Addiction help, exercise, and recovery – Running to stay clean

As we mentioned in recent posts, giving up addictive behaviors can be difficult.

Research on interventions has long shown that it’s a lot easier to reshape existing behaviors than it is to stop them. Therefore, refocusing, or rechanneling, your energy into something that will improve, not devastate your life should prove easier than simply stopping addictive behavior. Addiction recovery help is often centered on stopping the usage of drugs when instead, they should focus on replacing the use with something else.

Addiction help by active replacement

Exercise has been shown to improve mood, especially in the short term (1,2) and can therefore provide the extra emotional boost many addicts need when they first stop using. An article in the Journal of Sport Psychology reveals that running can create a sense of achievement, fulfill intrinsic and extrinsic needs, and provide a natural high (3).

An activity like running can provide a respite from daily life. It can also offer a means to re-direct most addicts’ need for something to obsess about.

Taking on a long-term running goal and getting involved in some training with appropriate short-term achievement markers can help people in recovery feel as if they’re regaining some measure of control over their seemingly chaotic life. Seeing yourself able to run longer distances, faster times, and feeling the health benefits can be very rewarding.

An inspiring story in Runner’s World magazine tells the story of a father and son who did just this, conquering their drug addiction by taking on the challenge of completing a marathon.

Addiction help, not a new disaster

Importantly, a study has found that animals that are prone to drug addiction are also more likely to develop obsessive running patterns (4). This suggests that a link between these behaviors does indeed exist and underscores the importance of being mindful even when performing these more benign activities; the goal is staying healthy after all.

Keeping this in mind, there are a few simple things that will help reduce the chances of injury as you start running:

Stretching is important for injury prevention. Activities such as yoga are beneficial for runners and can stretch out sore muscles, prevent your next injury, and relieve stress. (Runners World)

Make sure to set realistic running goals and not push yourself too far. Taking on too much too early will only lead to injury and burnout and hurt, not help your enjoyment of running.
So instead of just trying to quit, try changing behaviors that you commonly engage in into ones that are more productive.

Question of the day:

Have you found that running, or a similar form of exercise helped you kick bad habits?
If so, would you mind sharing your story?

contributing author: Katie McGrath

Citations:

1. Plante and Rodin. (1990). Physical fitness and enhanced psychological health. Current Psychology: Research & Reviews, Vol 9, Spr 1990, pp. 3-24.

2. W. De Coverley Veale (1987) Physiological and Psychological Effects of Short-term Exercise Addiction on Habitual Runners, Exercise Dependence Addiction 82 (7) , 735–740.

3. Mark H. Anshel (2005). Applied Exercise Psychology: A Practitioner’s Guide to Improving Client Health and Fitness, Springer Publishing.

4. Werme, M., Thoren, P., Olson, L., Brene, S. (1999). Addiction-Prone Lewis But Not Fischer Rats Develop Compulsive Running that Coincides with Downregulation of Nerve Growth Factor Inducible-B and Neuron-Derived Orphan Receptor 1. The Journal of neuroscience, 19, pp. 6169-6174.

contributing author: Katie McGrath

Struggling with my addiction: Recovery, addiction, and the everyday stuff

I’ve written about my own struggles with my addiction on here numerous times. I’ve used crystal meth, ecstasy, cocaine, marijuana, alcohol, LSD, mushrooms, and more, though the first few were the ones that really got me.

After an extended career as a dealer and addict, I turned a new leaf and made a new life for myself. It took a couple of rehabs and a hefty jail sentence. Still the link between my addiction and my recovery is not always strong.

My notions regarding the strong relationship between addiction and personality factors like attention-problems, impulsivity, sensation-seeking, and others comes from both my research and my personal experience. I’ve seen the genetic, behavioral, and clinical manifestations; I’ve also lived it firsthand.

I’ve always been known for doing things I wasn’t supposed to and then feeling sorry for them (or not). It was true when I was 5, long before my first sip of alcohol. Sadly, I’m realizing it is still true now and will most likely be true forever.

I can’t keep anything organized in my head. I never could. I was the kid who lost his house keys 5 times a year, forgot about midterms and finals, let alone school assignments, and who could never remember birthdays, anniversaries, or other important dates and times. These days, I’ve learned to rely on my pda/phone to help me with at least some of those things and it’s made my life much easier. But the underlying problem remains.

The problem is that I’m still impulsive and I still do things I shouldn’t. It’s a constant struggle to pull myself back, a very conscious struggle most of the time. When I say that addiction can be treated, it doesn’t mean that it actually disappears, though for me, it has certainly taken a backseat. If anything, it was after getting sober that I realized my drug use was so tied up with sex that I most likely had developed a sex addiction as well.

I’m not sober now (I drink socially), but I’m very aware of my intoxication level when I drink and rarely let it get out of hand. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve gotten actually drunk in the five years or so since I began the forbidden “AA experiment.” It works for me, though it might not be for everyone.

The point is that nowadays, I have too much going on in my life that I love to throw it all away over getting high. My fiance, my education, and my work are important to me. The thoughts are still there, but I don’t act on them. It took a lot of work to get here and I seriously hope that I never have to put that work in again, but recovery, addiction, and my everyday stuff can still be a struggle.

You have to build the life you want and do your best to make maintaining that life a priority. It’s not easy, but it can be done. Look here for an exercise that can help you figure out what that life should even look like.

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 !