Yoga Practices and Addiction
Since the early 1970s, ongoing studies have demonstrated the overall health benefits of yoga. Some of these are alleviation of stress, anxiety, and relief from addictive tendencies. The support a person can receive from this practice when presented in a mindful, therapeutic manner will positively affect their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual condition. When yoga is integrated into addiction recovery, it tends to mirror the larger trend of treating disease holistically. Most addiction specialists agree that yoga can complement the therapy of choice. It is also agreed that yoga is a way to learn to stop mistreating the physical body and to deepen spiritual aspects of recovery.
Impulse control is a core issue in overcoming addiction. Just as working with the mind can affect the body, working with the body can change the chemistry of the brain. Regular yoga practice that incorporates relaxation and meditation in addition to asana (postures) helps reduce cravings, anxiety, and fear – all of which often lead to destructive behavior.
Yoga Nidra is a relaxation technique that we offer at Williamsville Wellness. The practice has been widely studied and is currently is being used as a balm for U.S. Veterans suffering from PTSD.  Stanford University has done studies showing positive effects of Yoga Nidra on dopamine production, the chemical that plays a major role in addictive behavior. This type of instruction is helpful in keeping the roaming mind quiet and focused. It is usually presented as a 30-minute group practice, but some patients also enjoy receiving individual instruction. Williamsville’s yoga educator has over 25 years of personal recovery and 20 years teaching experience.
Our holistic approach to addiction treatment provides an opportunity for people to experience a variety of therapeutic modalities; this gives them a wider selection of tools to use when they make the transition back into their daily lives.
Health professionals consider addiction a brain disease, more specifically a disorder of the reward center. Personality and social circumstances greatly influence the experience of substance use and other addictive behavior. These factors contribute to the widely held theory that addiction is a bio-psycho-social disorder in etiology, expression, treatment, and recovery. In August 2011, the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) advanced a definition of addiction:
Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.
Addiction is characterized by inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response. Like other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission. Without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can result in disability or premature death.
The new DSM-V does not differentiate between substance abuse and dependence but suggests a continuum for substance use disorders using the number of criteria to determine moderate to severe problems. Craving has been added as a diagnostic criterion for substance use disorders. Pathological gambling has been reclassified from an impulse-control disorder in the DSM-IV-TR to the category Addiction and Related Disorders in the DSM-V.
Multifaceted ramifications – legal, medical, societal
Benefits of treatment for problem gamblers
When a person enters treatment for addiction, it is not uncommon to uncover outstanding legal issues; 65% of problem gamblers report being involved in illegal activities ranging from check forgery to embezzlement and robbery.  In a study of GA members, 80% reported committing civil crimes.  Likewise, when a person presents with legal problems in another setting, addiction may be playing a key role. For instance, if someone is gainfully employed but is always borrowing money, that person may be using the money for gambling, alcohol, drugs or debts incurred as a result of addictive behavior.
Recognizing that a loved one, client or patient may have a gambling problem is often the beginning of the treatment process. Pathological gambling is a progressive addiction where someone: becomes increasingly preoccupied with gambling; needs to bet more money more often; feels restless or irritable when not chasing losses; continues gambling although it is causing serious consequences. All addictions cause distress and constant disruption in an addict’s life. Compulsive gamblers are significantly more likely to have suicidal ideations and to make suicide attempts than those with other addictions. About 15% of problem gamblers report a significant suicide attempt.
A compulsive gambler experiences denial and often loses track or minimizes the amount of money he or she has lost. Experts at Williamsville Wellness are well-positioned to prepare pre-sentencing paperwork or negotiate with state attorneys. Our staff works with all court systems and with probation authorities during pre-sentencing investigations when someone is awaiting a federal trial. Arranging for repayment to victims and coordinating payment plans with the IRS are seen as cooperative measures that benefit all parties. The state saves money when restitution is made and treatment is ordered in lieu of jail time; many judges prefer to offer rehab as opposed to punishment.
Providing this level of assistance helps the addict in a number of ways. First and foremost, studies have shown that people who successfully complete treatment are far less likely to reoffend. As a byproduct, courts look favorably on those who are aggressively addressing their problem. This is better for the addict, saves time and money, and is ultimately better for society as a whole.
 Ciarrocchi, J. (2001). Conclusions. Counseling Problem Gamblers: A Self-Regulation Manual for Individual and Family Therapy (Practical Resources for the Mental Health Professional) (p 23). Durham, NC: Academic Press.
 Galski, T. (1987). Handbook of Pathological Gambling. Springfield, IL: Charles Thomas, Publisher.
 Maryland Department of Public Health.(1990). Final Report: Task force on Gambling Addiction in Maryland.
Summer’s Superior Quninoa
Summer, our chef at Williamsville Wellness, is known for introducing healthy, new food to clients. Here is one particular favorite, using an ingredient that often elicits the question: “What is that?!”
2 Cups chicken broth
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
1 Teaspoon lemon juice
1 Teaspoon salt
1 Cup quinoa
Red bell pepper
2 cloves garlic
1 can artichoke hearts
2 scallions/green onions
Bring first 4 ingredients to a boil. Add quinoa and cook on low heat.
While that is cooking, sauté:
1 Half red bell pepper diced small
1 can artichoke hearts diced small
2 Cloves garlic sliced
Add to Quinoa when all liquid is absorbed.
Toss with 2 green onions sliced thin.
* From Wikipedia:
Quinoa was of great nutritional importance in pre-Columbian Andean civilizations, secondary only to the potato, and was followed in importance by maize. In contemporary times, this crop has become highly appreciated for its nutritional value, as its protein content is very high (18%). Nutritional evaluations of quinoa indicate that it is a source of complete protein. It is a good source of dietary fiber and phosphorus and is high in magnesium and iron. Quinoa is gluten-free and considered easy to digest. Because of all these characteristics, quinoa is being considered a possible crop in NASA’s Controlled Ecological Life Support System for long-duration human occupied spaceflights.