In the world of addiction treatment, medical professionals and researchers are constantly searching for more effective ways to address addiction.
While there is generally a similar approach to addiction treatment, each journey through recovery must be individualized in order to be successful. Each person’s history of abuse, environmental factors, and biological factors play a unique role in the way addiction develops, and these different histories often play an equally unique role in their road to recovery. What may work for one person is not always effective for someone else and as a person progresses through a treatment program, their plan must evolve to match the changing needs of the client over time.
The Tetris Effect
With so many variables in addiction treatment, many healthcare professionals search for effective ways to treat addiction that work for a large number of people. In some cases, effective methods of diminishing cravings can come in the most unlikely ways. Recent studies suggest that after just three minutes playing Tetris, an individual’s cravings for drugs, alcohol, coffee, cigarettes, sex, and even sleeping can be lessened substantially. The study shows cravings are decreased from 70 percent to 56 percent thanks to cognitive interference.
The study, conducted by Plymouth University and Queensland University of Technology, used 31 adults between the ages of 18 and 27. Researchers worked by surveying their cravings via text message, asking them to report on what cravings they experienced, and how much they wanted it on a scale from zero to 100. Half of the participants were asked to play a game of Tetris within three minutes of receiving a text message prompt. Thirty percent of the time, participants reported cravings at the time they received the text message. The impact of Tetris on cravings was so substantial that participants who engaged with the experiment were able to keep their cravings at bay for a full week. Even those who played the game approximately 40 times a week saw consistent effects that did not wear off.
Alternatives to Drug Rehab
While many are aware of traditional approaches to addiction treatment, there are a variety of alternative methods that an individual can use to help treat their disease. Many of these alternative treatments are offered through rehab centers as supplemental therapies. Although it’s a popular belief that alternative therapies alone cannot effectively treat addiction, their inclusion in recovery often has profound effects on the individual.
- Neurofeedback: This alternative form of treatment uses electroencephalography (EEG) sensors to view brain activity in real time. The sensors are attached to an individual’s head, allowing the brain’s activity to be transmitted to a computer. Brain waves are displayed on a monitor, allowing the individual to interact with their brain waves directly, altering them and changing their frequency. This form of therapy can help individuals increase or decrease states of arousal in their brain. For example, an anxious person can work to decrease arousal in the brain, while a person with depression can work to increase it.
- Acupuncture: Acupuncture has become more and more popular in treating addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders. Specialists suggest that acupuncture can help control cravings, make detox less painful, and decrease anxiety (among other benefits). The technique works by stimulating specific acu-points on the body, often by penetrating the skin with thin needles. Other methods of stimulation may include heat, cupping, laser lights, or pressure. Since acupuncture stimulates circulation and the endocrine system while simultaneously promoting relaxation and reducing inflammation, many advocates believe the therapy helps individuals process materials that may be at the root of their addiction.
- Virtual Reality Therapy (VRT): This is a form of exposure therapy in which an individual is exposed to simulated real-life experiences. Currently used to train pilots, virtual technology is now being used to treat those with anxiety disorders and phobias. Places like the University of Houston are using the technology to build realistic virtual worlds that recreate triggers, helping individuals overcome cravings in a safe and controlled environment.
- Pet Therapy: Often used in conjunction with traditional approaches to addiction treatment, pet therapy works by helping recovering addicts take care of something outside of themselves. Advocates for this form of therapy suggest that promoting nurturing behaviors through working with dependent creatures helps individuals develop a nurturing side to themselves, and cultivates an understanding of what it means to be nurtured. Evidence suggests that spending time with furry friends has a variety of benefits including reduced stress, lower blood pressure and heart rate, and higher self-esteem.
- Meditation: Meditation and other mindfulness practices are commonly used in many addiction treatment programs as a means of preventing relapse. This practice promotes self-awareness, helping individuals regulate their mood while simultaneously lowering levels of stress. There are a variety of different mindfulness meditations that an individual may engage with to develop the emotional intelligence necessary to support a sober lifestyle. Many studies suggest that meditation helps reduce the likelihood of relapse, reduces cravings, and helps individuals develop healthy coping mechanisms for stressors.