Permit me to excerpt the article, Yoga For Addiction by Kate Jackson in Social Work Today to discuss the use of yoga as part of the new therapeutic alternatives being tried by social workers facing the virtual epidemic of substance abuse.
Roughly 21.5 million people over the age of 12 had a substance use disorder in the past year, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Alcohol abuse affected 17 million people and illicit drug use 7.1 million, while 2.6 million had both. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirms that overdose deaths from heroin have been on the rise, increasing more than fivefold from 2002 to 2014. Equally concerning are the increasing numbers of individuals abusing prescription opioid drugs. The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that crime, health care, and lost productivity related to tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drug abuse cost the nation more than $700 billion each year. These statistics suggest that the need for effective care is more urgent than ever.
In the past, therapists used various forms of “talk” therapy attempting to change the repetitive cycles of substance abuse. However, it became clear that more tools were needed to help in this life and death struggle. Kate Jackson goes on to explain:
Yoga is progressively being incorporated into treatment and recovery programs for individuals with substance use disorders, in inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation settings, prisons, 12-step programs, and other community environments. At the same time, many health care professionals and therapists in private practice, including social workers, are adding yoga to their therapeutic toolboxes, becoming trained themselves to employ yoga therapy as an adjunct to their work with people in treatment and recovery.
Largely because its true effectiveness is misunderstood, Yoga has been relegated to a female fitness program. Yoga is, however, more than that.
Yoga chiefly combines breathing exercises, physical postures known as asanas, strength exercises, and the cultivation of mindful attention, sensory awareness, and intense concentration. Regular practice is known to contribute to optimal wellness and provides multiple benefits, both physical and emotional, including the development or reinforcement of discipline, improved impulse control, relief from stress, reduction in blood pressure, easing of muscle tension, reduced emotional distress, and the generation of new neural connections. And considerable research shows that yoga therapy—the use of yoga principles and poses within the therapeutic setting—is an effective complementary approach to a range of illnesses and psychological conditions.
One thing we can be certain of is that the social work profession will never give up the fight against substance abuse. Most social workers we talk with agree that substance abuse will never be eliminated, but we must always be willing to treat those who get caught in its web. That’s why they are relentless in looking for more effective ways to help. Thank God.