The treatment of those individuals who have developed a drug or substance abuse habit is an issue for all people who wish to engage themselves or are engaged in the treatment process to be concerned about, be they the patient, his or her parents, social workers, counselors and medical professionals, law enforcement officials and the legal system, and city, state and national governments who understand how drug and substance abuse drains resources and can compromise and destroy lives.

The problem can not be ignored because the habitual use of drugs and various other substances not only affects individuals in a damaging manner, but can also have a negative knock on affect on other people and segments of society.

Ongoing research, news reports and our own personal observations suggest that the problem is getting worse each year.

It is important to understand and remember that people from all walks of life, those being the wealthy, the middle class, the poor, the highly educated and those who have never been educated, the famous and the unknown, and individuals from different races, ethnic groups, nationalities and religions use drugs and can develop a drug problem.

There are drug users and there is a drug problem in every country of the world.

This essay is not meant to be exhaustive or authoritative in any manner, but only makes use of established knowledge, the teachings and disciplines of Yoga and Buddhism, and the writer’s personal experiences with drug use, association and working with drug users and long - term experience in applying, writing about and teaching the disciplines of Yoga and Buddhism.

It attempts to briefly summarize some main points regarding the various factors involved in drug and substance abuse and puts forth the idea that Yoga and Buddhist teachings and disciplines can be of assistance in dealing with this problem.

Individuals come to a residential or outpatient treatment program for their drug or substance abuse problem because of one of three reasons. These are:

• Voluntarily and on their own, through a realization that they have a problem and want or need to deal with it.

• Through the intervention of their family, in which their seeking of treatment may be voluntary or not.

• Through the intervention of the law and legal process, in which their seeking of treatment is most likely not voluntary or has been forced upon them in some manner.

Once they get to the program, those individual’s who wish to make use of Yoga and Buddhist teachings and disciplines as a therapeutic tool to assist in their recovery should be mindful about the following things. These are:

1. Why do individuals use drugs
2. How drug use and substance abuse harms individuals and society as a whole
3. Factors to consider in the treatment of drug and substance abusers
4. How Yoga and Buddhist teachings can be of assistance in the treatment of drug and substance abusers.

With an understanding of these four things, plus experience with and an understanding of what they will teach and how they will teach them, teachers and other therapists and clinicians can use Yoga and Buddhist teachings and disciplines as a complimentary, secondary or primary therapeutic tool to assist in the recovery and rehabilitation of drug and substance abusers.

1. Why do individuals use drugs
The need and desire of individuals to use drugs is often because of a number of factors, some of which come into play more often then others or are masked by and overlap with others. These include:

• The need to fit in or feel accepted by their peers and others. This is most common among adolescents, teenagers and young adults who may have not yet developed a strong self - identity or because of various factors, may be incapable of establishing one.

• The need to think and feel of themselves as being cool, hip or fashionable. An individual who is unsure of him or herself, or has not developed a healthy self – esteem or self – confidence, may need to feel that they are alright, accepted and “with it” through the use of drugs, especially if they see people who they think of as being a success in life or represent how they would like to live and be as being people who use drugs.

• The seeking out of pleasurable feelings or heightened sensations on both a mental and physical level. Drugs and other substances can give us a euphoric and pleasurable feeling allowing us to escape or deal with states of mind and situations in life that we perceive correctly or incorrectly as being stressful, uncomfortable or signifying that we are not a success in life. We also may unwisely think that drugs or other substances will heighten sexual pleasure or increase our ability to perform well sexually or in other things in life.

• As a way to deal with the conflicting and confused thoughts and feelings that can come about because of unwholesome conditioning. Unwholesome conditioning can be defined as various experiences including emotional, verbal, physical and sexual abuse or living in a deprived or disturbing environment such as one where there is poverty, widespread corruption and exploitation, family and community violence or neglect, civil conflict and war. All of these experiences and factors can give rise to states of mind and consciousness in which a person can feel a lack of understanding, insight, peace, joy and contentment.

• As a way to deal with or escape from interactions at home that do not acknowledge or deal with problems in a healthy manner, or lead to the formation of problems. If there are dysfunctional aspects within our family or among family members, there will also be a lack of connection and understanding among them, or an inability for them to assist each other in dealing with personal issues or challenges in life. If individuals are not having their needs and desires met by other family members they may seek out the pleasure that drugs gives them.

• As a way to deal with or escape from feelings of real or perceived stress at home, at work and in one’s relationships with others. Stress and associated states may make an individual unsatisfied or not content with what he or she has, or make them unable to build on those things in constructive and joyful ways. In addition, what one perceives a being stress may in reality be something more serious, such as a personality disorder, anxiety disorder, or depression.

2. How drug use and substance abuse harms individuals and society as a whole.
In many cases of drug and substance abuse, we find those who use drugs and other substances saying that they are not hurting anyone else and therefore it is somehow ok for them to treat themselves in this manner. Unfortunately, in adopting such an attitude, we overlook the host of problems that can develop because of habitual drug and substance abuse behaviors. These include:

• A hindering of their development as human beings emotionally and intellectually and as far as building healthy, wholesome and rewarding personal relationships, getting the most that they can out of their education, and establishing a work ethic and career.

• The creation of neurological defects that can result in cognitive - behavioral dysfunctions and problems. The use of drugs and other substances can seriously impair the functioning of the brain and nervous system, making unhealthy conditions that already exist worse, while in other cases bringing about an unhealthy state.

• An inability to allow co-existing disorders such as anxiety, attention deficit disorder, depression, etc, to be diagnosed correctly or treated in an effective manner. Individuals who use drugs and other substances frequently do so as a way to deal with other disorders, along the way making them harder to detect and deal with in an affective manner.

• A change in the way in which we approach people and experience interactions with them which can then affect in a negative manner an individual’s psychological and social development. When we are habituated to the use of drugs, they allow us to perceive ourselves and others and our interactions with them in ways that are not healthy, mindful or focused. This kind of incorrect perception can then build on itself, leading to more disturbing kinds of perceptions about and interactions with other people.

• Affecting the ability of an individual to formulate a healthy, balanced and strong understanding of themselves and self – identity, instead formulating one that may be superficial and false as he or she becomes more involved in the use of drugs. Drugs and substances do not provide those who use them any kind of long lasting or permanent mindfulness about who and how they are. Moment to moment feelings of elation, happiness and insight are nothing more then temporary and induced by a foreign substance.

• A greater likelihood of resulting and knock on affects to the individual and society and economy as a whole such as motor vehicle accidents, suicides, homicides, other forms of violence, delinquency, psychiatric disorders and risky sexual practices. The use of drugs leads to the use of and indulgence in other things and actions that can lead to illness, disease and death with little or no mindfulness.

• Feelings of isolation and alienation from people and the society as a whole. Drug and substance abusers start to only identify with drugs and their use and many times with only those other people who use them. This can then cut them off from other people, leading to feelings of alienation and isolation.

3. Factors to take into consideration in the treatment of drug and substance abusers.
In treating or dealing with those with drug and substance abuse problems in a mindful and successful manner, we need to be mindful about certain aspects of their life. These include:

• Their Age. The earlier that treatment begins of a drug user as far as their age, the more likelihood there will be to stop the onset of both short and long - term ill – effects. At the same time, it must be understood that age will also be representative of an individual’s interests, need, level of maturity, and intellectual development. Treatment and therapeutic approaches may have to be altered or tailored to fit the needs, and emotional and intellectual abilities of the individual.

• The amount of time they have been using a specific drug or number of drugs and the intensity and regularity with which they have used these drugs/substances for. If an individual has began the use of drugs at a young age or has indulged in their use for an extended period of time, treatment and an ability to stop their use will be more difficult for all concerned. This will also add to the economic cost for all involved. Individuals who have begun the use of drugs and other substances at a young age are also more likely to have other problems such as developmental disorders, co-existing disorders and perhaps neurological defects to deal with.

• Their ability to look at other aspects of their daily life and routine and experience and gain meaning and dissatisfaction from them. Many times those who use drugs lack the ability to derive contentment or meaning from other areas in their life. This is based on an inability to be thankful for the things that they have and know how to build on the things and opportunities that they have in a constructive and meaningful manner.

• The amount of quality support and understanding that they receive from other members of their family, friends and the community as a whole. Many people who come to and become addicted to drugs and other substances do so as a result of an environment that is dysfunctional, critical, condemning and abusive. Sometimes their psychological and social problems are made worse by their inability to know who to turn to for assistance and a lack of mindful, caring, interested and supportive peers, friends and family members.

• Their inability to make changes in who they associate with and how they use their leisure time. When one has developed an interest in and addiction to drugs, they are more likely to spend much of their free time pursuing and using them with like minded individuals which creates a major imbalance about how to live one’s life and use one’s free time in a constructive manner.

4. How Yoga and Buddhist teachings can be of assistance in the treatment of drug and substance abusers.
When we think about Yoga and Buddhism as being teachings and disciplines that can be used to combat the drug problem and widespread use of drugs, we can think of them as being applied in two ways.

One is that they can provide individuals with the guidance and insight so that they do not have to or need to turn to the use of drugs in the future. We can think of them here as being a preventative therapy.

The second is that they can be used to treat those individuals who have developed a drug or substance abuse problem. Here we can think of them as being an intervention therapy.

Yoga and Buddhist teachings and disciplines assist those who use drugs in the following ways:

• They provide an individual with a healthy set of mental, verbal, physical and behavioral guidelines which when understood and applied give a person a calm and focused state of mind, consciousness and being and also promote harmonious, understanding and compassionate living and interactions with others.

• They provide individuals with a philosophical underpinning and set of teachings that gives them greater insight into their own mind, consciousness and being while at the same time making them more understanding about others

• The practice of meditation, the major individual discipline of both Buddhism and Yoga makes an individual calm and focused, alleviating unwholesome and unskillful tendencies while strengthening aspects of an individual’s character.

• The practice of Yoga postures releases mental and physical tension, strengthens the mind and body, and brings about a healthier and more efficient functioning of the various organs and systems of the body. All of this allows an individual to grow in mindfulness, balance and wisdom.

• They make an individual more mindful about oneself, others, the world and the gift of life through a redirection of their energy and that energy can then be applied in an effort that is more constructive to all areas of one’s life.

Yoga and Buddhist teachings and disciplines are not being suggested here as a cure all for all people and in all situations in life.

Many people, be they drug and substance abusers or not, will be skeptical about what Yoga and Buddhism offer them or feel reluctant to or even resentful about learning them.

However, In most cases, situations and environments, a dedicated approach to learning and practicing them will be of great assistance to the individual who has a drug or substance abuse problem, while in others they can be applied in conjunction with other therapies and treatment approaches.

Yoga and Buddhism are teachings and disciplines that improve an individual’s life. It is because of the changes that they bring to individuals who sincerely make a commitment to learning and practicing them that we can think of them as being therapies and therapeutic approaches to dealing with drug and substance abuse problems in addition to a host of other real and imagined illness that face individuals and mankind as a whole.

As anyone who has made a commitment to learning and applying the teachings and disciplines of Yoga or Buddhism to his or her life has found and experienced already, it is impossible for there to not be short and long - term results of these practices that are healthy, beneficial and a joy to experience and behold.


John is a volunteer teaching Yoga and Buddhism and providing other health and educational resources for men and women in a local provincial prison in Cambodia. He has lived in Asia for twenty years. His E-mail address is ***************
©2006, 2007 John C. Kimbrough



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