Starting an exercise program can help you battle your demons and help smooth the bumpy post-addiction road.

Cocaine, heroin, alcohol, nicotine and amphetamines are the five drugs considered to be the hardest to give up. Each of these drugs causes an apparent form of intoxication and a different range of side effects and health problems. All take over the same part of the brain that conditions us to eat, have sex, form emotional attachments and carry out other activities essential to survival.

These five drugs create a high far more powerful than any natural high. Just one dose of cocaine, for example, can release two to 10 times the amount of dopamine produced by your favourite meal, person, song or sight. Take a substance like that often enough, and your brain and body will come to depend on it. Ultimately, the pursuit and consumption of the drug will become as instinctive as the pursuit and intake of food -” only far more urgent and destructive.

To exercise your demons successfully, or at least give yourself a better chance, you need to somehow balance the brain pleasure centres. The latest research suggests that an exercise regime is the best therapy there is for addiction. In people, exercise acts as a mild antidepressant and relieves stress. Depression, anxiety and stress increase the risk of alcoholism, smoking or drug abuse.

Exactly why exercise helps is still being researched, but so far research suggests the release of adrenaline and endorphins can help trigger the brain pleasure centres such as dopamine, serotonin and other neurotransmitters, producing the necessary chemical compounds which contribute to balancing your brain.

Recent studies in the United States show that exercise works because both exercise and illicit drugs trigger the same release in the brain of the euphoria-inducing protein, dopamine. Long-term exercise alters the number of dopamine receptors in the brain, meaning drugs then have a less euphoric effect.
Basically, exercise reduces the satisfying effects of cocaine, and can prevent not only addiction to cocaine, but other drugs as well since they all affect dopamine levels.

Exercise has long been known to produce positive cardiovascular effects. We’re now also finding that it has positive psychological effects as well, in the treatment and prevention of drug abuse, depression, and anxiety disorders.

So use exercise as your crutch, start an exercise program and kick those demons once and for all.

Paul Rigos is brand manager at Lifestyle Fitness. For more information on how to start an effective exercise program, visit

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