One of the biggest concerns among people entering recovery for drugs or alcohol is that rehab will lead to loneliness and isolation. Read more
There’s no miracle cure for opiate addiction. Sooner or later, all opiate addicts will have to go through withdrawal. Read more
For the past 20 years, September has been reserved for the observance of National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month to educate the nation about the benefits of substance abuse treatment and celebrate people who are on the road to recovery.
Addiction is often accompanied by denial. Denial makes it possible for the addict to continue his habits in the face of serious negative consequences. Individuals struggling with alcoholism tend to employ a certain set of excuses when it comes to facing their destructive behavior. Read more
Historically, substance abuse treatment methods and programs have engaged in some negative approaches, including focusing on client “noncompliance” and “failure.” A relatively recent approach, the Transtheoretical Model of Change (also known as the Stages of Change model) turns reverses this dynamic by emphasizing client readiness as a key component of treatment. Read more
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), brain damage is a “common and potentially severe consequence of long-term, heavy alcohol consumption.”
Brain damage from alcoholism specifically involves the impairment of cognitive functioning – mental activities related to acquiring, storing, retrieving, and using information. Studies have shown that individuals recovering from alcoholism experience difficulty with particular cognitive tasks, especially those related to higher functioning.
Some brain damage related to alcoholism is reversible, but not all. Whether or not the damage is reversible seems to depend on the severity and duration of alcoholic behaviors. Impaired cognition contributes to poor job performance in adults and poor academic performance for teens.
Alcoholics tend to exhibit moderate deficiencies in intellectual functioning as well as diminished brain size and changes in brain cell activity. The two most common types of impairment resulting from alcohol abuse are difficulty with visual-spatial abilities and higher cognitive functioning. Visual-spatial abilities (perceiving and remembering the locations of objects relative to each other and in 2- and 3-dimensional space) include driving a car or assembling a piece of furniture based on written/illustrated instructions.
Research has shown that although habitual heavy drinkers and alcoholics test at similar levels as other kinds of addicts for intellect, alcohol abusers have particular trouble with tasks that involve higher cognitive processes. For instance, an alcohol abuser may be able to file and retrieve documents from an existing filing system without trouble, but may struggle to devise an entirely new filing system.
The exact relationship among lifetime duration of drinking habits, total quantity of alcohol consumed, and cognitive impairment remains unclear. Some habitual, long-term light-to-moderate drinkers show signs of cognitive impairment equivalent to detoxified alcoholics.
The good news is certain alcohol-related impairment appears reversible with abstinence from alcohol. Studies have shown that newly detoxified adult alcoholics may exhibit significant deficits in problem-solving, short-term memory, and visual-spatial abilities, but tend to recover brain function for several months to a year after beginning to abstain from alcohol. During this time, they often experience an increase in attention.
Understanding cognitive impairment in alcoholics is especially important in considering alcoholism treatment programs and methods. Recovering alcoholics usually experience the most severe impairment in the first few weeks after beginning to abstain from alcohol. This high level of impairment interferes with the recovering individual’s ability to benefit from psycho-educational treatment classes or skill-development curricula. Recovering alcoholics may need to take more time than other kinds of recovering addicts before attending these activities in order for the activities to be beneficial.
An article published in the South Coast Times, a local newspaper in Falmouth, Massachusetts, provides an excellent example of the relaxation response put into practical use for assisting recovery. A residential addiction treatment program in the area has developed a program known as Knitting Night. Knitting Night is a combination of therapy and social interaction, and utilizes the repetitive, calming effect of knitting to help residents achieve the relaxation response. This form of therapy allows each resident to improve her physical and emotional capacity to deal with stress without reverting to substance abuse.
Knitting also carries symbolic significance for participants. Learning to work with the yarn, instead of fight with it, is akin to learning to work with one’s own emotional and psychological issues instead of against them. One participant articulated the challenge perfectly: “Fighting with this yarn is like fighting with my addiction … [The yarn has] messed up three times, so I’ve started over three times to straighten it out. … You might say this is like my life … I’ll keep at this until I’ve finished and made something I’m proud of.”
According to Dr. Benson’s research, there are four key steps involved in eliciting the relaxation response:
1. A Quiet Environment
Choose a quiet, calm environment with as few distractions as possible. A quiet environment increases the effectiveness of the following steps by making it easier to eliminate distracting thoughts.
2. A Mental Device
To transport the mind from logical, externally oriented thought, a constant stimulus of some kind is necessary; for example, a repeated sound, word, or phrase (either silently or aloud) is often effective. You can also fix your gaze on an object or engage in a calm, repetitive activity. The goal is to eliminate distracting thoughts and mind wandering. Give special attention to the normal rhythm of breathing to enhance the repetition of the sound or the word.
3. A Passive Attitude
When you have a distracting thought, do your best to disregard it. Don’t worry about how well you are doing; just try to stay in the moment. Worrying can prevent the relaxation response from happening, so try to adopt a “let it happen” attitude.
4. A Comfortable Position
Place your body in a comfortable posture so that you are not experiencing any undue muscular tension. You may sit in a chair or use the cross-legged “lotus” position used in yoga. You may choose to lie down, though with this position there is a tendency to fall asleep. You should be comfortable and relaxed.
Recovery is a complicated idea, and an equally complicated reality. Recovery from addiction involves change and growth on many different levels, encompassing the psychological, physical, emotional, and social domains. Read more
For most people who go through recovery from addiction, the first few months and even years can be a disorienting time. After spending years using drugs or alcohol to cope, to make feelings go away, or to artificially supply certain emotions, individuals must go through a period of readjustment. Read more
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a widely accepted model for the treatment of many serious mental health disorders. In recent years, it has gained popularity as a method for treating addiction. Read more