10 Feb 2019

Studies reveal that the United States spends about $150 to $200 billion a year to treat citizens afflicted with substance use disorders (SUD). In fact, 9.5 percent of the country’s population falls within the DSM-IV criteria for drug abuse or dependence. Spontaneous remission rates of people suffering from SUDs are low. There is a much higher possibility of them relapsing, as relapse rates may range from 60 percent to 90 percent.
Such statistics have prompted the medical community to channel its efforts to find ways to lower the current relapse rate and help patients sustain gains of their recovery. One tactic is to modify the lifestyle of dependents in order for them to develop positive thoughts and actions. This may include introducing heightened physical activity. Exercise may improve mental well-being, reduce cravings for substances, and help people create better strategies for coping with their condition.

Exercise: A Deterrent to Drug Abuse

The National Institute for Drug Abuse (NIDA) has spent millions of dollars to investigate the science of addiction. It discovered that exercise not only raises energy levels and helps maintain one’s ideal weight but can also serve as a deterrent to drug abuse. Findings of a NIDA-funded survey reported that students who are engaged in physical activities are less likely to smoke cigarettes or use marijuana compared to those who lead inactive lifestyles. The NIDA, however, admitted that the relationship between exercise and drug addiction may be indirect.
Exercise not only benefits the body but also the brain. While strengthening the lungs and heart, it also enhances the reward pathways of the brain and positively influences the neurochemicals that influence one’s mood.
A study conducted by the NIDA demonstrated that exercise facilitated the creation of blood vessels in animals’ brains, helped repair neural tissue, and boosted the growth of new neurons. The study also determined that exercise improved the ability of animals to handle stress.

Consistency: Key to Faster Recovery

The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) recognized that physical exercise is an additional treatment for people recovering from SUDs. Studies by the center indicated that people who exercised regularly showed decreased levels of SUDs compared to people who were inconsistent in their exercise routines. In addition, regular exercise discouraged adolescents from using alcohol and illegal substances as they grew older, reduced the cravings of marijuana-addicted adults, and facilitated the faster recovery of people with SUDs.
Exercise may impact brain functions in different ways. It may improve cognition, which may enhance a person’s recognition memory and diminish his or her stress levels. For example, people have used aerobic exercises to treat SUDs and other conditions. Yoga, which is an exercise for both the mind and body, has also been proven to be effective for women who undergo detoxification in high end rehab facilities.
The purpose of the NCIB’s analysis was to determine how exercise could directly influence SUDs. Among the outcomes used to gauge the treatment included the clients’ anxiety levels, their depression levels, and their rate of abstinence from substances. Subgroup analyses also studied how exercise therapies could address various forms of drug addiction. Such research has determined that exercise can be an effective tool for treating SUDs and other conditions.

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