Addiction Treatment, Trauma, and the Role of Technology

Addiction Treatment, Trauma, and the Role of Technology

For the last few decades, the role of trauma has been ignored in shaping addiction treatment. It fell out of favor with the development of managed care. However, more recently, a resurgence of interest in focusing on trauma in addiction treatment has occurred. Many believe, and logic would support such beliefs, that trauma often underlies the cause of an addiction. In an attempt to analyze and explain the unrelenting pattern of treatment and relapse, one can look to unacknowledged and untreated trauma. We all know that addiction treatment is more than “just say NO,” without supportive therapies. Study after study has demonstrated that after a traumatic event people resort to a variety of coping mechanisms—alcohol or drug use are two of them. Studies of children who suffered abuse (physical, sexual, emotional) often go on as adults to be involved in other abusive relationships. New brain studies are examining the changes in animal brains associated with trauma and behavior. Untreated, trauma mounts on top of trauma and emotional, intellectual, mental, physical, and spiritual health deteriorates. The National Institute of Mental Health has a list of incidents that are associated with PTSD: Rape Torture Kidnapping Natural Disasters Muggings/Physical threats Accidents Abuse (emotional, mental, physical) Witnessing a violent event In the study, Design Strengths and Issues of SAMHSA’s Women…. (Psychiatr Serv. 2005 Oct;56(10):1233-6) researchers examined the design, cost, and outcomes of trauma-informed programs for women with a history of violence, substance abuse and mental health disorders. After 12 months the women in the intervention group maintained and continued to improve in all three areas related to drug use, mental health and trauma...
Hope For Recovery: Neuroplasticity, Addiction Treatment and Technology

Hope For Recovery: Neuroplasticity, Addiction Treatment and Technology

Drugs and alcohol change the messages in the brain and the brain’s ability to send messages unfettered and unaltered. That broadly defines the brain mechanics of addiction. The brain’s neuroplasticity can also determine the brain’s ability to overcome these damaged pathways that lead to drug and alcohol seeking behaviors and the consequences associated with such behaviors. Decades have passed since scientists first believed that these crucial messaging centers were permanently developed in early childhood. Researchers had also concluded that once the brain was damaged no new connections, or neuro pathways could be made. Scientists now know that due to neuroplasticity, the human brain can adapt to compensate for the loss of a function and create new message pathways to change behavior and thinking. Today, the brain has been closely studied, graphed, photographed, and messages within the brain measured. The good news is that the brain has tremendous ability to create new message pathways because of the brain’s neuroplasticity. While the old drug/alcohol related pathways will always remain, researchers now understand that new pathways can be developed and made strong. That may not be a simple task, but it is doable and the new wave of user friendly technology has moved this process along. “The Brain Never Stops Changing and Adjusting” That statement, written on the Washington University’s Neuroscience for Kids website provides great hope for those recovering from addiction. The brain can rewire itself to handle functional losses, such as those temporarily brought on by drug and alcohol addiction or the more permanent ones associated with addiction. That means we can aggressively pursue new behaviors and that they can become strong, reliable habits. “Conditions...
Rewire Brain Pathways Reinforce Addiction Recovery

Rewire Brain Pathways Reinforce Addiction Recovery

This week’s blog focus will continue to explore the subject of rewiring the brain circuitry as a valid form of addiction intervention and stabilization of recovery. In a study published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine, and summarized in Medical News Today (12/10/2014) participants in a drug intervention program used mindfulness-oriented materials to handle cravings, alleviate pain and strengthen positive feelings. Eric L. Garland, an Associate Professor at the University of Utah College of Social Work, was the lead author. One of the techniques used which altered brain responses relied on participants focusing on pleasant experiences through meditation. The results were revealing. The more participants focused on natural healthy pleasures (being in nature, positive connections with a loved one) the more brain activity occurred during these pleasurable thoughts resulting in fewer cravings for opioids. Three components of the Mindfulness program are: Training the mind to increase awareness and gain control over attention Reframing stressful events to understand it growth promoting Focus attention on positive events to increase the natural reward feelings in enjoying a healthy daily experience (a beautiful scene) Why Rewiring the Brain Circuitry Works to Help Stop Addiction Scientists now know that the brain does create new message pathways. That is why treatment of many ailments now includes mindfulness training. The more one practices mindfulness, meditation, and healthy behaviors, the more the new neuro pathways become strengthened and dynamic. Clients must be able to form new perspectives, feelings, and self-affirming actions to stop substance abuse and replace old drug/alcohol seeking behaviors and cravings. The need to create and cultivate new pathways is a crucial component of addiction...
Change Behaviors and Attitudes Strengthen Addiction Recovery

Change Behaviors and Attitudes Strengthen Addiction Recovery

There is no argument that obtaining and maintaining recovery from alcohol and drugs is challenging. The dismal outcome statistics from rehab centers demonstrate that reality. So, for the Providers who wish to improve outcomes, and for the dedicated therapists and clinicians who work with addicted clients what can be done to alter the current landscape in the addiction industry? Science is moving at a lightening fast pace exploring brain function and neuroplasticity — all of which is good news for those suffering from addiction. Treatment, we know, must be multifaceted, as research has already demonstrated. (Sadly, this approach is still not followed by a large percentage of those offering treatment. However, we will not go into that discussion in this blog) The route to recovery is as varied as the stories behind each addict. Some people respond well to one type of therapy, such as CBT, while others need more support from 12 Step Programs. Still others do not respond well to 12 Step Programs but do respond to reward/incentive approaches. Designing a program that is comprehensive takes commitment, integrity, financial backing, qualified staff, and vision. The key to creating a fluid, responsive, and appropriate treatment program means providers and therapists must be open to new data and new approaches. Recently, an NPR health report (1/05/15) revisited a study concerning Vietnam veterans who were heroin addicts during active duty. They received treatment overseas, then returned home and maintained low rates of relapse. Dr. Lee Robins, the lead psychiatrist, collected data at regular intervals. The data revealed that only 5% of those treated in Vietnam and who were back in...
Stress, Addiction and Mindfulness-Based Therapies

Stress, Addiction and Mindfulness-Based Therapies

Stress is powerful and destructive. It attacks one’s frame of reference. Stress can send a recovering addict straight into the arms of active addiction. It courses throughout the body like a tidal wave. It leaves devastation in its wake, at first, there are only small pockets of residue left behind, but eventually it corrupts the body’s ability to fight disease, to maintain a positive attitude, or to cope with the everyday stressors of living. Decades have passed since the introduction of biofeedback occurred where patients learned to focus attention on calming bodily function using electric cues. Relaxing muscles and focusing on relaxation were found to alter the person’s physical and mental state. In 1979, MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction) program was introduced to patients with physical and mental health problems. And that began the movement acknowledging the mind/body connection. Today researchers are actively looking at the impact of practicing mindfulness in treating many diseases: including addiction! Mindfulness therapy teaches the patient to: Pay attention in the moment Awareness and acceptance of thoughts and feelings Re-preceive thoughts According to a Study published in Substance Abuse Oct/Dec. 2009, researchers found that Mindfulness-based interventions produced positive results in overcoming experiential avoidance. The ability to look at the thought or feeling in the moment without judgment enabled clients to respond differently to those thoughts and feelings. Clients were able to interrupt poor behavioral choices, and automatic responses were avoided. A series of papers called for by the National Institute of Health indicated that those who received Mindfulness-based therapies experienced fewer cravings, and experienced stress reduction. In a study published in JAMA Psychiatry, Sarah Bowen, of...

According to an article on PsychCentral (10/22/14) a new study from Columbia University’s National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse found what researchers what have long known. There are no national standards for addiction care, and that the acute care model that directs treatment is failing patients. In a previous blog, the issue of acute care versus chronic care was raised. The underlying realities of the acute care model remain. Here are the known facts: Addiction is a chronic disease Continual care and status check-ups are needed Addressing real-time issues are crucial to maintaining sobriety (drugs and alcohol) Mental health issues must be addressed simultaneously and for the long term Known scientific therapies do work and need to be utilized Professional staffing with expertise in drug and alcohol addiction is needed Separate programs for men and women along with specialty treatments (religions, sexual preference) Comprehensive family programs need to be integrated into the treatment program Strong support systems need to be established Clinical groups for aftercare must be part of the treatment program Aftercare programs help maintain early sobriety and solidify the tools for recovery Use technology to help support those in recovery Columbia University launches new interactive website In keeping with the times, Columbia University has launched a new interactive website that allows providers and patients access to recovery information and tools. Does this sound familiar? Recovery Passport Solutions is dedicated to shifting the failure of drug and alcohol treatment programs by utilizing web based tools. Where Columbia University’s interactive website offers people tools to determine whether addiction is a problem, we offer treatment facilities the tools to “shore up”...
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