Defeating Addiction

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A range of options is discussed such as attending AA, engaging in activities incompatible with drinking or using a self-help manual. A spouse or family member might be involved in the planning.

2. Consideration

The patient is then scheduled for a future visit, where progress can be checked. A case monitor might call every few weeks to see whether the person has any questions or problems. The second most effective approach is motivational enhancement, also called motivational interviewing.

This technique throws the decision to quit or reduce drinking—and to find the best methods for doing so—back on the individual. In this case, the therapist asks targeted questions that prompt the individual to reflect on his drinking in terms of his own values and goals.

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When patients resist, the therapist does not argue with the individual but explores the person's ambivalence about change so as to allow him or her to draw his own conclusions: "You say that you like to be in control of your behavior, yet you feel when you drink you are often not in charge. Could you just clarify that for me? Miller's team found that the list of most effective treatments for alcoholism included a few more surprises.

Self-help manuals were highly successful. So was the community-reinforcement approach, which addresses the person's capacity to deal with life, notably marital relationships, work issues such as simply getting a job , leisure planning and social-group formation a buddy might be provided, as in AA, as a resource to encourage sobriety. The focus is on developing life skills, such as resisting pressures to drink, coping with stress at work and in relationships and building communication skills.

These findings square with what we know about change in other areas of life: People change when they want it badly enough and when they feel strong enough to face the challenge, not when they're humiliated or coerced. An approach that empowers and offers positive reinforcement is preferable to one that strips the individual of agency.


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These techniques are most likely to elicit real changes, however short of perfect and hard-won they may be. Back Psychology Today. Back Find a Therapist.

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That's not to say it happens overnight. People succeed when they recognize that the addiction interferes with something they value—and when they develop the confidence that they can change. When lab rats who are going through withdrawal are allowed to take exercise by choice—running in a wheel—their withdrawal symptoms appear to be reduced.

For example, those going through alcohol withdrawal have reduced the incidence of seizures, and those going through morphine withdrawal have lower anxiety-like behavior and reduced temperature sensitivity. Additional research indicates that such exercise can repair damage to the brain's reward pathways caused by methamphetamine use. People recovering from alcohol use disorder, who have completed the withdrawal phase of detox, have lower urges to drink when they are able to engage in bouts of exercise.

And people recovering from cannabis use disorder who engage in longer periods of exercise have reduced cravings for marijuana. Exercise has also been researched in combination with other treatments and found to be helpful when other therapies are used. Contingency management, a reward based system rather than a therapy, is also more effective when combined with exercise-related activities. Studies of animals who have previously been addicted to drugs show that when exercise is available to these animals, they are less likely to relapse to drugs such as nicotine and cocaine.

However, forced exercise may have the opposite effect. Exercise appears to have great unexplored potential as a supplementary treatment for addictions. Its beneficial effects both on mood, and on withdrawal symptoms, make it a good fit for helping people in recovery from addictions to feel better, to be healthier, and to avoid relapse, and may even help repair some of the neurological damage caused by substance use. However, on its own, exercise won't help you to understand why you became addicted in the first place, to recognize triggers, or to learn more effective ways of managing your emotions—although in itself, it may help improve your emotional state, and it may improve the effectiveness of other therapies.

There is also a small risk that you could exercise too much, and develop exercise addiction , although this is rare.

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It is a good idea to talk to your doctor before starting an exercise regime, to make sure it is right for you. Learn the best ways to manage stress and negativity in your life. Joe Schrank began to struggle with alcohol in his late teens. To beat his addiction, Schrank turned to exercise and local Alcoholic Awareness meetings. The team approach of AA has also been critical.

The men in the program offer consistent and reliable support, and that really helps. Neither of my boys have seen me drink, and I want to keep that streak going.


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  8. Recently, year-old Traylor Johnson marked 22 years and nine months of sobriety. It took time for me to heal mentally and emotionally. In , she began drinking daily, from the moment her kids went to school until she passed out at night. I knew it was only a matter of time before I killed myself or crashed my car or killed someone else.

    I was terrified of drinking. I was terrified of not drinking. By working with a wellness coach, Ward was able to eventually break her addiction. I learned to love, value, and respect myself. There are so many different ways to recover.