Addiction Part II

By Lisa Shanken | Healthy Living

Addictions Part 2

I hope you enjoyed the holidays, got through them safely and had a happy New Year. By now, hopefully you have had a chance to listen to the Huberman Lab podcast I recommended on addiction in last month’s newsletter.

As promised, in part 2 of my focus on addiction this month, I will focus on tools, studies and strategies to help people struggling with addiction. I did reveal one of my favorite strategies explained by Dr. Anna Lembke in my last newsletter (worth repeating), which is truth telling. She explains how neuroscience has shown the importance of addicts being 100% truthful in their recovery process. Doing so ideally strengthens prefrontal cortex circuits that become disconnected during addiction.

Dr. Lembke says “addiction is a progressive narrowing of the things that bring you pleasure,” so people that are predisposed (such as people that have relatives that are addicts) to addiction might benefit from widening the mindset of what can offer pleasure. Thinking outside the box and exploring new activities, habits, and behaviors might be helpful.

She also says that oxytocin, a hormone made in the body when people feel more emotionally connected, is linked to a dopamine release in the brain. Therefore, helping people in recovery connect more to others can provide a similar dopamine release that addicts look to get from substance use.

It’s important to remember that addiction treatment does not look the same for everyone. There are all different approaches, including medications, 12-step programs, cognitive behavioral therapy (help change behavioral patterns and identify triggers), rational emotive behavior therapy (trying to change negative thoughts from stressors to more rational thoughts), contingency management (reinforcing positive behavior patterns), and harm reduction (trying to use a substance less in a structured and scheduled way). Oftentimes a combination of these approaches can be successful.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the following are essential aspects for successful addiction treatment:

  1. Matching treatment settings, interventions, and services to an individual’s particular problems and needs is critical to ultimately finding success in returning to productive functioning.
  2. Treatment must be readily available and accessible.
  3. Successful treatment must address all aspects of addiction, including physical, psychological, social, vocational, and legal issues.
  4. Research shows that at least 3 months in treatment is necessary to significantly reduce or stop drug use. Even longer treatment durations have been proven to have the most successful outcomes.
  5. Addiction is a mental health disorder and may co-occur with other mental health disorders. In this case, it is important to address all diagnoses.
  6. Relapsing is part of the addiction illness. Therefore monitoring of drug use can be a helpful motivation to help addicts abstain from using.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction, please reach out for help. You are not alone. You can call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) hotline at 800-662-HELP (4357) anytime, open 24 hours for crisis services.

Also feel free to reach out to me for help or to get connected with the right kind of treatment. There is hope and there is help.