Addiction Recovery: The Mind/Body Treatment Paradigm
Are you sick? Then you’ll want to see a doctor. Are you suffering from substance abuse? Well, then you’ll want to see a doctor who’s in addiction recovery. It only makes sense. If that doctor happens to hail from Harvard? Well, you’ll want to see that doctor without delay!
That’s where we find ourselves with Dr. Peter Grinspoon. It’s also why we find ourselves with the good doctor. See Dr. Grinspoon is a Massachusetts General Hospital staffer who’s been sober for a full decade. He also currently teaches medicine at Harvard Medical School and serves as an inner-city Boston clinic’s primary care physician.
In addition, Dr. Grinspoon spent two years as an Associate Director for the Physician Health Service, which is part of the Massachusetts Medical Society. There he worked with physicians who suffer from substance use disorders. It was also there where Dr. G wrote the book on his own substance use disorder.
That book is entitled Free Refills: A Doctor Confronts His Addiction. And it is an unquestionably candid look at what befalls a physician when they fall afoul of opiates. The book also happens to further solidify the reasons we believe Dr. G is a reliable and instructive go-to when it comes to treating substance abuse.
AA and the Mind-Body Principles
Dr. Grinspoon penned the following on the Harvard Medical School’s Harvard Health Blog under the title “Mind-body medicine in addiction recovery.” We’ve extracted some of the best of a very great piece.
As mentioned, Dr. G has spent the past 10 years battling what he calls “a miserable opiate addiction.” During that time he’s also “treated hundreds of others for various addictions,” and he’s “increasingly impressed with the ways in which mind-body medicine can be a critical component of addiction recovery.”
“Mind-body medicine is the use of behavioral and lifestyle interventions such as meditation, relaxation, yoga, acupuncture, and mindfulness, to holistically address medical problems,” he writes. It “can be integrated with traditional medical treatments or used as standalone treatments for certain conditions.” Furthermore, he adds, “mind-body medicine is now being studied by the National Institutes of Health and effectively used in the treatment of addiction. [Consequently] it will likely play a role in addiction recovery programs in the future.”
Mind-body principles have been around the recovery movement since it started in 1937, writes Dr. G. And they’re also a big part of Alcoholics Anonymous. In fact, he adds, “12 Steps feature concepts such as surrender, meditation, gratitude, and letting go, [and those are] all critical components of mind-body medicine.” Dr. G stresses the integral role mutual help programs play in the recovery of an ever-growing legion. He also insists that both the principles of mindfulness and the social support “shouldn’t be overlooked.”
New & Improved Addiction Recovery Options
Dr. G claims his 90 day rehab stint left more than a little to be desired. In fact, it left a lot to be desired. And he found more and more missed opportunities for anyone to really address the addictions at hand. The misses were especially evident with regards to utilizing mind-body therapies. And Dr. G was aghast that a $50 billion industry couldn’t do better.
Or at least wasn’t doing better. So Dr. G set out to do better himself. And he did so by mining the community to which he belongs.
What did the good doctor find? That a merging is occuring, and “there are now several scientifically-based mind-body medicine addiction recovery options.”
Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention
Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP) is among those options. MBRP is “a technique that uses meditation as well as cognitive approaches to prevent relapse,” writes Dr. G. “It aims to cultivate awareness of cues and triggers so that one doesn’t instinctively turn to using drugs. It also helps people get comfortable sitting with unpleasant emotions and thoughts — their distress tolerance, a person’s ability to tolerate emotional discomfort — without automatically escaping by taking a drug. Improving distress tolerance is a common theme to many, if not all, approaches to addiction recovery.” That makes perfect sense considering “a large part of the appeal of drug use is replacing a bad emotion with a good emotion by using a drug.”
Mindfulness-Oriented Recovery Enhancement
Mindfulness-Oriented Recovery Enhancement (MORE) is another relatively-recent addiction recovery technique. “MORE attempts to use both mindfulness and positive psychology to address the underlying distress that caused the addiction in the first place,” he writes. “There are three main pillars of MORE: it has been proven to help with distress tolerance; cue reactivity (the way people with addiction respond to cues, such as seeing a bottle of prescription drugs, which often trigger cravings); and attentional bias (the way an addicted brain will pay extra, selective attention to certain things, such as a pack of cigarettes when one is quitting smoking).”
Mindfulness-Based Addiction Therapy
Then there’s Mindfulness-Based Addiction Therapy (MBAT). MBAT “is a technique that uses mindfulness to teach clients how to notice current emotions and sensations, and how to detach themselves from the urge to use drugs. This is called “urge surfing,” and we practiced it extensively in rehab. The aim is to break the automatic link between feeling uncomfortable, craving drugs, and, without thought or reflection, taking a drug to alleviate that discomfort.”
How do all these programs help people succeed in addiction recovery? Well, in a variety of ways. Not least of those ways is the experiential attention to behavioral details. In other words, sourcing the problem by recognizing the things we do. (We particularly like “urge surfing.”) And thereby developing much more comprehensive treatment protocols. In fact, it seems to be Dr. G’s contention that a more holistic approach to Western Medicine will be a boon to everyone.
Okay, so the jury is still out on many of these protocols. Even Dr. G readily admits as much. Nevertheless, that doesn’t seem to have hampered his enthusiasm. If anything, it’s only added to his resolve. (More work to do? Well, let’s have at it!) And it’s highly likely that Dr. G’s enthusiasm and resolve stems directly from his own personal experience.
In fact, it’s pretty much certain. Dr. G’s just the kind of physician the world needs to turn to when it comes to addiction recovery. And it’s important his efforts are recognized at every opportunity. Again, that’s why we’re here now. It’s also why this is our second time heralding the good doctor’s efforts. That’s right. Healing Properties first sang Dr. Grinspoon’s praises back in August. The subject? Dopamine Fasting. The reason? We wanted nothing but the most authoritative input on the subject.
We got it too. Just as we’ve received it here. But don’t just take our word for it. Read Dr. G’s entire article in the Harvard Health Blog. Then do some of your own research. Those who can ask informed questions receive informed answers. More importantly, they’ll be able to undertake a more successful addiction recovery.
Healing Properties wholeheartedly thanks the good Dr. Grinspoon. And we wish him all the best on all his efforts, both on and behind the front lines. We also congratulate him on his decade of sobriety. And wish him many more decades to come. And if you or a loved one is experiencing substance abuse issues, please get in touch.
(Photo Provided with Kind Courtesy of Harvard Health Blog. Thank you.)