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Massage Therapy Helping Break the Chains of Addiction

Addiction is an epidemic. 1 out of every 100 people in Delaware are dependent on opioids and 4 out of 5 heroin users began with prescription drugs. We are in a time riddled with opioid use and a huge portion of the population may also have other dependencies. About 17% of Delaware adults report binge drinking in the last 30 days, according to 2016 statistics. Substance abuse costs the US 484 billion per year. The good news is recovery from addiction is totally achievable. Being able to take the first steps is the hardest part and can be terrifying. It's also hard to decide which approach works best for each individual. Treatment outcomes vary from person to person since everyone has different traumas and underlying causes of addiction. Today it's becoming more and more common to take a holistic approach to recovery. This provides the opportunity to choose from a vast array of methods including but not limited to yoga, meditation, qi xong, acupuncture, various recreational therapies(equine, gardening, sports, art, and pet therapies), massage, and emotional freedom techniques("tapping"). All of these can be continued throughout the recovery process.

The immediate withdrawal period is very stressful, but sometimes people forget after immediate treatment the battle continues. Most addictions start as a way to help self soothe so without the substance it can be very hard to adjust back to normal life without it. As I have explained in other blogs, massage increases seratonin and dopamine while decreasing cortisol. During early stages of substance withdrawal dopamine can drop extremely low. People suffering from lower dopamine levels can experience, fatigue, lack of pleasure, insomnia, memory loss, mood swings, and lack of motivation. So by increasing dopamine production recoverers can lessen all of these symptoms. Even after initial withdrawal, most addicts take a while to start producing "feel good" chemicals on their own again. Massage produces these hormones without the use of addictive substances so it can help during the secondary phase of recovery as well. Massage is also known to enhance vagal nerve stimulation. The vagus nerve is linked to the parasympathetic nervous system i.e. lowers blood pressure, decreases stress hormones, and slows your heartbeat. This causes a more relaxed state. An excerpt from AMTA's massage and Addiction states, "Other physiological and emotional issues in recovery include pain, agitation, anxiety and sleep problems. Massage—nearly any kind of massage—also helps with all of these, says Tiffany Field, Ph.D., director of the University of Miami’s School of Medicine’s Touch Research Institute, which studies massage. “The body releases fewer stress hormones when being massaged,” Field says. Stress hormones, including cortisol, weaken the immune system and can lead to increased pain.“ This becomes, a vicious cycle,” Field says, “one that massage can help break.”" Breaking this pain cycle can be one of the keys to achieving recovery. It's also important for recovering addicts to be more in touch with their bodies and emotions. Through massage they can begin to recognize when they are feeling stressed or where tension exists in their body. This can help them deal with stress or emotions before they become too great to deal with so they do not slip back into the same substance abuse patterns. No matter which approach is right for each individual. Having such a vast array of therapies makes recovery totally achievable.

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