To understand the mechanisms on why drug addiction happens, you need to know more about neuropeptides called endorphins. They are involved in pain management, possessing morphine like effects, and are involved in natural reward circuits such as feeding, drinking, sex and maternal behaviour.
In the central nervous system, beta-endorphins (one of five endorphins found in humans) similarly bind mu-opioid receptors and exert their primary action at presynaptic nerve terminals. However, instead of inhibiting substance P, they exert their analgesic effect by inhibiting the release of GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter, resulting in excess production of dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centres.
The release of dopamine can also happen through exercising, as it has been proven to regulate brain function. This scientific fact is what drives addiction service centers like Elevate to create a full fitness program as an approach for addiction recovery. They believe that “in order to effectively recover from drug or alcohol addiction, mental and physical health need to be restored,” and that exercise is the best way to get motivated. So, they offer various types of physical activity, such as: crossfit, running and hiking, and other outdoor activities.
Is the reason why exercising is beneficial for recovering addicts, because it stimulates the body to release endorphins in the same way drugs do?
“It’s been proven that regular exercise can improve cognitive function in the brain and also helps the body fight physical stress,” wrote to EmaxHealth Jeremy Miller, Director of Public Relations at Elevate Addiction Services.
Is there any other neurological process that is affected by exercising, which causes a similar response to drug use?
“There is a ‘high’ that people experience when exercising (runner’s high) when the body releases chemicals in the brain that trigger a sort of euphoria in the person. We encourage exercise at Elevate because not only does it improve one’s self-confidence, work ethic, and cognitive function…but also because it snaps them into a productive routine that creates natural ‘feel-good’ sensations both physically and mentally. It shows a person that there are alternatives to drugs and alcohol that cause these euphoric feelings without the negative consequence but rather a positive outcome. It gets the client to form new habits that produce similar results as far as a self-created euphoria that can help them deal with triggers, stress, emotional distress etc,” Miller replied in a written statement.
Drug addiction: the release of Endorphin and Dopamine and why Exercising is an effective strategy for drug addiction recovery, according to a psychiatrist
On – By Sara Vincent