Improve Addiction Rehabilitation with Acceptance and Commitment Group Therapy
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“ACT looks at a psychological problem in terms of something “physical” in the way, such as a rock that can be moved, or a detour taken around, or a garden plot that needs to be weeded so plants can grow.” – Edie Weinstein
Substance abuse and addiction is a terrible problem. It isn’t just illicit drugs but includes many prescriptions drugs especially opioid pain relievers. The over prescription of opioid painkillers in the United States has become a major problem. Opioid abuse, can be deadly. It has become so bad that drug overdose is now the leading cause of injury death, causing more deaths than motor vehicle accidents. This is a problem both of illegal drug use but even more so of abuse of legally obtained prescription drugs. Of the over 44,000 drug overdose deaths in the United States 52% were from prescription drugs. These statistics, although startling, are only the tip of the iceberg. Drug use is associated with suicide, homicide, motor-vehicle injury, HIV infection, pneumonia, violence, mental illness, and hepatitis. It can render the individual ineffective at work, it tears apart families, it makes the individual dangerous both driving and not. It also reduces life expectancy by about 15-20 years from the moment of addiction. An effective treatment for addiction has been elusive. Most programs and therapies to treat addictions have poor success rates.
Obviously, there is a need to find effective methods to prevent and treat substance abuse. There are a number of programs that are successful at stopping the drug abuse, including the classic 12-step program emblematic of Narcotics Anonymous. Unfortunately, the majority of drug and/or alcohol abusers relapse and return to substance abuse. Hence, it is important to find an effective method to not only produce abstinence but also prevent relapses. Mindfulness training has been shown to be a safe and effective treatment for reducing addiction relapse.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a mindfulness based psychotherapy technique that focuses on the individual’s thoughts, feelings, and behavior and how they interact to impact their psychological and physical well-being. ACT employs mindfulness practices to increase awareness and develop an attitude of acceptance and compassion in the presence of painful thoughts and feelings. Additionally, it teaches individuals to “just notice”, accept and embrace private experiences and focus on behavioral responses that produce more desirable outcomes. On the face of it, ACT would appear to address the kinds of defective thought processes that occur in addiction. But, the effectiveness of ACT for opioid addiction has not been adequately tested.
In today’s Research News article “Comparing Acceptance and Commitment Group Therapy and 12-Steps Narcotics Anonymous in Addict’s Rehabilitation Process: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5206327/
Azkhosh and colleagues recruited individuals who were addicted to opiates and randomly assigned them to receive either a group administered Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Narcotics Anonymous 12-step program, or usual treatment. Treatment occurred for 12 weeks, meeting once a week for 90 minutes. Before and after treatment and 6 weeks later the participants were measured for psychological wellbeing, and psychological flexibility.
They found that at the end of treatment and at follow-up, both treatment groups showed improvements relative to the control group on psychological well-being and psychological flexibility, including the self-acceptance, autonomy, purpose in life, and personal growth subscales. Hence, both Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Narcotics Anonymous 12-step programs improve the psychological components that are needed for successful treatment of opioid addiction. It remains for future research to determine if these effects translate into successful primary treatment and relapse prevention of opioid addiction.
So, improve the psychological characteristics needed for addiction rehabilitation with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.
“ACT encourages people to simply notice and accept their thoughts and feelings for what they are: merely thoughts and feelings of no particular importance other than the importance we assign them. People learn to say to themselves, “Oh, I’m having a thought about cocaine. I’m having a feeling it would be fun to use again.” From this perspective, there is no impetus to use cocaine, nor is cocaine fun. It is merely a thought about those things.” – Tom Horvath
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
This and other Contemplative Studies posts are a also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch
Azkhosh, M., Farhoudianm, A., Saadati, H., Shoaee, F., & Lashani, L. (2016). Comparing Acceptance and Commitment Group Therapy and 12-Steps Narcotics Anonymous in Addict’s Rehabilitation Process: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Iranian Journal of Psychiatry, 11(4), 244–249.
Objective: Substance abuse is a socio-psychological disorder. The aim of this study was to compare the effectiveness of acceptance and commitment therapy with 12-steps Narcotics Anonymous on psychological well-being of opiate dependent individuals in addiction treatment centers in Shiraz, Iran.
Method: This was a randomized controlled trial. Data were collected at entry into the study and at post-test and follow-up visits. The participants were selected from opiate addicted individuals who referred to addiction treatment centers in Shiraz. Sixty individuals were evaluated according to inclusion/ exclusion criteria and were divided into three equal groups randomly (20 participants per group). One group received acceptance and commitment group therapy (Twelve 90-minute sessions) and the other group was provided with the 12-steps Narcotics Anonymous program and the control group received the usual methadone maintenance treatment. During the treatment process, seven participants dropped out. Data were collected using the psychological well-being questionnaire and AAQ questionnaire in the three groups at pre-test, post-test and follow-up visits. Data were analyzed using repeated measure analysis of variance.
Results: Repeated measure analysis of variance revealed that the mean difference between the three groups was significant (P<0.05) and that acceptance and commitment therapy group showed improvement relative to the NA and control groups on psychological well-being and psychological flexibility.
Conclusion: The results of this study revealed that acceptance and commitment therapy can be helpful in enhancing positive emotions and increasing psychological well-being of addicts who seek treatment.