More CPDD Addiction research: Addiction, exercise, recovery!

Okay, this is probably the last addiction research update I will give focusing on the Reno conference. The rest of the stuff I learned will be incorporated into future posts.

I’ve written before about the relationship between exercise and recovery (see here) and I will surely write more since for me, it was a big part of the equation.

two separate studies at CPDD reaffirmed my belief that exercise can be a very useful tool in addiction recovery.

The first study, conducted in humans, examined the effect of incorporating an extensive exercise routine into a residential, as well as intensive outpatient, addiction treatment program. Their findings showed improved outcomes for participants in the short, as well as long run. These included length of sobriety, subjective assessment of well being, and more. In talking to the researcher, she seemed to believe that at least part of the effect was due to the relief of cravings achieved by allowing patients to focus on something that took effort, rather than simply sitting around.

The second, and to my mind even more interesting, study examined the effect of exercise on cocaine self-administration in rats. Researchers assigned half of their rats to a cage that had a running wheel while the others were assigned to a regular cage. the rats with the running wheel used the device to run an average of 12 kilometers a day! After a week of simply resting in their cages, when transferred to another cage for 2 hours a day, the rats who had the wheel in their cage took less than half as much cocaine as the rats who didn’t have a wheel. the “wheel-rats” were also found to run less after they began the cocaine portion of the experiment, but their cocaine-taking never got near that of the non-exercising rats. It seems that having the exercise did something to reduce the reinforcing power of cocaine.

I have a feeling that future research will show that these finding hold true for other drugs (like crystal meth, heroin, marijuana, cigarettes, and alcohol) and possibly even for behavioral addictions like food addiction, gambling, and sex addiction.

All in all, research seems to be supporting the notion that exercise can play a significant role in recovery from addiction. Whether it be for boredom relief or an actual internal change in the motivating power of drugs, it looks to me as if Addiction + Exercise = Recovery !

2 Replies to “More CPDD Addiction research: Addiction, exercise, recovery!”

  1. Nice posting! Glad to see some research is coming out to benefit this- I just wrote about it as well, seems to be a hot topic: http://addictiontomorrow.blogspot.com/2009/06/recovery-and-physical-activity.html

    Also, there was a blog posting in Newsweek about the guys at Phoenix Multisport and the work that they’re doing: http://blog.newsweek.com/blogs/thehumancondition/archive/2009/06/29/from-excess-to-exercise-group-helps-men-and-women-live-sober-through-sweat.aspx

    Keep up the good work!

  2. Hopefully one day someone will put together more of the puzzle pieces. For now, consider this: aerobic exercise increases brain dopamine and seratonin. Meth gives people dopamine as it destroys brain receptor sites for dopamine. Yet over time (and likely not a long time either)exercise increases dopamine receptor sites AND dopamine AND it is good for you and your health. (always check with your healthcare provider when considering an exercise program, exercise is just part of what is needed in treating various addictions, such treatment plans should be developed with the help of experts, yadda yadda!)

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