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Yoga Therapy: Scientifically Supported to Reduce Substance Use and Cravings

According to the second annual 2018 surveillance report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimate of over 630,000 people died from a drug overdose in the United States between 1999 and 2016. Beginning with overdoses from prescription painkillers in the 1990s, the epidemic has evolved to overdoses from heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and nonfatal overdoses from prescription and illicit drugs, resulting in rising numbers of hospital admissions and emergency department visits. President Donald Trump has declared the opioid crisis as a public health emergency in 2017. Various experts in the addiction treatment field have coined addiction as a brain disease, recognizing that addiction is not a moral disease but a medical condition comparable to other chronic diseases such as heart disease, renal failure and diabetes. As such, substance use addiction warrants medical attention yet limited treatment options for substance abuse still exist. A growing number of dual diagnosis treatment centers are taking on holistic approaches, such as yoga therapy, to supplement their clinical practices in addiction treatment. A narrative review published this year in The Journal of Neurosciences in Rural Practices examines 314 case studies, evaluating the role of yoga therapy in substance abuse treatment.

Yoga’s Effects on Substance Use Disorders and Cravings

Findings from the narrative review show that yoga has significantly reduced depression and substance use disorders among patients with alcohol use disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), compared to those who received treatment as usual. For individuals with opioid use disorders, those who received substance abuse treatment in conjunction with yoga therapy reported much higher quality of life at six-month follow-up as opposed to those who only received standard treatment for opioid dependence. HIV-positive individuals with cocaine use disorders reported to have significantly reduced stress levels compared to those who did not receive dual diagnosis treatment. The majority of the studies have shown positive short-term effects of yoga in reducing substance-related cravings, especially in nicotine-use disorders. Given the vast differences in sample sizes, yoga therapy techniques, outcome measures and other variables, studies done on yoga therapy have their limitations, but there’s enough evidence to show yoga and other related therapies to be promising interventions in management of substance use disorders.

Yoga Therapy Improves Quality of Life

It makes sense why yoga therapy would also be included in addiction treatment for substance use disorders. The overwhelming amount of studies show yoga’s positive effects on other health outcomes, such as those with heart failure, breast cancer, migraines, Type 2 Diabetes and chronic pain. As mind-body fitness programs proliferate, an increasing number of health practitioners are incorporating therapeutic yoga, which is defined in the International Journal of Yoga as “the application of yoga postures to the treatment of health conditions,” and yoga therapy is utilized to prevent, reduce and/or alleviate physical, emotional and spiritual pain. The benefits of regular yoga practices are as follows:

• Strengthens muscles
• Increases body flexibility
• Improves breathing and heart rate
• Promotes treatment of and recovery from drug and alcohol addiction
• Reduces depression and anxiety
• Ameliorates chronic pain
• Reduces insomnia/sleep disturbance
• Enhances overall well-being and quality of life

Yoga, an Effective Segue in Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Since many individuals entering substance abuse treatment have poor dietary and exercise habits, yoga is a low-level physical activity, which makes it easier for folks to commit to during and after dual diagnosis treatment. This mindfulness-based approach is often integrated with other evidence-based practices such as cognitive behavioral and dialectical behavioral therapies and is included in a wide array of holistic therapy programs at New Method Wellness, a premier dual diagnosis treatment center in San Juan Capistrano, CA.

For more information about our dual diagnosis treatment programs, call 866.951.1824

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