Scientists at the University of Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions have identified how cardiovascular exercise can support rehab treatment for those struggling with addiction. In a study carried out on animals, researchers discovered that regular exercise targets areas of the brain that control dopamine. Cardio exercise has long been known to reduce anxiety, stress and depression, which are common triggers for alcohol and drug addiction. In addition to these benefits, regular exercise can alter the dopamine pathways in the brain. These findings lead researchers to believe that being active can help replace substance addiction with something much more healthy.
Currently, the researchers are looking to see if physical exercise can permanently alter dopamine receptors in the human brain. These findings are shedding light on the brain's ability to receive pleasure. Long term drug or alcohol abuse can dramatically alter the chemical makeup of our central nervous system. Researchers are hoping to prove that even after a history of long term substance abuse, working out can help reshape the brain chemistry away from addictive behaviors.
A severe cocaine addiction can physically alter the brain’s neural and behavioral responses to stress. This alteration can lead to frequent relapses throughout the long recovery process. Using regular exercise to help fight cravings can help alter the mesolimbic dopamine pathways, which is the area most affected by frequent cocaine abuse. Exercise can help reward and reinforce this center of the brain, offering rewards similar to cocaine and other drug abuse.
Abuse to stimulants like methamphetamine and cocaine are often more difficult to treat. Adding a workout routine to a recovery program for these types of drugs have shown to be effective tools.
Exercise is a natural reward for the brain, much like food or sex, exercise helps the brain release endorphins which can make the individual feel good. Substance use can destroy these natural pathways in the brain and replace them with a need to use more of a substance for the user to feel good again. Building up a sweat increases self-confidence and motivation, which are commonly lower in drug addicts and alcoholics. This increase of motivation can help an addict resist cravings and urges to use and replaces it with something good for both the body and mind.
Continued, sustained sessions of regular physical activity seem to work the best. An intense workout can give the body a "natural high" which can last up to 48 hours, so it is good to exercise at least 3-5 times a week to help reduce the potential for a relapse. This consistent routine has been shown to sustain resistance to substance cravings for everything from alcohol, nicotine, opioids, marijuana and stimulants.
If you are seeking treatment for a serious addiction, exercise is just one component of a successful treatment regimen. Many addicts will require a full medical detox as the withdrawal symptoms themselves can require professional medical supervision. Our treatment center offers help throughout every step of the recovery process, from initial detox, inpatient rehabilitation to continued outpatient therapy and relapse prevention.
If you or a loved one needs help with an addiction, please call us. We are open 24/7 and are always here to help.