Can Exercise Help Combat Drug Addiction?

The list of benefits associated with regular exercise is endless. But can exercise be used as a way to help combat drug addiction?

Fighting against, and ultimately recovering from, a drug addiction is an incredibly difficult process, full of ups and downs. That being said, everybody’s individual circumstances are unique, which means no two roads to recovery are ever the same.

This can make it difficult to pinpoint exactly what approach is needed to ensure someone is able to overcome their addiction. While some people may be able to kick their habits through talking therapies, such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), others may need to make the most of treatments with medicines – or something else altogether.

That’s where the discussion in this post comes in. Here, we examine whether physical exercise can be an effective way of combatting drug addiction, encouraging a quicker recovery time and reducing the chances of committing drug related-crimes in the future, such as conspiracy to supply class A drugs.

So, to find out more, be sure to keep reading below!

How Might Exercise Be Used to Help Fight Drug Addiction?

Photo Credits: Hal Gatewood via Unsplash

How Might Exercise Be Used to Help Fight Drug Addiction?

Improves Sleep

Struggling with sleep is something many drug addicts experience and, in the worst cases, this can help to fuel their addiction. In some instances, people may fall back on a substance believing that it will help them to get the rest the need. The reality is very different.

Regular physical exercise can help to improve someone’s quality and quantity of sleep, which is essential for a full recovery. Lower energy levels, which are often brought on by a lack of sleep, can also prevent someone from taking an active role in their recovery, causing the process to stall, or take backwards steps.

Acts as a Welcome Distraction

Drug addictions can be all-consuming, which is why it’s very important to find a healthy distraction that can be used to focus an addict’s attention. Physical exercise is perfect for this, as it not only provides an immediate, short-term distraction, but it can also provide a set of achievable goals that someone can strive to achieve over a longer period of time.

When someone’s life revolves around kicking an addiction, this can often work against them. When they have a concurrent goal to work towards, this will provide an extra incentive to use exercise as a way of improving their habits.

Reduces Stress

Stress is the body’s response to outside events or changes, whether this a single event or an ongoing issue. We all cope with stress differently, but some people may resort to maladaptive behaviours like substance abuse to cope.

So, it’s important for an addict to reduce their stress levels if they’re to fully recover from their addiction. This is where physical exercise comes in handy! Exercise releases endorphins in the brain and improves general circulation, both of which can help to reduce stress levels.

Improves General Mood

Mood changes are an inevitable part of addiction recovery. When our bodies have to suddenly adapt to brand new circumstances, balancing our mood can be very difficult. As someone’s mood changes for the worse, this is likely to improve their chances of struggling with their reduction, possible leading to a relapse.

As previously mentioned, exercises releases endorphins, which not only reduce stress, but can also help to improve someone’s general mood and keep them on the right path.

Reduces the Chances of Relapse

Exercise has been thoroughly investigated as a direct treatment for reducing the risk of relapse to a wide range of addictions, including drug addictions. Examples of previous studies into this include results such as:

  • People recovering from cannabis use disorders experiencing reduction in cravings after bouts of exercise.
  • People with alcohol disorders overcoming the withdrawal phase with lower urges to drink.

What Exercises should someone with a drug addiction consider?

Photo Credits: Alex McCarthy via Unsplash

What Exercises should someone with a drug addiction consider?

We’ve established that exercise can be an effective way of recovering from a drug addiction. But what sort of exercises should someone with a drug addiction take part in?

The answer to this question will usually depend on a number of different factors, including:

  • The severity of someone’s addiction
  • Their existing physical condition
  • Whether someone has any additional health concerns
  • Diet and nutrition
  • The effects of any medication they’re on

As you might expect, there’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to exercise programmes for someone in recovery. Everyone will respond differently to different types of exercise, so the most sensible approach is to start with simple exercises and work up from there. Common exercise options that can be explored might include:

  • Walking
  • Running
  • Cycling
  • Yoga
  • Hiking
  • Swimming

Should Exercise Be Used as a Sole Treatment for a Drug Addict?

While exercise is an effective way of helping someone to recover from a drug addiction, it shouldn’t be used as a sole treatment. There are a range of other more traditional treatment options for drug addictions that can usually be explored by health professionals and these should never be ignored.

Depending on someone’s personal circumstances, a number of different treatments may be applied, including:

Behavioural Therapy

Behavioural therapies, such as CBT, help to manage someone’s problems by changing the way they think and behave. These treatments work on the basis that someone’s thoughts, feelings, physical sensations and actions are interconnected and need to be simultaneously addressed.

Medicinal Therapy

If someone is dependent on a drug like heroin, they may be offered a substitute drug or medicine to help them combat their addiction.


For someone who wants to completely and immediately cut down their addiction, they may go through a detox process to flush everything out of their system.What Are Your Thoughts On Using Exercise To Help Combat Drug Addictions?

Photo Credits: Andrew McElroy via Unsplash

What Are Your Thoughts On Using Exercise To Help Combat Drug Addictions?

In this post, we’ve discussed why exercise could be an effective method of combatting drug addictions, as well as the sorts of exercises and additional treatments that help to improve its effectiveness.

What are your thoughts on using exercise to help combat drug addiction? Feel free to leave them in the comments!

Please be advised that this article is for general informational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for advice from a trained medical professional. Be sure to consult a medical professional or healthcare provider if you’re seeking medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment. We are not liable for risks or issues associated with using or acting upon the information on this site.

Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:November 2, 2022
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