Why must we exercise? Well, smoking, drugs, and alcohol addiction have become an increasingly growing problem in the country. As recently as 2017, almost 30 million people suffered worldwide from some form of substance abuse disorder. These addictions have a devastating effect on people’s personal and work life. From theft to pay for drug habits to physical abuse of loved ones, becoming an addict is one slippery slope most deeply regret getting on.
One of the most deeply personal ways addiction affects a person is physical. Whatever physical shape you were in before, you are almost guaranteed to turn out worse when in the throes of an addiction. This is primarily because you neglect healthy habits to feed your habit. Concerns like eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly fall to the wayside as you pursue that next high or swig of the bottle. Not to mention the increasingly unsafe behavior many engage in that increases the risk of medical problems. Activities like prostitution to make money to buy drugs, sharing needles to inject dubious drugs, and drinking to the excess that leaves your liver ready to pack it in, are all a part of many addicts’ lives.
Getting clean more than often requires serious intervention and enrollment in a drug rehabilitation facility. There are multiple programs with various approaches to recovery. The problem of rehabilitation can, however, become more worrisome when it indicates a dual diagnosis. Dual diagnosis refers to cases where a person suffers from both a substance abuse disorder and a mental disorder. While either of the conditions may develop first, it has been found that symptoms of mental illness are worsened by continued alcohol or drug abuse. This is because substance abuse causes changes to brain chemistry and will often exacerbate any underlying mental symptoms.
Through the use of integrated intervention, people that suffer this diagnosis are treated on both fronts. In this way, both conditions are dealt with simultaneously, reducing the risk of relapse and boosting health. Dual diagnosis treatment programs involve a selection of treatments including detoxification, psychotherapy, drug therapy, and support groups. Whatever interventions that are prescribed, the inclusion of exercise has been found to help reduce the likelihood of abuse. Before we look at the particular benefits that regular exercise brings to the table, it is a good idea to delve into what exactly happens to the body when the addictions kick in.
What Happens To Your Body When You Abuse
Most of us enjoy a couple of beers on a regular basis and can typically resist going too far when we know it is going to be a workday. For others, however, there is an inability to control themselves. Just one taste and they are just about ready to fly off the deep end. The strong temptation and lack of control mean that recovering addicts must strictly avoid anything alcoholic. Alcohol dependency affects the brain, causing recurring symptoms like blurry vision, slurred speech, difficulty in walking and impaired memory. There is also increased risk of high blood pressure, heart problems, liver inflammation and cirrhosis, kidney failure, and increased vulnerability to infections such as tuberculosis and pneumonia.
It also pushes the liver into overdrive as it tries to remove alcohol from the system and makes glucose release from its fat cells difficult. There is a build-up of toxins in the body, which are a by-product of the liver breaking down the alcohol. These toxins inflame the immune system and cause cell damage in multiple organs. Factors such as the length of time the abuse takes place, the person’s age, the amount of alcohol consumed and the presence of other health problems will affect recovery.
Drug addiction presents a somewhat different set of problems. Illicit and prescriptions drugs are the most abused and tend to have the worst impact on health. Illicit drugs are prepared under a variety of different conditions. Some are made in sanitized labs while others are sourced from very primitive and dirty locations. Drugs like cocaine are often diluted, or cut, with various ingredients designed to bulk up production and generate more profit. For the most part, these additives are benign and chosen to enhance the experience of the user, or increase their addiction level. However, when mistakes are made and high doses of these additives are added, the risk of serious damage increase. Sugars such as sucrose and dextrose and low doses of medications such as paracetamol and scopolamine add minimal risk to the drugs. Other choices such as high doses of medications like quinine, lidocaine, and caffeine can damage organs, interfere with sleep, cause convulsions and even death.
Overuse and prolonged use of prescription medications, particularly when the ailment they were originally prescribed for has healed, can also cause serious health problems beyond addiction. Drugs such as Vicodin, oxycontin and Ritalin are being increasingly overprescribed and abused by both kids and adults. In many instances, because of the euphoric and relaxing effects of certain drugs, they have also found demand among healthy people. Even with casual use, there is an increased tolerance to these drugs that may make for complications with future drug therapy.
Smoking addiction has already been well established to have adverse effects with some of the worst linked illnesses including lung cancer, throat cancer, heart disease, diabetes, impotence and loss of eyesight. Besides what it does to the addict, it can also lead to the harm of loved ones who inhale secondhand smoke. They often end up being exposed to the same illnesses as the smoker.
Alcohol addiction has far-reaching consequences that can negatively affect body weight. The consumption of empty calories in booze makes the drinker believe they are full but in reality, no nutrients are getting into the digestive tract. In addition, heavy alcohol intake tends to damage the intestinal lining, compromising the body’s ability to absorb nutrients, even when healthy food is being consumed. It is very common for heavy drinkers to end up underweight as a result. Poor absorption of nutrients also leaves the body vulnerable to other problems including heart disease, osteoporosis, and different cancers.
Because addictions make performing routine habits like eating well difficult, it is common for many to end up losing a considerable amount of weight. The toxins created by the ingestion of drugs and alcohol will often lead to organ damage, poor cell growth, and repair. All these results in malnutrition, which also negatively influences body weight.
Another less spoken about the effect is loss of taste and smell. Nicotine tends to damage nerves and blood supply to these areas, making it difficult for the senses to work properly. Smell and taste are a big part of what makes eating enjoyable. When everything tastes bland, there is not much desire to eat. This can encourage the development of eating disorders. It is not surprising that decades ago cigarette smoking was actually used as a hook to promoting weight loss.
On the flip side, alcohol and drug abuse can lead to excessive weight gain, especially when poor health leas to the development of type II diabetes. Uncontrolled blood sugars encourage poor eating habits and vice versa. Many sufferers end up reaching for high fat and high sugar foods to satisfy their cravings.
Why Exercise Works
Adopting a healthy lifestyle is one of the most important changes that an addict can make in psychotherapy. One of the key reasons people fall into nicotine, drug and alcohol addiction is stress. Pressures at home and at work become a heavy burden, and these vices become a coping mechanism. Physical exertion is a great stress reliever as it produces endorphins that make you feel good. A common side effect of stress is insomnia and other sleep disorders. Sleep disruption can also be as a result of the substance abuse. When you exercise, the body finds it easier to shut down completely. You enjoy longer and deeper sleep that eventually leads to a better mood when awake.
The release of endorphins during exercise helps make for a happier feeling. This makes it a mood enhancer, reducing the risk of an addict reaching for comfort from a bottle of pills or liquor. The risk of relapse is high for serious addicts. Many require multiple visits to a rehab facility like Mountain Springs Recovery in order to make any meaningful headway in their recovery. With a good exercise routine in place, the risk reduces. The feel-good effect of working out can easily turn into a new addiction, but one with a better impact on the body.
With better choices in nutrition and a regular exercise regimen, an addict can build up their immune system, making them increasingly less susceptible to illness. This is great for their health and saves money. Many fitness activities like going to the gym, joining a local sports team and participating in local runs encourage positive social interaction. Getting to know and make friends with people focused on keeping healthy is a great way to remain on the path of sobriety. Some may even be addicts themselves and provide valuable support and advice.
In the early stages of recovery, addicts go through a period of detox. This involves getting rid of the toxins that have built up in the system and weaning the body of its dependence on illicit substances. Through exercise, the detox process can be accelerated as blood is pushed through the liver and kidneys faster. Cells expel toxins faster and you end up excreting them through waste, sweat, and air exhaled. This quicker circulation not only aids in cleaning out the toxins but also speeds up the absorption of much-needed nutrients, vitamins, and minerals.
When an addict picks their drug/addiction of choice, they ultimately decide on their current physical state. Those that are already suffering conditions like liver failure or type II diabetes will need more help to stabilize their condition.
In order for an addict to enjoy the benefits of exercise, it is vital to be consistent. Even for those without serious addictions, it is often hard to stick with a regular fitness regimen. Ultimately, it comes down to mind over matter. A good way to stick with it is to find someone who can hold you accountable. Whether it is a fitness coach, running group, or a dog you have to take on daily walks, work out what will work best for you. Start out with small simple goals and build up. The more consistent you are, the less effort you will need to stick with it because it becomes fun and eventually a necessity in your life.
Keep in mind that in most cases of addiction, from the very first day you stop indulging, there are going to be positive health benefits. The body is designed in such a way as to try to heal itself. Even with some damage, you can make healthier choices and seek treatment that will drastically improve your quality of life and expectancy. Make the decision to turn over a new leaf and make becoming healthy your new obsession.