A growing literature is demonstrating the importance of emotion regulation in the treatment of substance abuse. Considering that nicotine and other psychoactive substances such as cocaine activate similar psycho-pharmacological pathways, an emotion regulation approach may be applicable to a wide array of substance abuse. Proposed models of affect-driven tobacco use have focused on negative reinforcement as the primary driving force for addiction; according to such theories, tobacco is used because it helps one escape from the undesirable effects of nicotine withdrawal or other negative moods. Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), is showing evidence that it is effective in treating substance abuse, including the treatment of poly-substance abuse and cigarette smoking. Mindfulness programs that encourage patients to be aware of their own experiences in the present moment and of emotions that arise from thoughts, appear to prevent impulsive/compulsive responses. Research also indicates that mindfulness programs can reduce the consumption of substances such as alcohol, cocaine, amphetamines, marijuana, cigarettes and opiates.
Most drugs affect the brain's "reward circuit," causing euphoria as well as flooding it with the chemical messenger dopamine. A properly functioning reward system motivates a person to repeat behaviors needed to thrive, such as eating and spending time with loved ones. Surges of dopamine in the reward circuit cause the reinforcement of pleasurable but unhealthy behaviors like taking drugs, leading people to repeat the behavior again and again. A One Hour Journey Through the 12 Steps with Tommy Rosen
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