Science of Addiction: Why Science Is the New Intervention

Modern holistic rehab centers utilize science of addiction to deliver effective recovery options. In many 12-step meetings, for example, modern providers are negating a previously held notion that addicts are born, rather than made. Every year, new discoveries are made. Every year, our understanding of the science behind addiction reshapes, revamps and revitalizes the medical world’s ability to treat addicted individuals.

Science of Addiction: Is Addiction a Problem for Science?

Addiction can’t always be cured, but it’s considered to be a chronic disease. Like other chronic diseases, addiction can be assisted, managed and beaten successfully. Scientifically powered treatments give addicted individuals the ability to counteract their addictions’ powerful, disruptive impacts on the brain, behavior, and lifestyle. In doing so, addicted individuals can begin regaining control of their lifestyles and health.

Similar to other chronic illnesses, addiction often requires retreatment.

In the world of addiction, relapse is often synonymous with recurring chronic illness symptoms of other diseases. In a JAMA study comparing relapse to recurrent chronic illness symptoms, scientists found that patients experiencing recurring symptoms—both in addiction and chronic illnesses—were very similar. These recurrence rates, similar across the board, underscored drug use disorders as chronic conditions. Similarly, the recurrence of symptoms serves as a “trigger” for renewed intervention tactics.

addiction genetic factor
The genetic factor

The Genetic Factor

Science of addiction has helped us discover the intricacies of addiction by understanding genetics, too. Even in modern holistic rehab centers—which may use “alternative” recovery approaches to help individuals—genetic factors are still considered with care.

Holistic drug treatment, particularly holistic alcohol treatment, takes note of an individual’s familial addictions—if any are present. Drug addiction and alcohol addiction are more prevalent in individuals whose family members were addicted.

Researchers estimate, in fact, that genetics contributes to a roughly 42 to 79 percent higher risk of cocaine dependence.

Complex diseases, such as addictions, involve a variety of genes. These genes can be expressed through the individual’s environment, too, making an individual’s lifestyle a driving factor of ongoing addiction.

Some genome-wide association studies—abbreviated as GWAS—focus on gene variations frequently discovered in those with substance use disorders. These studies attempt to identify those who are at an increased risk for different addictions, and candidate-gene research closely watches the links between specific genes which encode proteins and addiction in later life.

For example, in one study researchers discovered that specific genes encoded for particular dopamine receptors are correlated with cocaine addiction. The enzymes which break down the dopamine neurotransmitter are directly linked, and can greatly increase the chance of addiction if any inconsistencies are present.

How Does an Environment Affect Genetic Predisposition?

As stated above, modern holistic rehab approaches still rely on science of addiction for their many recovery options. Because environmental factors normally shape a gene’s impact on addiction risk, it’s important to understand how specific gene-and-environments “play out.” For this reason, many holistic treatment centers pay attention to an individual’s lifestyle, family life, and medical issues. Because holistic rehab uses a number of approaches to increase an addicted individual’s life quality, the environment is a driving factor.

The field of epigenetics is slowly discovering the importance of said environment with long-term gene expression changes. Some researchers believe environmental changes can directly alter the way an individual’s genes are expressed, contributing to long-term addiction.

The Science of Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention

Science of addiction has further influenced the holistic drug rehab world by promoting a higher focus on meditation and focus exercises. Behavioral addiction interventions may not be mainstream recovery methods, but they’re well-supported by scientific evidence.

Behavioral interventions focused on developing mindful behaviors, specifically, are supported to prevent cognitive-behavioral relapse. Several studies support the use of mindfulness-based relapse prevention techniques in 12-step programs, too, helping addicted individuals avoid situations which might trigger relapses.

Rather than focusing on situational avoidance, participants in mindfulness-based addiction groups are encouraged to create a general awareness of their psychological and physical states, then recognizing any underlying reasons for their underlying substance abuse. In recognizing—and responding—to these discovered internal cues, patients can:

  • Discover underlying issues contributing to relapse
  • Learn to avoid external triggers
  • Experience better long-term recovery outcomes
  • Experience reduced cravings
  • Improve self-control
  • Experience improved moods
  • Learn to cope with stress better

Other studies, meanwhile, suggest that meditation training, mindfulness exercises and focus practices can help “rewire” an addicted individual’s circuitry of self-control—which is an individual’s intention of behavioral change.

By rewiring this circuitry, an individual can experience fewer cravings, have better moods and cope with stress in more effective ways.

Technology and Recovery

Science of addiction has benefited recovering addicts with another boon, too: technology. Mobile technology, specifically, has played a vital role in modern addiction recovery support. Technologically-enhanced aftercare, reportedly, is assisting addicted individuals with short-term support and long-term recovery.

Social support via social media groups, cross-platform instant messaging and similar opportunities is reportedly helping people overcome addictions.

Smartphone support has become a powerful tool in holistic drug rehab, too, giving patients the tools needed to log their urges and relapses. These tools, geared towards targeting addiction-related triggers, take cultural and social barriers into account—recording less-noticeable stimuli which contribute to addiction.

It isn’t rare to see a holistic recovery center offer smartphone app support, for this reason, giving patients the opportunity to “stay connected” when not directly engaging holistic drug rehab groups, exercises, and support networks. A good holistic recovery center offers a variety of resources—even digital ones.

When used in appropriate contexts, these smartphone apps can positively support behavioral interventions. Technology leverages the “tough spots” of holistic addiction recovery, filling the gaps between direct assistance and patient-motivated recovery. In some cases, holistic drug rehab centers have used apps like Sober Grid—which features geo-social networking solutions which connect users to different online communities dedicated to each individual’s sobriety.

Other holistic drug rehab centers, meanwhile, are using technology to help their communities identify, avoid and cope with events capable of triggering relapses.

Innovations like machine learning have made it possible to create apps which aggregate these recognized triggers, using big data to better prevent relapses before they occur.

optimism and addiction treatment
Optimism and Addiction Treatment

Science of Addiction: Optimism in Addiction Recovery

While it might sound surprising, optimism is scientifically supported to be beneficial in addiction recovery.

By being hopeful in leading a different type of life, patients can transform the misery and addiction in their lives to positivity and recovery. A struggling alcoholic, for example, can capably recover when optimism is presented as a supporting factor of treatment.

Addicted individuals undergo a great deal of turmoil and struggle before ultimately surrendering. While they don’t choose to surrender, their lack of willpower may inherently seem like a choice. Addicted individuals, at their lowest points, still thrive on hope. Understandably, a holistic addiction treatment center offering a slew of psychological and emotional assistance programs regularly promote optimism as a recovery tool.

Recovering individuals start attending recovery groups. They begin talking with their peers. Then, following treatment at holistic drug rehab centers, they learn about the various spiritual paths to recovery while developing a spiritual connection to an external force. They slowly transform their lives, avoiding drugs and alcohol in the future. While holistic drug rehab and holistic alcohol rehab may keep spirituality as a cornerstone, a surprising science supports optimism’s powerful impacts.

A prospective survey, based upon the Substance Abuse Attitude Survey conducted on an 85-person emergency physician group, covered five pre-defined attitude subgroups which may be capable determining factors of addiction recovery. These factors were:

  • Permissiveness
  • Non-stereotypes
  • Treatment intervention
  • Treatment optimism
  • Non-moralism

Of these, treatment optimism ranked as the second most effective criteria for determining successful recovery. A lot of modern emergency physicians are even in favor of introducing treatment optimism to their programs, helping addicted individuals overcome acute relapse symptoms and chronic drug addiction.

Optimism in Early Treatment

Addicted individuals in early recovery—who’ve just exited rehab—rely on this optimism for successful, long-term recovery. Several schools of “recovery thought” support an optimist’s approach to life as an incredible tool for drug addiction recovery as a whole. A struggling alcoholic, or drug addict, might increase their likelihood of a clean life if they’re repeatedly optimistic.

Similarly, optimism seems to reduce periods of vulnerability. Researchers have conducted many studies within the last decade, researching the science of happiness. Human beings are designed to encounter a range of emotions, but they can still achieve “general happiness” over long periods of time. While social media may be a positive force for recovery, day-to-day use of these same platforms can psychologically make individuals miserable, studies find. For this reason, many recovering individuals are urged to use recovery-related social media groups only, not straying into the often-toxic segments of Facebook and Instagram.

Can Optimism Be Scientifically Measured?

According to several studies conducted throughout the U.S. and Europe, optimism can be measured—to a degree, at least. Optimism, reportedly, can help people cope with disease, recover from surgery and obtain a higher level of health and longevity. Reportedly, an optimistic outlook in early life is a solid predictor of better health, a lower rate of death and addiction recovery between ages 15 and 40.

To further investigate optimism, scientists have created a few reliable ways to gauge the trait. These systems—used by both addiction centers and medical professionals—are dispositional optimism and explanatory style.

Dispositional Optimism

Dispositional optimism relies on the individual’s positive expectations for the future. These expectations aren’t necessarily confined to several aspects of life. Instead, they’re compiled by a person’s generalized expectations for good outcomes. A lot of researchers use the 12-item Life Orientation Test to measure a person’s dispositional optimism.

Explanatory Optimism

Explanatory optimism, meanwhile, records a person’s ability to explain both good and bad news. While a pessimistic person may blame themselves for bad news, assumes their current situation won’t change and has a global impact, an optimist is less likely to assume blame for negative events. In turn, the optimist is more likely to give him or herself credit for good news. They’ll similarly assume most good things will last.

They’re also confident that any positive developments will positively impact the other parts of their life.

A Harvard study has covered the use of the Content Analysis of Verbatim Explanations, as well as the Attributional Style Questionnaire, to evaluate these case-by-case situations, helping individuals harness deeper levels of optimism to improve their lives in the long run.

Apparently, optimism can protect a person’s overall health. More research covered by the Harvard study evaluated the links between overall health and optimism. Across 2,300 older adults, those with positive outlooks were much more likely to stay healthy, be drug-free and enjoy independent living.

Staying “well” for a couple of years is one thing, but staying healthy over decades is another.

Many recovery centers, for this reason, support ongoing addiction recovery programs which harness optimism as a driving factor of overall health.

A Holistic Approach to Addiction Recovery

Over the past 30 years of study, holistic approaches have been proven to be scientifically valid. Of course, more studies are needed to further clarify the links between optimism, good health, and addiction rehabilitation. Multiple emotional and mental mechanisms are in play.

A person’s personality is incredibly complex, too. Modern doctors continuously attempt to understand how an individual’s life outlook is hard-wired into their addiction potential and emotional healing capabilities.

Fortunately, an individual’s life outlook can be nurtured. While science of addiction supports the theory of a genetic predisposition to addiction, it also supports emotional and mental therapy as effective recovery tools. Today’s holistic rehab providers are always accumulating evidence, crafting new recovery classes and implementing new roadways for recovering individuals to take.

Science of addiction, in many ways, is the modern addict’s new intervention.

By further understanding the science of addiction, both recovery providers and addicted individuals benefit. If you have a friend or loved one who struggles with drug addiction, inform them of the psychological and emotional variables. Recovery takes time, and a little optimism goes a long way.

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