Showing posts with label stop drinking. Show all posts
Showing posts with label stop drinking. Show all posts

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Treating addiction with no experience

The most troubling thing about wanting to get clean or wanting to help a love one get clean is that you just dont know how to begin. I was 5 years old when I realized my moms alcoholism had caused my dad to divorce her. My mom and dad were separated and divorcing while my brother, sister and I were living with mom in a rented house on the back of a lot at 9919 South Exchange ave in Chicago. As a 5 year old it was traumatizing not knowing how to get my mom to quit drinking. As a young child then I had dreamed up a way to get my mom and dad to reconcile and for my mom to quit drinking, it involved my 6 year old brother and me dressing up as a policeman and telling my mom and dad that they need to remarry. I had figured I can sit on my brothers shoulders so we would look tall enough to be an adult and we could wear a police uniform and order them to get back together. After all everyone knew that you had to listen to the police. Well we never carried out the plan and looking back I can see it would'nt have worked. But in my mind I was suffering because my mom and dad were not together anymore.

So as early as childhood my family suffered because my mother was suffering from alcoholism. Our family, your family and the addict all suffer when a severe addiction to drugs or alcohol strikes one of our loved ones. The dilemma is that addiction is so complex we dont know what to do to stop the addiction. When I quit drinking on April 17th 1993 I wanted to do more than just stay clean and sober. I decided to make it a comittment to find out why alcoholism and drug addiction has such a powerful hold on people. I had to know why drinking alcohol was so powerful of a force that I was compelled to make the decision and take my money and screw up my life and senses by buying hard liquor and drinking it. Why did I make such a choice, a choice that caused me to isolate from friends and family, a choice that caused me many years of homelessness and financial ruin. After all, when I was getting into trouble right before I became clean and sober my brother had counseled me and told me this advice "if I knew alcohol was ruining my life, I just would quit drinking it, just stop" and he surmised to me "why cant you just stop?" Just as with anything in life, if youve never did it before you dont understand it. Its like raising your first child, after youve raised 4 or five you look back on all the mistakes you made raising the first one. The 4th or 5th child are handled better because you finally learned how to stop a kid from crying all night or how to potty train at an earlier age. So when you or loved is suffering from a severe addiction to drugs or alcohol, chances are huge you dont know the first thing to do to stop it.

You see, even my brother as smart as he was couldnt understand alcoholism and addiction. He didnt know how to help an addict sustain from their vice. He didnt understand why an addict "just didnt stop". Thats why I spent 20 years of my life after I got sober, educating myself on the reason alcoholism and drug addiction occurs, and why its forces and compulsions are so strong they cant be broken so easily. I have read over 300 books dealing with alcoholism and drug addiction recovery, addiction counseling, underlying disorders and Ive studied dual diagnosis, which is having an addiction together with a psychological disorder.
Make no mistake, addiction to alcohol and drugs is very complex, but there are underlying principals which when understood make it easy to grasp and better deal with.

In "Treating Addiction", I have taken the complex and spelled it out for you. Youll read a lot about "the unquiet mind" in this book. What the unquiet mind is, is simply a psychological, physiological, environmental (or combination of these factors) which caused the brain to become unbalanced, and with the mind being unbalanced, it is in constant search for finding balance. It is an unsettling uneasy and unquiet feeling that will make it find calm one way or the other. And the cycle of addiction will bring it calm temporarily, but also leave havoc in its wake. The perfect example of this can be seen when a smoker is locked up in a meeting for several hours and is unable to smoke a cigarette. When they finally rush outside after the meeting is over you can see them tremble and fumble with their pack of cigarettes as they pull out a cigarette and light it. Their mind is extremely unquiet and unbalanced until they take that first drag on their cigarette. Now their mind has found quietness with the niccotene hit from their smoke.But this unquietness only lasts about a half minute or so as the niccotene wears low in their brain and another "fix" is needed to bring quick calm again. Once the addict finds a way to bring calm to their mind through other ways other than the repetitive use of alcohol or drugs, then the addict is ready to live a clean productive life free from the ravages of addiction to alcohol and drugs. We call this addiction free life a "daily management" of their underlying condition. Ill provide examples of management and how to monitor your unquiet mind and keep it more balanced so your recovery can begin.

Time and time again I get emails or phone calls from people who desperately want to get help for their alcoholic or drug addicted loved one. And what they seem to hope for is a quick "cure". Instant gratification. They dont understand that its a process. Their loved one usually does not want help and they also dont know what to do themselves or else they would of done it. It takes patience. And as a loved one tries to help their family member or friend get clean, they often get frustrated in short order. Addiction to alcohol and drugs is a complex and diverse mix of issues that need to be address and corrected. All while their addicted loved one is psychologically,  physiologically and also physically addicted. This needs to be rooted out and corrected in order for the compulsive pull of addiction to be reduced enough so that long term recovery is possible.

                                      My first attempt at helping another addict get clean

When I was about one and a half years sober I had my first real attempt at helping an addict get clean. It was a challenge I was not yet ready for.  I met Tonia Dunbar on the streets of Evanston Illinois. I was waiting for Edwardos pizza restaurant to open so I could apply for a job menial job there delivering pizza. After my real estate salesman career collapsed in a big way I was forced to take a job doing whatever paid cash. And pizza delivery seemed my only choice given my circumstances. I had gotten to Edwardos two hours before they were to open and was just waiting in my car listening to the radio to pass the time.

Thats when I happened upon Tonia, xxxxxx

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Addiction Knows No Boundry

This week I will be loading "Treating Addiction" on our website at to be viewed for free with ads on each page and the download is only $2.00.
Whether a person is black or white or brown or Catholic or Muslim or Republican or Democrat does not matter. What they all have in common is that they suffer horribly when severely addicted to drugs or alcohol. My life journey going forward (and for the past 19 years) has been to help suffering alcoholics and drug addicts end their suffering and repair their family situation so that everyone involved in their lives can begin to heal.
It just tears my soul apart when I feel other people suffering and through the information I have to offer I hope my vast knowledge can bring comfort. That is my goal. Please take advantage of the love and knowledge I have to give to you, the addict or the loved one of the addict."Treating Addiction" was my  work of nearly twenty years gathering the "right" information dealing with the root causes of Alcoholism and Drug Addiction.

excerpts like this I passionately share with you:

The hope and answers         are right here for you.

You are beginning a new journey forward into a better life, one free from alcohol or drugs. You need to start out by not feeling overwhelmed. Your recovery will be a process of small steps. These steps will lead you to a life that you so desperately crave. In “Treating Addiction” we will get right to the point in all matters involving your recovery. The important key factors surrounding your recovery will be this:

Guilt is normal, learn to let it go.

Do not dwell on all the guilt and regrets you may feel because of things you may have said or done while you were caught up in your addiction to drugs or alcohol. Actually, any guilt you may feel is a healthy sign that you are aware a change is needed in your life. It is good recognizing you want to get well! These guiltful feelings are what motivated you to seek recovery in the first place. Be grateful that something has brought you here.

New people and places are your key to recovery.

You must concentrate on changing your environment to one that is free from the influences of the people and places you associated with when you used alcohol or drugs. They are triggers your mind is programmed to react to which internally influence and temp you to slip or relapse. I will assure you that you will find new and cleaner friends in recovery. These new friends are concerned about your well being and continued recovery. “Treating Addiction” will show you where and how to find these wonderful new friends. Hint: they are everywhere once you get involved in your recovery.

Learn to plan and fill your day properly.

You will learn how to simply alter your daily schedule so you can avoid open and free time. Free time leaves you highly vulnerable to your addiction. When you are sleeping you’re not caught up in your addiction. This happens because your mind is relaxed and pre-occupied with sleep. You will learn to sleep a little longer or even go to sleep a little bit earlier at night. Your schedule and how you plan it is a critical key to your continued recovery. In “treating Addiction” you will learn how to keep fully engaged with a productive life so that you have no time for your addiction.

Be aware of your emotions

Any emotional strains you feel needs to be recognized and dealt with honestly. You will keep an eye on how your mind feels once you have purged all alcohol and drugs from it. If you notice any strains, anxiety or depressive states the you must find a trusted and knowledgeable psychiatrist. You should also go and find a support group to share your problems with so that this will help you receive good advice and feedback. AA/NA is a wonderful place to start.

Recovery gets easier with each new day.

Please know that everyday you are in recovery the process of staying clean and sober will get easier. As your mind adapts and re-focuses it’s thinking, your recovery will become a more accepted and common place thing. Yes, recovery does get easier with each day.

Learn to kickback and observe.

Be humble as you go about your days and kick it back a few notches to observe those around you who are themselves in recovery, because they have a great deal to teach you. Choose an easier road to most situations and be slow to stress, anger and anxiety. Go out of your way to be more mild, just take it all in for a while and do not try to repair your past or yourself overnight. Don’t worry, it will all happen for the better now. Time will heal things, just be patient, you will know when it’s right to work on repairing aspects of your past life.

You will now live life anew.

What you once avoided you will now slowly face, and things you so badly wanted to do with your loved ones and family you will now begin to do. Take it a step at a time as you re-acquaint yourself with your loved ones. They want you to be there with them in mind and in body so they too must learn to have patience as you make your transformation back into their daily lives.

Start setting goals for yourself.

You will have a clearer mind every day you are in recovery and this will allow you to gradually get back to setting and reaching short term and long term goals for yourself. Goals that include better handling of your finances and also learning to find more time to do the things you want and need to do with those who matter most in your life. Simply put, your social life will now greatly improve.

Know too that as you are in recovery, due to your newer clearer thinking, you will notice that good things will just happen. There will now be more good days than bad.

*You will learn how to find more peace and calmness in your life
*You will learn how to tame your un-quiet mind.
*There are wonderful incentives for you to stay in recovery, your well being and your family’s mental tranquility are but one of the main incentives to motivate you into recovery from your addiction to drugs and alcohol.

As you are in recovery you will notice that most others in recovery tend to want to help and advise each other on how to stay clean and sober. As you advance a bit in your recovery it is great for your own sobriety if you too help other addicts looking to get clean. The world of recovery is filled with people helping people.

“whenever anyone, anywhere, reaches out for help, I want the hand of AA to always be there. And for that I am responsible”  Bill Wilson, co-founder of AA

“Treating Addiction” is here to show you why you became addicted to drugs or alcohol and what to do about finding long term recovery.

When you know the reasons for your addiction you can move forward and make the necessary changes to quit that addiction. Through this book you will get an education and an open mind on finding recovery. So please read this book, and re-read it in order to get educated and get well. Just be humble and take a few steps back while absorbing everything. 

Together We will get well. I am by your side.
                                                        Love, John Joseph 

* *

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Is your addicted loved one destroying your emotions? Know this.

If you are beside yourself trying to get your loved one to end their addiction to drugs and alcohol listen up please. You are not alone. You must first never give up helping them but just make sure you are not enabling them to continue their addiction. You must use tough love on them yet also don't preach or blindly yell at them while at them same time it is very important you keep their trust. Tall order huh? Well no one is saying that getting them to quit is gonna be easy. Oh year and you must have patience to.
I know it hurts your loved one to have them in a full fledged addiction to drugs or alcohol and its hurting the family too. It is real pain and suffering dealing with addiction. When your loved one talks to you you don't know if they are lying to you or telling the truth. Everytime they leave the room to go to the bathroom or get something downstairs you don't know if they are sneaking out or not. I
experience the same thing with addicts I work very close with. It hurts. I feel for you. There is  a constant flood of emotions. Anxiety, pity, scared, hurt, exasperation and frustration all at once. That's why you want the addiction to end.
The lack of trust is the real problem. When your loved one finally does wind up in recovery you are always asking yourself and them for reassurance that "this time" it's for real. You fear your loved one may get a sexually transmitted disease or may get hurt ort passout at the wheel of a car. Or worse maybe even O D on some bad stuff, or too much stuff. The suffering is endless. Your mind may get trancefixed on a good or funny movie and forget about the issue for a while only to sudden spring back into your mind and numb your mind out again. You may get some sleep at night only to suddenly awaken and rember everything again in a sudden hurry. It hurts. Addiction is so much pain to so many. That's why I am dedicating all my time to bring you the info and support you need to get through this and get through to your loved one so that a change of direction can occur. There is not a waking moment that I don't think about the suffering and homelessness my mother went through because of her addiction to alcohol. She was a sharp witted tough woman and alcohol took away that beautiful mind. Her addiction to alcohol took her away from my brother, sister and me. There was not a day when I was a little boy that I did not worry about if she was ok. Or if she was warm and inside in the winter time. I just needed reasurrace to know that, and it was something I never got. I hurt for those I try to help, I hurt when I see thier families and children go through what I went through.

The thoughts of people hurting and suffering the streets to addiction never leaves my mind. It has placed a permanent imprint on my life. I know that you too feel the same way.

The best advice I could give you is to never give up. Do not take no for an answer. Do not get your loved one mad at you. Show them always that you love them. Tell them always that you want to help them make a change. Talk to other addicts family members and get advice and support. Find it on the web and also go to Al Anon mettings for support and also to get your emotional battery recharged. Trudge on because your loved one needs you more than they need anyone else. You must work hard to find out what issues and or disorders your loved one faces. This is where the root of the problem rests. Remember it's not the addiction that is destroying the family and the addict. It is the underlying triggers that create the compulsive pull which is causing your loved one to need to calm thier inquiet mind through addiction to substances. They are self medicating.

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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and remember to enjoy the journey.

Christmas is a time to pause what we're doing and take break from the hectic schedules we normally follow. Lets be thankful for our health and always remember that many people who are suffering need someone in someway. If you can, try to be that someone to a person within reach who needs help. This time we all share on earth is short, so by keeping that in mind share kindness and compassion whenever you can. Love and generosity may not last forever but the times you can give it are really worth th efforts. When you lift a poor mans spirits or help a mentally ill homeless person it should lift your spirits as well. What you give comes back to you in many ways. If you are afdictef to drugs or alcohol or if your loved one is, may God grant you the help and tranquility along with the strength to conquer your battles so that your mind can rest with more comfort. Please follow my books blogs and videos for insight and tips so thst you may enjoy the serene love of living in more comfort for the rest of your journey. God Bless and I love you. John Joseph.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Problem Is What Ails You, Not The Ale Your Using.

It cannot be said any plainer. Your compulsive drinking of alcohol is not the reason for your many troubles, it's the fact that you are compulsed to drink in order to quiet your unbalanced mind. The drinking is the symptom that all is not well with you psychologically, emotionally and or environmentally. Your mind is chemically unbalanced and hurting, it also is suffering and in a twisted state of pain to one degree or another. You need to isolate what ails your brain and that will reduce the compulsive pull to self medicate in order to make things less traumatic, less anxiety ridden, leass depressed and less hurting mentally. When you first started drinking it was probably because you just wanted to get high, to catch a buzz and to feel good. You were most likely young and wanted to goof around with your peers. Why not, a little getting high couldn't hurt anything you thought. Then 3, 4, 5 or 10 years later you are wondering why alcohol has destroyed you and not most of your other friends. Well, the reason is simple, but yet complex all at the same time. Maybe it's drugs also that you compulsively use regularly too. You see you were different from the friends of yours who used to drink and goof around with you. You see, that innocent partying and getting buzzed is very dangerous to do because if you have an underlying condition where your brain chemistry is unstable, the right kinds of drugs and alcohol will mask it and help make your suffering feel better, temporarily that is. Until you come down and start feeling rotten again. Then you must continue this cycle of regular use in order to feel somewhat more normal. Although you will never feel "normal" as long as you are using drugs or alcohol. You will sedate your mind from what is dogging you, and in the process be numb to life mentally and emotionally. When you are addicted to a particular drug or medication, or alcohol or evn both, the problem may seem to be your destructive over use of it. But just by staooping their use is not going to make you better. You will suffer and seek other outlets for your unstable condition. You must get the proper assessment by someone who can point out this feelings your feeling and diagnose your condition. Therapy will also help you cope better. Because if you just stop using you have not addressed the reasons you compulsively used in the first place. Lifestyle management and change is needed to bring yourself to a more "near normal" state. It will take being honest with yourself and the desire to make the changes needed to calm your unquiet mind and greatly reduce your compulsive pull to a level where you can better function without the need to use self medication in order to find stability and mental peace. Addiction is a temporary calmness, addressing your underlying needs will be the only way to a more calm and rational less suffering way to live.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

"Treating Addiction" Soon to be released followed by dozens of self help videos and ezine articles.

"Treating Addiction" Recovery From Alcoholism and Drug Addiction by John Joseph

In my new book "Treating Addiction" you will learn the fundamentals of what to do to recover from your own severe addiction to alcohol and drugs. In my book I show you how your addiction is not the main problem in your life, it is but a symptom of an underlying un-quiet mind or psychological disorder and trauma which is causing you to self medicate in an effort to relieve the un-stable chemistry within your mind. This unsteadiness allows you to become compulsively addicted to drugs and alcohol in a futile attempt to bring calm to your mind and your world.

I am John Joseph and I have witnessed addiction from several perspectives starting with the torturous loss of my mother to alcoholism and then suffering through my own 14 1/2 year bout with the disease/disorder. And then working with street addicts and professionals to help them through their  suffering from alcoholism and drug addiction. I am very empath and intuitive and have read over 300 books dealing with Alcoholism/Drug addiction, accompanying psychological disorders, and family crisis counseling. When I work with an addict I do more than just briefly offer assistance. I jump into their situation head first in a concentrated effort to help them end their suffering.

"Treating Addiction"  will tell you why you drink or drug compulsively and will also show you what you must do to manage your days without being addicted. I show you why you must eliminate triggers such as environment, and guide you through your new days sober and clean. I explain through my experiences and those of other addicts just how you will get well. I offer the hope and solice you need so you feel confident as you make the brave journey into a life long recovery. I show you why you must take certain steps in order to drastically reduce the compulsive pull of addiction in your life.

I do much pro bono counseling with inner city addicts and help them with all issues involving their recovery. I am often mentor and guardian to the children of addicts and have opened a 2800 square foot foster home on Chicago's south side. "Treating Addiction" I am confident will be a major aid in helping you understand what is at the root causes of your severe compulsion to use drugs and alcohol.

"Treating Addiction" is more than a single book, it is supported by hundreds of videos, blogs, and mainly ongoing support from me, John Joseph. I am your guide in your journey to get back a life you so desperately deserve. A life free from the ravages and toxins of addiction to alcohol and drugs.

John Joseph Addiction recovery blogs and links

About John Joseph:

John Joseph was born and raised in Chicago, mostly by his father Salvatore, a tea totler who got court custody of John and his two siblings. John's mom became decimated and homeless due to her out of control alcoholism. This left a big impact on John's early childhood by having only saw his mom about 10 times after the age of 6 years. After a troublesome and lonely childhood John too became an alcoholic at the age of 15 1/2. He drank hard booze straight with only a gulp of soda chaser.He dabbled in various hardcore street drugs until the age of 21. His alcoholism later led to the depression, social isolation and his financial collapse.
At the age of 29 1/2 he finnally quit his hardcore drinking and spent the next 18 years of his life reading over 300 books dealing with alcoholism and drug addiction, family crisis counseling and multi disorders associated with addiction. he has counseled hardcore street addicts and also those in the recovery field. When John gets involved in and addicts life, he does not see them once and wish them well. To the contrary he never lets them go. nHe follows their life very closely and is there in their great times of need. He has often chased addicts down in crack houses just to help them get a grip on their ravages. John has a heart that wont quit. He is often times very bright, but his highly intuit and extreme empath qualities often over ride his intelligent mind. He goes to court with inner city addicts and gets them legal counsel when they are threatened with jail or losing their children to the state. John decided to help addicts anyway he could because it is force that is within him. He took the years to write "Treating Addiction" in order to help addicts and their families end their suffering. When John Joseph quit his addiction to alcoholism he was determined to understand why addiction exists. The toll he witnessed in the wake of many addicts lives gave him the motivation to better understand this ravaging mental anguish and help enlighten addicts to get clean and sober. The roots to writing "Treating Addiction" began with the anguish John had went through as a child watching his lovely mothers life and mind destroyed by alcoholism, and then the anguish he went through as a near gutter drunk out of control. "Treating Addiction" was not written with the thoughts of making money, but with the thoughts and heartfelt love from a man whom suffers when other people are suffering from the devastation of being addicted to drugs and alcohol. John gives away at least half of his earnings to house and help inner city addicts and their families get well and healthy. He has has opened a 2800 square foot foster home on Chicagos south side to help bring stability to those left homeless due to addiction. If you are suffering from alcoholism or drug addiction, or if you want to help a loved one who is suffering, then Please read "Treating Addiction" so that you will know the fundamentals of why and how to get clean and sober for a lifetime.

John Joseph has been guardian to Ida, and her 2 young sons Jamari and Ray for the last 2 
and a half years. They lived in Marryville academy as wards of the state. John says that the rewards
you get from helping children in need are the smiles you bring to their faces.
Marryville Academy 

photo and poem by john joseph

To those who are weak

Be their strength

To those lonely and friendless

Be their friend

To those lost in confusion

Be their guidance

To those who are hurting

Be their comfort, ease their pain

To those mentally incapable

Help them decide, be their decision maker

To those who are illiterate

Help them understand

To those crying in torment

Dry their eyes with comfort

To those whose balance is unstable

Show them stability

Don't take what has'nt been given

Give what clearly they need

Sow the seeds in humanity

Through words, actions and deeds.
John Joseph 2004

Monday, May 28, 2012

Recovery is a whole new feeling, a whole new way of living life.

When you contemplate entering recovery from alcohol and drug addiction know that its a high all itself. Once you stay clean and sober for many months or a year or two you will bask with the feelings of no longer using an artificial high. You get to live and understand reality and even find it hard to imagine getting through life high again. Thats because you find a new reality, the real reality. The first few weeks of being clean are the hardest, thats when you need support from those already in recovery. You need re-assurance and guidance early on.Its like learning to ride a bike, once you understand the way to do it, you can make it on your own. Life is a fresh feeling of sensing your surroundings. Its a whole new wonderful world. Through the blogs, videos, books and info that I share with you through TA (treating Addiction) you will learn how to get your life back and become a part of your family again. its a whole new feeling and I want to share it with you. You will learn what you need to do to reduce the compulsive addictive pulls that cause you to find relief through self medicating with drugs and alcohol. As you greatly reduce this pull, you will find it easier to get away from your addiction to alcohol and drugs.

Friday, April 27, 2012

The immortal Bill Wilson gracefully tells his story.

The secret to understanding your addiction is to find why your mind is un-quiet,and here's how.

So you have a severe daily addiction to alcohol, or crack or heroin or whatever. The point is you are addicted because your mind is un-balanced. You use because your mind is trying to find balance by your self medicating. The drug your addicted to works. It eases your mind and brings stability calm and quietness to it. But it only works for so long, then you begin to withdraw physically and mentally and it gets you unstable and sick again, until you use drugs or alcohol and feed this cycle of use your mind and body are now dependent on. This constant use of toxins also poisons your system and ruins your health. It also causes you to change emotionally and you just blow off all your responsibilities in the process. Now like I said, your addiction works, only temporarily and the side effects are more than enough to destroy you and your family relationships and sanity. So what your need to do is reduce the influence to want to use drugs or alcohol regularly, then through daily management you can make your mind less noisy and more clam. By having your mind more calm and balanced the need to use drugs and alcohol will greatly reduce. Most addictions are caused by an underlying psychological disorder and mental trauma such as anxiety and depression. Treat this disorder and trauma with meds and stress reduction and talk (cognitive therapy), and you will be on stronger ground to say no to your addiction. it's a daily up and down battle to keep your mind quieter, but through this daily management of your condition you will now adjust back into society with the compulsive pull of addiction thrawting you.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Switching Addictions, A vital key to ending your devastating one.

The article below from the health section of the New York Times is a plain example of using another less harmful addiction to wean yourself from a most devastating one. Anyone who is a daily anxiety fueled runner, exerciser is actually and addict. An excessive eater or gambler qualifies for this distinction of addict too. There is no cure for addiction. The unquiet mind of the addict will always be unquiet. In order to calm the mind so it can escape the massive pull toward addiction it must find less stress and medications to lessen the addictive pull. Quitting drugs, alcohol gambling eating etc. is a process of daily management. Daily management done properly will enable an ex-addict to more rationally live out an addiction free life with a more calmer and sane existence. But I feel there are flaws in this article claiming exercise can also cause addiction. This is misplaced thinking. It is most probable that if you can allow your exercising to drive up your anxiety then yes this is a trigger for addiction. The rule to reducing the addictive pull is to lower your anxiety and stress levels.  read more..

Martin Strattner/Getty Images
Phys Ed
Statistically, people who exercise are much less likely than inactive people to abuse drugs or alcohol. But can exercise help curb addictions? Some research shows that exercise may stimulate reward centers in the brain, helping to ease cravings for drugs or other substances. But according to an eye-opening new study of cocaine-addicted mice, dedicated exercise may in some cases make it even harder to break an addiction.
The study, conducted by researchers at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, began by dividing male mice into those that had or did not have running wheels in their cages. All of the mice were injected with a chemical that marks newly created brain cells.
The animals then sat in their cages or ran at will for 30 days.
Afterward, the mice were placed in small multiroom chambers in the lab and introduced to liquid cocaine. They liked it.
Researchers frequently use a model known as “conditioned place preference” to study addiction in animals. If a rodent returns to and stubbornly plants itself in a particular place where it has received a drug or other pleasurable experience, then the researchers conclude that the animal has become habituated. It badly wants to repeat the experience that it associates with that place.
All of the mice displayed a decided place preference for the spot within their chamber where they received cocaine. They had learned to associate that location with the pleasures of the drug. All of the mice had, essentially, become addicts.
Some of the sedentary animals were then given running wheels and allowed to start exercising. Meanwhile, those mice that had always had wheels continued to use them.
Then the researchers cut off the animals’ drug supply and watched how long it took them to stop scuttling to their preferred place. This process, known as “extinction of the conditioned place preference,” is thought to indicate that an animal has overcome its addiction.
The researchers noted two distinct patterns among the addicted exercisers. The formerly sedentary mice that had begun running only after they became addicted lost their conditioned place preference quickly and with apparent ease. For them, it appeared relatively easy to break the habit.
Those that had been runners when they first tried cocaine, however, lost their preference slowly, if at all. Many, in fact, never stopped hanging out in the drug-associated locale, a rather poignant reminder of the power of addiction.
“There is good news and maybe not-so-good news about our findings,” says Justin S. Rhodes, a professor of psychology at the University of Illinois and an author, with Martina L. Mustroph and others, of the study, published in The European Journal of Neuroscience.
It does indicate that shedding an addiction acquired when a person has been exercising could be extra challenging, he says.
“But, really, what the study shows,” he continues, “is how profoundly exercise affects learning.”
When the brains of the mice were examined, he points out, the runners had about twice as many new brain cells as the animals that had remained sedentary, a finding confirmed by earlier studies. These cells were centered in each animal’s hippocampus, a portion of the brain critical for associative learning, or the ability to associate a new thought with its context.
So, the researchers propose, the animals that had been running before they were introduced to cocaine had a plentiful supply of new brain cells primed to learn. And what they learned was to crave the drug. Consequently, they had much more difficulty forgetting what they’d learned and moving on from their addiction.
That same mechanism appeared to benefit animals that had started running after becoming addicted. Their new brain cells helped them to rapidly learn to stop associating drug and place, once the cocaine was taken away, and start adjusting to sobriety.
“Fundamentally, the results are encouraging,” Dr. Rhodes says. They show that by doubling the production of robust, young neurons, “exercise improves associative learning.”
But the findings also underscore that these new cells are indiscriminate and don’t care what you learn. They will amplify the process, whether you’re memorizing Shakespeare or growing dependent on nicotine.
None of which, Dr. Rhodes says, should discourage people from exercising or from using exercise to combat addictions. “We looked at one narrow aspect” of exercise and addiction, he says, related to learned behaviors and drug seeking.
He points to a number of studies by other researchers that have shown that exercise seems able to stimulate reward centers in the brain “that might substitute for drug cravings,” he says. Animals given voluntary access to both running wheels and narcotics, for example, almost always choose to take less of the drug than animals that couldn’t run. “They seem to get enough of a buzz” from the exercise, he says, that they need less of the drugs.
“It’s a no-brainer, really,” Dr. Rhodes concludes. “Exercise is good for you in almost every way.” But it is wise to bear in mind, he adds, that, by exercising, “you do create a greater capacity to learn, and it’s up to each individual to use that capacity wisely.”