Archive for July, 2017

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

Using Yoga to Promote a Lasting RecoveryWhile yoga is far from a cure for drug and alcohol addiction, a regular yoga practice can help promote a lasting recovery. Yoga is especially popular with those searching for a holistic way to address addiction treatment because it enhances the mind, body, and spirit.

Yoga Is for Everyone

Even if you don’t consider yourself to be exceptionally flexible, it’s never too late to begin learning more about the benefits of yoga. In addition to yoga classes that designed to be part of addiction treatment, there are yoga programs targeted to diverse groups such as troubled at-risk teens, inmates in correctional facilities, military veterans, and nursing home residents.

Benefits of Yoga in Addiction Recovery

People turn to yoga for many different reasons, but some of the benefits it offers for those in recovery include:

  • Replacing artificial highs with a natural alternative. Yoga gives you a natural high by building your connection to your inner self. Instead of chasing external pleasures from drugs and alcohol, a regular yoga practice can teach you to be content with your internal wisdom and awareness.
  • Enhancing mental control. Yoga’s focus on meditation is essentially strength training for the mind. When you feel in control of your thoughts, your cravings will diminish.
  • Decreasing stress and anxiety. Many people turn to drugs and alcohol as a way to cope with the stress they feel in their personal and professional lives. Doing yoga to unwind at the end of a tough day helps you stay on track with your recovery.
  • Providing a way to deal with past trauma. If your addiction began as a way to cope with childhood trauma, yoga can help you develop the mental clarity needed to process your feelings and find a sense of inner peace.
  • Relieving chronic pain. If your addiction began as a way to cope with chronic pain, yoga is an all-natural way to keep your pain levels in check while enhancing your overall mobility.
  • Providing a sense of community. If you choose to practice yoga in a studio environment or to attend special workshops, you’ll be able to connect with a community of like-minded individuals who share your passion for wellness. Building social ties is scientifically proven to diminish the risk of relapse after addiction treatment.

Creating a Yoga Practice to Promote Addiction Recovery

It’s best to begin your study of yoga under the guidance of a qualified teacher who can adjust your form and suggest modifications to accommodate any physical limitations you might have. People who are overweight, have joint problems, or are recovering from recent injuries can still do yoga, but may need to modify poses to make them more accessible.

Yoga classes are typically 45 to 90 minutes in length and most studios offer free or discounted trial classes for newcomers. Do not get discouraged if you struggle with poses or find your mind wandering. Learning yoga requires practice and patience, just like mastering any other new skill.

Once you understand the basics, you can easily develop your own home yoga practice. All you need to create a home yoga studio is your yoga mat, comfortable clothes that allow you to move freely, and an open yet quiet place to practice. Some people like to play soothing music or diffuse calming essential oils during their practice, but this is not necessary.

The following beginner level poses are often incorporated into a home yoga practice to help promote a lasting recovery from drug and alcohol addiction.  

  • Balasana (Child’s Pose) releases tension and mental fatigue while promoting a feeling of safety.

  • Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend) stretches the lower back and hamstrings while promoting a feeling of calm.
  • Apanasana (Little Boat Hugging Knees) releases pressure in the lower back.

  • Baddha Konasana (Butterfly) is done with deep breathing exercises to open the hips and pelvis.

  • Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog) promotes grounding and stress relief as it releases tension from the entire body.

  • Virabhadrasana I (Warrior I) promotes feelings of mental strength and focus as it teaches to you stay present in the moment even when faced with discomfort.

  • Viparita Karani (Legs-up-the-Wall Pose) is a soothing pose often recommended as a way to promote a more restful sleep.

  • Savasana (Corpse Pose) is a relaxation pose traditionally done at the end of a practice to provide a sense of calm that replenishes both the mind and body.

By Dana Hinders

Causes of alcoholism

Many of the people who seek alcohol addiction treatment have parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, or siblings who’ve also struggled with alcohol abuse. However, alcoholism isn’t inherited in the same way you’d inherit blue eyes and blond hair. Addiction develops as the result of a complex interaction between genes and environmental risk factors.

Genes That Affect Alcoholism Risk

There is no single gene responsible for developing alcoholism. However, research does suggest that certain combinations of genes are responsible for increasing the risk of developing an alcohol use disorder. For example:

Personality traits: Genes linked to personality traits such as impulsivity and disinhibition are also associated with an increase in substance abuse disorders.

Predisposition to mental health disorders: The same genes that are linked to depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders are also associated with an increased risk of alcohol abuse, but this is often attributed to the tendency of people suffering from mental health disorders to try to self-medicate.

Changes in how alcohol affects the body: Some gene combinations create changes in the body’s dopamine reward systems, leaving people to experience greater levels of reinforcement or reward from alcohol use and thus increasing the likelihood of problem drinking.

Race: Genetic variants in people of different races have been linked to an increase in alcoholism, with Native Americans have the highest number of alcohol use severity phenotypes.

Although the average person doesn’t have access to sophisticated genetic testing, you can reasonably determine your genetic risk for alcoholism by counting the number of blood relatives who also suffer from alcohol use disorders.

Environmental Factors That Affect Alcoholism Risk

Certain environmental factors can increase the risk of a child developing an alcohol use problem, even if there are minimal genetic risk factors at work. For example:

Societal acceptance: Regularly seeing television shows, movies, and music that portray drinking as a harmless way to have fun normalize the behavior.

Parental modeling: Seeing parents deal with everyday stress by becoming intoxicated sets this behavior up as normal in child’s mind.

Peer pressure: Friends who encourage regular drinking promote a pattern of overindulgence.
Exposure to outside trauma: Children who are exposed to verbal, physical, or sexual abuse are more likely to experiment with alcohol.

Age at first drink: Multiple studies have shown that the younger you are when you take your first drink, the more difficulty you’ll have regulating your alcohol intake. These studies proved instrumental in setting the legal drinking age to 21.

Genetics Aren’t Destiny

When discussing the causes of alcoholism, it’s important to keep in mind that many diseases are caused by a combination of both genetic and environmental factors. For example, someone with a parent, grandparent, or sibling who suffers from Type 2 diabetes is considered genetically predisposed to the condition. Even with this added risk, a commitment to eating a well-balanced diet and getting regular physical exercise can drastically reduce their risk of becoming diabetic. Lifestyle changes made after a diagnosis can also be beneficial, sometimes creating enough of a change in blood sugar levels to allow diabetics to reduce or discontinue their insulin all together.

Children of alcoholic parents have two to four times the risk of becoming alcoholics as adults. This risk factor remains even in cases where the child is adopted and raised in a family where neither parent has an alcohol use disorder. However, despite this increased genetic risk, less than half of children with an alcoholic parent grow up to abuse alcohol themselves. Some protective environmental factors that can prevent alcohol abuse include:

Receiving education on the negative effects of alcohol use: Having a full understanding of genetic risk factors and the health effects of alcohol abuse is associated with lower levels of problem drinking.

Developing strong social connections to family and friends: Feeling loved and supported by the people around you makes you less likely to want to turn to alcohol for comfort.

Developing positive ways to cope with stress: People who use exercise, meditation, music, art therapy, or other stress-relieving activities to handle everyday pressures are less likely to abuse alcohol.
Seeking help for mental health disorders: Counseling and support from a trained mental health professional reduces the desire to self-medicate with alcohol.

You can’t control your genetic makeup, but genetics alone won’t determine your fate. If you’re ready to break the cycle of addiction, help is available. St. Joseph Institute’s addiction treatment facility can address the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual issues underlying your alcohol abuse and set you on the path to a lasting recovery.

By Dana Hinders

 

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