Ashley Addiction Treatment is a comprehensive recovery program designed to help maintain life-long sobriety, not just rehab and detox. Addiction is a disease that deeply affects physical health, brain health, and changes the very patterns of our daily life. Dealing with addiction is more than handling the symptoms of a single disease. Overcoming addiction means restructuring a fragmented life, overcoming the immediate effects of withdrawal and dependency, along with potential comorbid disorders, and ultimately forming healthy behaviors that will carry you forward through life.
Addiction ruins the opportunity for a clean and crisp daily routine. Because addiction leaves you seeking high after high, it not only takes time out of your day, but makes it impossible to structure and maintain a schedule. At Ashley, establishing a daily routine becomes one of our primary goals. Many people in recovery suffer with poor sleep, tossing and turning and waking up feeling groggy and unrested. There are simple techniques for lining up your circadian rhythm with a more natural sleep schedule, such as eliminating blue LED lights from a room, and shutting off all electronics a half-hour before going to sleep. The National Sleep Foundation found that well-rested sleepers reported 20% better productivity and efficiency throughout their day. This energy is critical, especially as you’re recovering from a disease. Outdoor activities also help reset your biological clock, helping you feel more in sync with a natural day-night cycle.
At Ashley, our Emerging Adult program frequently engages in outdoor adventures such as white-water rafting or trail hiking, to not only give our patients a chance to see nature and get some exercise, but to establish better circadian rhythms and learn to enjoy outdoor, aerobic activity—something that tends to become more and more difficult in modern, urban life. Continued, scheduled exercise is a critical component of recovery because it establishes a more structured daily schedule. Overcoming the chaos of addiction means leading a life that is more organized and efficient. Having engaging, outdoor exploration with likeminded friends makes it more palatable, engaging, and more likely to become a healthy habit.
Exercise also has a more direct effect on substance use recovery—recent studies have found that it can actually reduce cravings that are so common with the disease. Research on the topic is still new and growing, but two possible explanations exist. First, long-duration aerobic exercise is known to mimic the effects similar to the euphoric effects of some addictive substances. Another alternative is that the physical attention and energy required for exercise is simply absorbing enough that it distracts our brains from these unhealthy cravings. In a Harvard medical article, Dr. Claire Twark noted a study in which stressed rats exposed to cocaine were more likely to avoid the drug if they were exercised prior to returning into the environment with the cocaine. She claims the effect is similar in patients she sees, who are more likely to overcome or ignore substances after exercising.
These positive effects aren’t limited solely to addiction. Many comorbid disorders, such as depression, are highly impacted by physical exercise. Patients and doctors familiar with depression and substance use disorders (SUDs) are familiar with the difficulty of navigating two very difficult brain diseases at once. Depression can sap the motivation and will out of someone afflicted, making sustained, healthy recovery exponentially more difficult. Harvard health studies found that physical exercises can reduce some of the symptoms of depression, in some cases as effectively as medication.
Addiction is one of the most difficult disorders to treat, because the cravings linger and exposure is so common. In recovery it’s important to look far beyond the initial detox period and focusing on building long-term, healthy patterns of behavior that can lead to a substance-free lifestyle. Exercise and healthy sleep hygiene management are two great potential treatments for patients looking to change their lifestyle to fight addiction and other disorders, to improve their health and gain control of their schedule.