How Music Can Help You Stay Sober | HRC
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How Music Can Help You Stay Sober

It’s never the intent of those who experiment with alcohol and drugs to become addicted or dependent. In the early stages of recreational substance abuse, the thrill of intoxication makes the experience feel dangerous and exciting. Individuals often want to experience the thrill of substance abuse more and more frequently, but this is when it becomes out of their control. The body begins to adapt to consistent and large quantities of alcohol or drugs, resulting in the body becoming dependent on those chemical substances for even natural processes. As a result, individuals who abused substances for the thrill quickly become addicted and experience withdrawal symptoms after a period of time without their substances of choice. Fearing the onset of withdrawal, these individuals have initiated a vicious cycle that will persist until the point of treatment.

The path to alcohol and drug addiction isn’t a straight line. Similarly, recovery from addiction can happen in a number of ways as well. Individuals who begin treatment can often personalize their recovery curricula by picking and choosing the treatments that best address their needs. Although the foundation of recovery consists of counseling and psychotherapy, there are a variety of complementary and supplemental treatments that serve to ensure each individual’s comprehensive recovery.

Additionally, there are aspects of recovery that are important without being part of a formal addiction treatment program, including membership and participation in support and twelve step groups, which has remained a popular tool for maintaining sobriety. However, there are a variety of tools and activities that can be instrumental in helping individuals to remain sober for the long-term. Many have even suggested incorporating music into one’s recovery regimen. Being that music is not a standard feature of addiction treatment, it’s important for individuals to be aware of what music can offer their recovery. The following will detail how music can be a valuable asset for achieving lasting sobriety.

The Healing Power of Music

man listening to music

Listening to music might seem like little more than an enjoyable pastime, but there have been a number of studies that sought to determine whether music has a significant, observable effect on listeners and the result are rather enlightening. After about twenty minutes of listening to music, individuals tend to exhibit a number of behaviors that can be either conscious or unconscious; this includes things like foot-tapping, swaying, humming, and even more overt movements such as clapping and snapping. However, in addition to these observable behaviors that are exhibited while listening to music, the brain also displays a number of changes and effects as a result of music. The most obvious effects include an elevated mood that can last for several hours, increased appetite, and becoming more social and communicative. Moreover, music has been connected to improvements in the body’s immune system.

Music has also been described as a workout for the brain in a similar way as exercise is a workout for the body. Studies have found that music can significantly improve cognition and perception and has even been implicated in alleviation of symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Similarly, individuals who suffer from mood disorders tend to experience an improvement in their moods much faster when they listen to music regularly compared to those individuals who don’t. And although music couldn’t be considered a pain medication, there have even been studies that found that individuals with health conditions that involved chronic pain frequently experienced an improvement in their conditions—equating to their experiencing less pain—after listening to music that they enjoyed regularly; in fact, symptom improvement was measured as being as much as 21 percent better with the only change to their treatment being the patients’ listening to music they enjoyed.

The Physiological Effects of Music

happy woman listening to music

Individuals respond to music in more ways than just foot-tapping. In terms of physiological response to music, it’s been found that slow music relaxes listeners, causing them to breathe much slower and a significant decrease in heart rate. However, the brain responds to music with a release of endorphins, which is seen as being the reason why music elevates one’s mood and tends to have the effect of alleviating pain due to injury or health conditions. It’s often recommended that individuals with high blood pressure listen to music in the mornings as the music will calm them and help to keep their blood pressure lower for the remainder of the day; in fact, a study found that listening to only 30 minutes of classical music each day substantially reduced the symptoms experienced by individuals who had been diagnosed with chronic high blood pressure. Listening to music regularly has also recently been associated with a decrease in frequency of headaches and migraines, an increase in the speed of healing, and even a decrease in the frequency of epileptic seizures in individuals who suffered from epilepsy.

Music Therapy for Substance Abuse & Addiction

woman relaxing to music

Many addiction treatment facilities have begun to offer music therapy as a supplement to the counseling, group sessions, and skills building that often come as a staple of rehabilitation. The premise of music therapy is based on the clinical evidence, which suggests that music can be essential in individuals’ management of physical, emotional, and cognitive problems. Music therapy is conducted by a trained music therapist who has the knowledge of how to use music in a controlled, therapeutic way. In a therapeutic sense, music therapy can involve the creation of music for individuals who are musically inclined, or just listening to music in a meaningful way. Individuals who receive music therapy often feel that music has become an important part of their emotional liberation process and will remain an essential tool for relapse prevention.

With the many health benefits of music, it’s clear that listening to music can be beneficial to one’s recovery. The evidence shows that listening to music can help to direct individuals’ emotions, creating feelings of happiness and relaxation when needed, which can be helpful since feeling stressed or anxious has been identified as a common relapse trigger for many. Since listening to music has a way of relaxing the body, it can help individuals in overcoming many of the feelings that could lead to reverting to substance abuse. Additionally, the other physiological health benefits of music—improvements to one’s immune system and the ability to heal, among others—make music a viable and very beneficial tool for addiction recovery as well as for general health and wellness.

If you or someone you love is suffering from alcohol or drug addiction and would like to learn more about the treatment options that are available, the Palm Beach Institute is here to help. Call us today to speak with a recovery expert who can help match you or your loved one to the needed treatments that will result in a life of sobriety, happiness, and fulfillment. A better, healthier life is just a phone call away.

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