Addiction, be it to nicotine, cocaine, alcohol, obsessive sex or compulsive gambling is ultimately about self-soothing. The substance or behavior is done to calm nerves or take the edge off by numbing.  And to do that, you have to ignore and abuse the body.

To return to the body is therefore a crucial part of the recovery process. In a recent issue of Massage Therapy Journal, Clare La Plante details how massage can help people in addiction recovery.

According to National Institute on Drug Abuse, exercise is increasingly becoming a component of many treatment programs and has proven effective, when combined with cognitive-behavioral therapy, at helping people quit smoking. Exercise, the experts say, may help by addressing psychosocial and physiological needs that nicotine replacement alone does not.  Exercise helps because it reduces negative feelings and stress, and by preventing weight gain following cessation. Research to determine if and how exercise programs can play a similar role in the treatment of other forms of drug abuse is under way.

That researchers are moving forward to “prove” the exercise benefit is a good, however, it’s also disturbing in my opinion that exercise as part of addiction treatment/recovery process is not yet mainstream. What are we waiting for?  In the most simplistic and obvious of terms, we have bodies and minds.  How can you treat addictions by focusing primarily on the mind and talk therapy?

Get people to feel their own innate power, the surge of blood coursing through their veins instead of cocaine, and you might reduce the high relapse rate.  Yes there are often gyms on site, but that’s extracurricular. What I’m talking about is integrating exercise in a more comprehensive and substantive way.

We know that exercise benefits the body and mind.  A simple search will pull up reams of data from the likes of Harvard, National Institutes of Health and Mayo clinic.  Exercise:

  • Improves mood
  • Relives mild depression
  • Increases cognitive function

The August edition of Scientific American features an article on exercise and its affects on the cell biology that point to how movement can reduce cancer risk, improve cognition in the elderly, and change how cholesterol moves through your blood system. in ways you may not realize. And guess what?  When it comes to kids, physical activity may thwart drug abuse altogether.

So if you’re trying to quit, in a program already, or trying to help someone you love, consider adding massage therapy and exercise of some kind.  It can’t hurt and it may very well help.  Certainly worth a try, don’t you think?



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