Mindfulness as a New Treatment for Substance Dependency

According to Government figures around 23 million Americans suffer from
substance dependency.

Addictions to alcohol, drugs and other habit-forming substances are difficult to overcome due to the reward-based learning center in our brain. While this developed to aid survival, tobacco, alcohol and recreational drugs all target the mesolimbic pathway, triggering the release of feel-good dopamine, which reinforces these habits. Cognitive behavioral therapy is one strategy used to change behaviors, but it works through our prefrontal cortex, which fatigues under stress, so has limited success in managing addictions. Thankfully, mindfulness works through another mechanism and shows potential as a treatment.

*Evidence for mindfulness-based addiction therapies*

Mindfulness is a Buddhist principle that encourages us to become more aware of our thoughts, feelings and body sensations. This is helpful in addiction therapy, as it enables addicts to appreciate cravings and notice how they alter with time. Rather than acting on a craving, individuals are able to ride out cravings, adopting a more positive behavior. Paying close attention also allows those dependent on substances to better appreciate their behaviors and the downsides of their habits, so they no longer appeal. This isn’t just based on theory though, as there is good evidence that being mindful helps during smoking cessation and recovery from alcoholism and drug abuse.

Indeed, a randomized controlled trial found mindfulness twice as effective for giving up tobacco as the best available treatment. By targeting the addictive loop, mindfulness disrupts it, breaking down the association between craving and behavior, and the desire to act on these.

*Accessing mindfulness therapy*

Although further research is necessary, a clear mechanistic link makes mindfulness a promising treatment for relapse prevention. Therapists are now trained in its use for addiction recovery, and the value of internet and app-based mindfulness is also under  exploration, with clinical trials underway.

Heroes for Hope: Building Resilience for America’s Children Continued

You can find part I of my interview with Dr. Blau by clicking here.

Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Gary M. Blau, Ph.D., who is involved in wide variety of programs designed to improve the lives of children and families and has been working to raise awareness of Children’s Mental Health.

In my interview with Dr. Blau, I asked about the treatments that are available for children with mental health challenges.

There are numerous evidence based treatments, Dr. Blau said.  There is hope and children do recover.   With grant money through SAMSA and other programs and coordinated networks of care, such as the National Traumatic Stress Network, support services provide children with helpful and necessary services.  Dr. Blau states that varying forms of specific kinds of treatments such as trauma focused cognitive behavior therapy, which is a short term treatment focused on becoming aware of thoughts and traumatic event might effect reactions and behavior are highly effective.  Other promising treatments include SPARCS for teenagers  and ARC.  Dr. Blau emphasized the importance of becoming aware of a child’s mental health challenges, early intervention, addressing problems, finding and effective treatment approach.

cyndi lauper, Gary Blau, heroes for hope, LGBT, mental health, children, national children’s awareness day, SAMSA, substance abuse and mental health services administration, trauma

10 Signs of a Confident Communicator

How you interact matters, as much as and sometimes more than, the words that you say.  Imagine someone asking for a raise.  One person does so with a smile and straightforward gaze, while another says the same words with a frown and stares at her shoes and hangs her head.

Your body language and style not only affect the outcome, but also the way you feel.  Sometimes we interact in ways that wear at our own self-confidence.

dbt, dialectical behavior therapy, dbt skills, interpersonal effectiveness, give skill, dearman skill, emotion regulation

Simple Solutions for Problems with Willpower: Part 1

The levels of stress you experience can have significant negative effects on your life.  Often people engage in problematic behaviors, such as over or under eating, drinking and smoking in response to stress.  These types of behaviors can create both physical and psychological problems and increase stress over time.

Many Americans experience stress on a daily basis.  To better understand the stress faced by average people in America, the American Psychological Association (APA) conducts an annual survey to determine where our stress is coming from.

Continue reading “Simple Solutions for Problems with Willpower: Part 1” »