Addiction

Overcoming Addiction and Mental Illness

There are few disorders that have a lower recovery rate than addiction. Twelve-step programs have extremely poor recovery rates, likely due to lack of compliance with program suggestions. For those who use twelve-step programs and no other resources, as few as 5-10% will be abstinent from drugs/alcohol at the end of a year. Residential addiction treatment, which can be very effective, is being undermined in the United States by lack of access to insurance that will pay for care of the necessary duration for a client to get a firm hold on recovery. We need better ways of dealing with addiction and many of the most common forms of mental illness, such as anxiety and depression. The good news is, we have them. 

By applying the latest research in psychology, neuroscience, medicine, and complementary/whole health practices to addiction recovery, there is evidence that has allowed the creation and implementation of addiction treatment protocols that work. In her addresses and books, Dr. Scharff outlines what these protocols are. She reveals how a variety of treatment practices, when used together on a highly individualized basis, work synergistically to drastically improve treatment outcomes. This process rewires the brain, allowing addicts to lead productive, normal lives.

Scientific advances in a range of fields including applied psychology, meditation and mindfulness, music, art, and somatic programs, and neuroscience, among others, have collectively been used to create some of the greatest breakthroughs in addiction treatment since the advent of twelve-step programs. These new understandings of how the addict’s brain and psyche work have revolutionized our knowledge of addiction recovery. We have discovered that addiction isn’t the genetic “disease” we once imagined, but is rather a brain disorder, a neuroplastic event in which both the structure and function of the brain are co-opted and changed by addictive behavior. Knowing this, we are able to manipulate the brain in order to create new neural pathways that establish healthy behaviors and the opportunity for lasting recovery.

But when access to rehab isn’t available or possible, what then?

Dr. Scharff notes that there are many activities that people can use to improve outcomes and decrease symptoms for depression, anxiety, and addiction. Many complementary, whole health practices, including but not limited to acupuncture, naturopathy, meditation, yoga, social connection (e.g. volunteering), music, breathwork, somatic experiencing, mentorship, and outdoor experiences can improve mental states. These activities also circumvent the stigma around receiving treatment for addiction and mental illness. Though none of these activities on its own is a solution to addiction or some forms of mental illness, their inclusion in a healthy lifestyle most definitely improves outcomes and outlook on life.