One addiction expert now believes that exercise therapy along with other non-pharmacological therapies is the best medicine for substance abuse. Dr. Richard De La Garza of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX is currently studying whether or not exercise will be a viable treatment for cocaine and nicotine addiction.
“Our lab has studied people who are dependent on cocaine, and over the years, we’ve noticed the vast majority are also dependent on cigarette smoking—about three times the national average,” says Dr. De La Garza, Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Baylor College of Medicine. De La Garza reported his findings at the recent CPDD conference in California.
Dr. De La Garza was inspired to research the effect of exercise on addiction after he read research that proved smokers had reduced urges to light up after riding a stationary bike. He believes exercise is a great treatment for any person who suffers from addiction of any kind, pointing to the fact that middle school students are far less likely to abuse drugs if they are involved in athletics.
De La Garza does not believe that traditional medication holds the answer for addiction.
“That’s not to say medications don’t have their place, but there is a large problem with medication compliance. We know that a lot of people who are given prescriptions for any disease state don’t take all their medications, or don’t take them as often as they are supposed to.”
In the new study, patients who are addicted to both cocaine and nicotine are given a routine exercise plan they must follow based on their current physical condition. They also receive cognitive behavioral therapy. The subjects are given urine, breath, and saliva tests to decipher their cocaine and nicotine use. De La Garza, a lifelong runner, hopes to enroll 72 patients in the study. So far, he has enrolled 25.