They help flush lactic acid from the muscles and boost blood flow to the limbs. This improvement in vascular function continues for several days after the massage has ended, which is why professional athletes often rely on massage to keep them in competitive shape.

Since massage helps improve circulation, it can aid in the detoxification process by allowing for a more efficient expulsion of toxic waste products away from the body. The invigoration of blood and lymphatic fluid also helps to promote a better utilization of oxygen-rich nutrition into the various organs and tissues.

2. Releases Endorphins

After the detoxification stage of addiction treatment, the body’s neurochemistry requires time to get back in balance. Drug and alcohol abuse prevents the release of natural endorphins, which means someone who is newly sober needs a little extra help convincing the body to manufacture these “feel good” chemicals.

Research has shown massage therapy increases the amount of beta-endorphins in the blood. Manufactured in the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, beta-endorphins offer a chemical-free way for those in recovery to feel more like themselves. If you’re engaged in a regular exercise program as well as massage therapy, these benefits are further enhanced.

3. Reduces Chronic Pain

For someone who turned to drugs or alcohol as a way to cope with chronic pain, massage can be a way to heal the body. Regular massage can lower pain levels and promote a more restful sleep—leading to improved mood and energy throughout the day.

If you suffer from opioid addiction related to chronic pain, regular massage therapy sessions can be particularly beneficial. Recovering prescription opioid abusers are often reluctant to use any type of pain medication for fear of relapse, but massage can be combined with alternative treatments such as yoga and acupuncture to naturally increase the body’s serotonin levels.

4. Reduces Stress

Chronic stress can weaken the immune system and create mood disturbances. Massage therapy helps those in recovery feel more relaxed and in control of their newfound sobriety by lowering cortisol levels.

Cortisol is the body’s primary stress hormone. It increases glucose in the bloodstream and increases the availability of hormones to promote tissue repair, helping the body to be primed for a “fight or flight” situation. Although this is helpful when you’re actually under attack, an excess of cortisol can lead to stress-related problems such as weight gain, digestive problems, headaches, sleep disturbance, and difficulty concentrating.

5. Addresses Co-Occurring Disorders

If you suffer from co-occurring disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, depression, bipolar disorder, or PTSD, massage therapy can help by triggering the body’s relaxation response. It’s not a substitute for talk therapy, but massage can help you feel more open and comfortable expressing your emotions. This can enhance the effectiveness of your overall treatment plan, reducing the urge to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol.

6. Helps Overcome a Fear of Touch

If you’ve been physically or sexually abused in the past, touch may be associated with negative feelings. Massage therapy encourages the brain to associate physical contact with more positive sensations.

Psychologists who study trauma have stated that being a victim of abuse undermines five of our most basic human needs: safety, trust, control over one’s life, feeling of value, and experiencing closeness with others. The intimacy of massage therapy provides a safe and therapeutic way to meet these needs, thus offering a foundation for healing.  

7. Enhances Self-Awareness

An essential part of addiction recovery involves learning to manage personal addiction triggers. Understanding how feelings of boredom, anger, frustration, or anxiety trigger the urge to use helps you be proactive in managing your sobriety.

Regular massage helps build an awareness of your own body, including where tension exists and patterns that can lead to an increase in negative emotions. This can make it easier to develop productive strategies for controlling cravings and avoiding relapse.

How to Incorporate Massage Therapy into Your Recovery

Massage therapy can’t cure addiction on its own, but the guidance of a qualified massage therapist can offer numerous benefits as part of a broader evidence-based drug and alcohol treatment program. If you’re interested in incorporating massage therapy into your treatment, this issue can be discussed with your counselor as you’re developing your recovery plan.

By Dana Hinders

To learn more about our programs, please visit our website or call us at 888-352-3297.

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Opioid abuse remains a serious public health issue throughout the United States. This is, however, an often misunderstood type of addiction, since many people who use opioid pain medication have a valid reason for doing so and abusers often begin due to an appropriately diagnosed medical condition.

About Opioids

Opioids are a type of narcotic pain medication. They’re designed to interact with the opioid receptors on nerve cells in the brainstem, spinal cord, and limbic system to relieve pain.

Commonly prescribed types of opioids and their associated brand names include:

  • Fentanyl: Actiq, Duragesic, and Fentora
  • Hydrocodone: Hysingla ER and Zohydro ER
  • Hydrocodone and Acetaminophen: Lorcet, Lortab, Norco, and Vicodin
  • Hydromorphone: Dilaudid and Exalgo
  • Meperidine: Demerol
  • Morphine: Astramorph, Avinza, Kadian, MS Contin, and Oramorph SR
  • Oxycodone: OxyContin, Oxecta, and Roxicodone
  • Oxycodone and Acetaminophen: Percocet, Endocet, and Roxicet
  • Oxycodone and Naloxone: Targiniq ER

Heroin is also a type of opioid. Many people who begin abusing prescription pain medications eventually turn to heroin to get the high associated with opioid pain relievers at a lower cost. In fact, studies have indicated that as many as four out of five new heroin users started using after developing an addiction to prescription opioids.

Opioid Dangers

When used in a supervised medical setting, opioids are generally considered safe. However, the medication has a potential for tolerance, dependence, and abuse. The negative health effects of long term opioid abuse include a depressed immune system, lowered libido, respiratory difficulties, osteoporosis, abnormal heartbeat, hallucinations, delirium, and increased fatigue. Overdoses can lead to fatal oxygen deprivation.

Responsible Opioid Use vs. Signs of Addiction

Recognizing the signs of opioid abuse presents unique challenges because the medication serves an important purpose. Short term use after an injury or surgery helps patients recover with minimal discomfort.  People who suffer from chronic pain can also use opioids in cooperation with other techniques, such as physical therapy to help keep their pain levels in check so they can go about their daily routine. Some of the many conditions treated with opioids include:

  • Cancer
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis)
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Migraines
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Scoliosis
  • Fibromyalgia

Appropriate opioid use includes the following:

  • Taking medication in the prescribed dose at the correct time
  • Avoiding alcohol or other drugs that could interfere with the effectiveness of the medication
  • Being cautious about driving or operating heavy machinery until you understand how the medication affects your body
  • Keeping medication in a secure location where it’s not accessible by others
  • Refraining from sharing or selling pills
  • Keeping all recommended follow-up appointments with your doctor

Unfortunately, due to the addictive nature of these opioid pain medications, it’s easy to slide from appropriate use into a more serious problem. Signs of potential abuse include:

  • Making excuses to get refills ahead of schedule, such as falsely claiming you lost your medication or had it stolen
  • Seeing multiple doctors to obtain prescriptions for several different types of opioid medications
  • Mixing medications with alcohol or other drugs
  • Buying or stealing pills
  • Requiring an increased dosage over time to get the same effect
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you’re unable to use
  • Lying to friends and family about your use of opioid medication
  • Avoiding hobbies and other activities you previously enjoyed in favor of using
  • Continuing to use despite experiencing negative consequences in your personal or professional relationships

People of all ages, races, and economic classes can develop an opioid addiction. However, women appear to have the highest risk. Research shows that prescription pain reliever overdose deaths among women increased more than 400% from 1999 to 2010, compared to a 237% increase among men during the same time period. In addition to being more likely to seek out prescription pain relievers from a doctor, women are more likely to become physically dependent on the medication due to their smaller size and hormonal makeup.

Treatment for Opioid Addiction

Naloxone, sold under the brand names Narcan and Evzio, has received extensive media attention for its role in treating opioid overdoses. Paramedics, firefighters, police officers, and public safety workers are being trained to administer the drug in hopes of combating the opioid epidemic. However, the best way to fight opioid addiction is to seek treatment as soon as a pattern of abuse is identified.

Treatment programs for opioid addiction provide medically assisted detox and cognitive behavioral therapy to help substance abusers learn different ways to cope with the underlying issues at the root of their addiction. To learn more about treatment options for yourself or someone you love, contact the experienced staff at St. Joseph Institute today.

By: Dana Hinders


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Principles of effective addiction treatment

Every addiction treatment program aims to help clients stop using drugs or alcohol, stay sober, and become productive members of society. However, this doesn’t mean that all treatment programs are the same. If you’re considering addiction treatment for yourself or someone you love, it’s important to be aware of the basic principles that an effective treatment plan should be based on.

Addiction Is a Disease
Addiction isn’t a moral failing. It’s a disease that affects both brain function and behavior, with many studies indicating that addiction can be linked to specific genes and inherited personality traits.

Effective addiction treatment should stress empathy and compassion. Just as you wouldn’t chastise a patient for being diagnosed with cancer, people with drug and alcohol addiction don’t need to be judged for their past mistakes. They need treatment that heals their mind, body, and spirit.

Treatment Doesn’t Need to Be Voluntary to Be Effective
Ideally, someone suffering from addiction would realize the need to seek treatment and make positive life changes. However, treatment can still be beneficial even if an addict is in denial about the severity of his addiction.

Involuntary treatment can be court ordered or it can be arranged by a concerned family member, such as a spouse or parent. For young people in particular, early intervention can prevent an addiction from destroying a promising future.

Treatment Requires a Personalized Approach
When it comes to treating drug or alcohol addiction, there is no single treatment that’s right for everyone. Some people respond well to talk therapy individually or in a group, while others prefer to explore the issues surrounding their addiction in art therapy, music therapy, or other experiential therapies. There may also be special concerns, such as anxiety, depression, or an eating disorder, that need to be addressed in addition to drug or alcohol addiction.

Part of the personalized approach to addiction treatment requires that care plans be periodically reevaluated to ensure their effectiveness. For example, a counselor might determine that a client who is experiencing difficulty transitioning back to work may have moved through the steps of their plan too quickly and would benefit from additional time to develop positive coping skills for handling stressful situations.

Detox Is Just the First Step
Addiction treatment typically begins with a detox to help clients remove drugs and alcohol from their system. During this time, clients are monitored and given medication to help minimize painful or potentially dangerous withdrawal systems.

While detox is a necessary part of the treatment process, the initial experience of getting clean is just the beginning. Multiple studies have shown that people who receive no treatment following detoxification typically resume their drug or alcohol use a short time later.

Behavioral Therapy is Key
Behavioral therapy is a cornerstone of any effective addiction treatment program. Behavioral therapy aims to help substance abusers modify their attitude towards drug or alcohol use, increase healthy life skills, and provide the motivation necessary to persist with a long-term treatment plan.

In the early stages of residential treatment, clients may be scheduled for daily sessions. However, as they graduate to outpatient treatment, sessions will gradually become less frequent and focused on building an independent recovery.

Medication Can Help
Medication can be very effective when combined with behavioral therapies. Medications can be used during the detox process or to help prevent relapse, as long as their use is carefully monitored by trained professionals. For example, Methadone (Dolophine, Methadose), naltrexone (Vivitrol), and buprenorphine (Suboxone, Subutex, Probuphine) can be used to treat opioid addiction.

When substance abuse is linked to a desire to self-medicate a mental health disorder, medication can be used to get these underlying conditions under control. For example, antidepressants can stabilize the mood swings associated with depression and thus help reduce cravings for drugs and alcohol.

There’s No Quick Fix
Treating addiction takes time. Nobody develops an addiction overnight, so it’s unreasonable to expect that a treatment center will be able to work miracles in a few days. An addiction treatment program typically lasts at least 30 days, with extensive follow up care afterwards.


A person who struggles with drug and alcohol addiction won’t be “cured” when they leave a treatment facility. Addiction is a chronic illness that requires vigilance to prevent relapse, much like diabetics must pay careful attention to their blood sugar each day. Someone in recovery will still experience cravings and be faced with the temptation to use, but the skills they learned in treatment will allow them to make positive choices and set the stage for a brighter future.

By Dana Hinders


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