Entries tagged with “Effective Treatment”.

Staying active is an important element to good health. For people who are stuck in the cycle of drug or alcohol abuse, physical exercise is often one of the first parts of their routine that gets neglected.

Physical exercise is an important part of treatment for those who are in the early stages of recovery. In these early days, staying busy is important. The time that an addict used to fill with activities related to finding and using drugs or alcohol now needs to be filled with non-drug-related activities. Exercise is a good choice to help fill up this time, not only because it’s a common leisure activity, but also due to its effect on the brain.

Benefits of Personal Training on Addiction Recovery
Regular physical activity provides a number of benefits to those who are in recovery.

  • Regular Exercise Reduces Stress
    • As the physical dependency on drugs and alcohol gets broken, it’s important for addicts to repair their physical and psychological health. Part of addiction treatment involves learning new ways of dealing with emotions and tension. Exercise is a natural way to deal with stress and is healthier than using chemicals to relax or holding on to unnecessary stress.
  • Exercise Changes Brain Chemistry—for the Better
    • When someone exercises, their brain releases endorphins, which are the body’s “feel good” chemicals. The person experiences feelings of pleasure, which are a type of natural “high.” These are the same brain chemicals released when someone abuses substances. Substance abuse interferes with the normal release of brain chemicals to feel pleasure and happiness from anything other than using substances.
    • With time, regular exercise reintroduces natural levels of endorphins into the system. The addict’s body learns to feel better physically over time. They also relearn that they can experience pleasure from experiences that don’t involve using chemicals.
  • Exercise is a Way to Relieve Boredom
    • For a person in recovery, having large blocks of free time with nothing to do is something that should be avoided. Exercise is something that can be included in a daily routine to fill in part of the day. There are a number of activities that can be enjoyed with others, which makes exercising a way to meet new people who aren’t part of an addict’s former lifestyle. Taking an exercise class or playing a team sport is a way recovering addicts can get involved in sober activities and move away from their former circle of friends. This leads them to activities that don’t trigger the urge to drink or do drugs.
  • Regular Exercise Improves Mood
    • As a person in recovery begins to feel better physically, their outlook on life follows suit. People who exercise regularly have increased self-confidence and are less likely to feel anxious or depressed.
  • Participating in an Activity is Fun
    • Addicts who have spent years feeding their addiction may have lost the capacity to simply enjoy themselves by participating in some type of physical activity. Exercising doesn’t have to involve anything fancy or expensive. You can start by putting on a sturdy pair of shoes and going for a brisk walk. It won’t take long for someone in recovery to notice that once they feel better, they’ll start increasing their exercise as part of their new, sober lifestyle.

St. Joseph Institute offers a variety of exercise options, from hiking across our wooded campus, to exercising in the weight room, or swimming in our endless pool. If you or someone you love needs help with an addiction problem, please call us anytime at 888-352-3297.

I spend a lot of time talking to families determined to find help for a loved one who is addicted to drugs.  Inevitably the conversation includes the questions: “Aren’t there some medications that will make them stop?” “I’ve heard about Suboxone, is that the answer?” “Will Vivitrol cure my son’s addiction?”

How wonderful it would be if there was a medication that would stop all cravings, or change the brain in ways that reversed the patterns of addiction.  However, these “silver bullet” ideas are largely based on a false understanding of the disease of addiction, what triggers the use of drugs, and what is necessary to achieve lasting recovery.

Medication-assisted Addiction TreatmentThe two most common medications for opioid addiction are the “agonist” treatments: Methadone and Buprenorphine (brand name is Suboxone). These oral medications contain an opioid that suppresses withdrawal symptoms, weakens cravings, and blocks the effects of heroin, Oxycontin and other drugs that are generally referred to as Opiates. The theory is that if you take these drugs you will lose the desire to use illegal drugs.

A newer, different, non-addictive medication is gaining popularity. Naltrexone (brand name Vivitrol) is an “antagonist” treatment because it blocks the opioid receptors in the brain and prevents an individual from feeling the effects of drugs such as heroin or Vicodin. Available as a pill or a monthly injection, this medication is designed to remove the incentive to use.   In time, it is argued, with counseling and other forms of treatment and recovery support, the addicted person will learn how to avoid drugs in the future.

Suboxone, Methadone, Naltrexone are intended to keep someone from using drugs and enable them to establish recovery.  However, this is not what happens in far too many cases.

Overcoming addiction, and establishing a strong recovery, requires learning how to live life differently.  The addicted person has continually turned to their drug of choice to manage their emotions and control their response to life’s events. The addict’s actions are predictable: when you are stressed you use; when you are sad or angry you use; when you want to feel better and celebrate you use.  Rather than dealing with life as it comes, drugs are used to manage and change feelings.

Successful, Proactive Recovery from AddictionLasting recovery requires a combination of two actions: first, creating a life where it is easier not to use (e.g. less stress, less conflict) and secondly, effectively managing the emotions (e.g. anger, sadness, low self-esteem) that motivate the desire to use.  Change has to happen inside and outside.  One of the popular slogans for recovery is that “nothing changes if nothing changes.”

The greatest problem with Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) using Methadone, Suboxone, and Naltrexone, is that they become substitutes for the work of recovery.  While an individual is taking the medication they may not be abusing other drugs, but their commitment to the actions necessary for recovery is seldom more than luke-warm. Intensive counseling, attending meetings, getting a sponsor, building a support network – any of the steps that may be necessary to change one’s life and live it better – can be set aside.

All of the major organizations that advocate for drug and alcohol addiction (ASAM, SAMHSA, NIDA) emphasize the importance of counseling and other support services for lasting recovery.  In fact, when the FDA first approved Suboxone in 2002, it was suggested that it should be used for only a short time to reduce cravings while the individual participated in intensive outpatient activities.  What we see today, however, is people being on Suboxone and Methadone for years, with minimal or no recovery treatment.

Research does not provide encouraging results for people who seek lasting recovery through the use of medications.  Studies show that a large majority (70% – 90%) of the people using Suboxone and Methadone relapse very quickly after discontinuing the medication1. While the FDA has always advocated psychosocial treatment for those using these medications, most programs are weak, and fall far short of the intensive treatment that has proven successful in addiction recovery2.

Several government sponsored studies suggest that the use of medications to treat addiction should be seen as resignation that recovery is not possible, and the medications should be taken for the remainder of a person’s life3. This judgment implies that recovery is too hard, too much work, or the individual too damaged – and the effort to learn how to live life differently should be abandoned.  I concede that there are chronic relapsers, with little motivation, who may find a lifetime of medication as the only way to stay alive.  But surely this approach to treatment must be the last resort for the addicted person, when all other efforts have failed.

Every day I hear from graduates of our program who are living clean, happy lives, free from the bondage of addiction.  I believe they show us the preferred path forward.  We need to help people break free of dependence on drugs and discover all that life has to offer.  There are no medications that provide an effective substitute.



1.Weiss, R.D., Potter, J.S., Fiellin, D.A., Byrne, M., Connery, H.S., Dickinson, W., Gardin, J., Griffin, M.L., Gourevitch, M.N., Haller, D.L., Hasson, A.L., Huang, Z., Jacobs, P., Kosinski, A.S., Lindblad, R., McCance-Katz, E.F., Provost, S.E., Selzer, .J, Somoza, E.C., Sonne, S.C., Ling, W. (2011). Adjunctive counseling during brief and extended buprenorphine-naloxone treatment for prescription opioid dependence: a 2-phase randomized controlled trial. Arch Gen Psychiatry, Dec;68(12):1238-46.

2. The use of Naltrexone and Vivitrol in addiction treatment is relatively new and the available research is limited.  Vivitrol was approved for use in opiate treatment in 2012 and the high cost — $800 – $1200 per injection – has restricted trial.

3 – a.  Calsyn, D.A., Malcy, J.A., & Saxon, A.J. (2006). Slow tapering from methadone maintenance in a program encouraging indefinite maintenance [Electronic Version]. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment. 30 (2), 159-163.

3-b.  Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Medication-Assisted Treatment for Opioid Addiction in Opioid Treatment Programs. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); 2005. (Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 43.) Available at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64164 

The people who love and care for those with addictions are constantly placed in the difficult position of deciding how to act. Do you challenge the alcoholic or addict to get help? Do you refuse to help them until they decide to seek treatment? Do you withdraw assistance (money, housing, car, etc.) until they take the steps to get clean & sober.

Support to Stop Enabling

“Enabling” occurs when a friend or family member takes a dysfunctional approach that is intended to help the addict but in fact perpetuates the problem. People often feel great pressure to enable because they fear the addict will hurt himself, lose his job, or become homeless.

As hard as it may be, family and friends must practice “tough love” and encourage the addict to get the help they desperately need. Enabling their behavior only allows the drug or alcohol addiction to continue, increasing the risk of serious or tragic consequences. People in this situation can greatly benefit from the support offered by Al-Anon. These meetings are open to the public and designed to help families of alcoholics or addicts who are struggling to find solutions.

By Michael Campbell