Music therapy in addiction recovery

Music can (and should) be a part of your program of recovery. How can you and why should you incorporate music therapy into addiction recovery? We investigate here.

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Music can Be a Part of Your Recovery

If music isn’t a part of your recovery strategy, this might change your mind. Studies by Harvard have shown the music can help heal the brain.  But given that it is possible to be creative without drugs, how can you get into a creative state without drugs or alcohol?  Read on to learn more about integrating music into your recovery. Then, we invite your questions about music therapy in addiction recovery at the end.

Songs speak to us

Even the unfriendly, crotchety miser certainly must have at least one song that fills their heart each time their hear it. They wait in anticipation and grump until their company has left before they play it on repeat, their ears pressed hard against the speakers. Everyone must have one of their own – if only just one. I would bet everyone who has suffered from drug addiction has at least one song that speaks to them like no other.

Music and the brain

For others, like myself, music is connected to the brain by a near-physical tether. I feel every note and the goose bumps stand at attention when that art-sound speaks in color. It’s the same for metal lovers, folk lovers, electronic lovers and everyone in between. Music moves us all in some form or another. Sometimes it just moves the body. Other times it moves the entire soul.

I’m willing to wager if you’ve had problems with drug addiction in the past, then it’s safe to say you’ve had problems with emotions in the past (or present). There is no sharper implement with which to pierce the tough veil of addiction and hurt than music. When that song of your particular charm has made past your fragile ears to your mind, there is no stopping the flood of the grand sound. It is no longer sound. It becomes a beating heart. A raging drive of perseverance. It becomes the influence you need to make you change your mind from hard as rock to river water. Or from water to hard as rock when you need resolve.

It’s a means of change. It’s a means of power and strength in places you might find none. The question then becomes, ‘why isn’t music a part of your recovery strategy’?

Studies of music and rewards systems in the brain

Three different studies conducted by Harvard and presented at the annual Neuroscience 2013 meeting have shown that playing an instrument can engage the reward systems in the brain. Those very same systems that gave you that feeling of reward during drug use are the ones that can be activated while listening to music. They also show that playing an instrument may be able to improve our working memory and even selective attention.

Another study of the same set concluded that brain functioning can strengthen when someone learns an instrument, especially at a young age. “Training has specific effects on neural networks involved in music creativity…” says Gotffried MD, PHD from Harvard. “It has the potential to change brain function and structure when done over a long period of time.”

If you are struggling to overcome addiction, you may lament over how you might have lost partial brain function, that there is no hope to once again be the man or woman you once were. These studies prove the exact opposite.

Music benefits mood and brain function

These important findings have one take away. The benefits of music on emotional states, intelligence, the soul and general cognition are many. The greatest part is that no matter what kind you prefer, it’ll be a boon on your brain. The mere act of listening can mean the difference between a month of recovery and years.

When we spend years smashing our minds with drugs, it can be surprising how the brain can recover with help and determination. It can take years of drug abuse, and astoundingly bounce back without so much as a scratch. Although, we can sometimes feel that our cognition has been affected, putting a greater strain on many aspects of our lives. When we feel those effects, there is no reason to accept it as what brain functioning will be for the rest of our lives. With concerted effort through the love of music, we can help our brains recover from the damage we’ve caused.

How to Start

Pick up an instrument. Any instrument you like. Remember, it will be tough. You will get frustrated. But like the problem of drug addiction, it will take time, perseverance and practice. Also, like addiction, you’ll need to find a teacher. And keep in mind, you don’t have to be Hendrix, you are doing it to heal your body, mind and soul.

Reference Sources: MedScape: More Eveidence that Music Benefits the Brain (requires a login)
About the author
Matthew Edwards has been drug free for over 2 years. He is a reformed criminal, currently a freelance writer, a musician with 19 years experience and a marketing professional. You can view his website, dedicated to helping those with addiction problems find inspiration to overcome addiction.
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