Music Therapy Key in Treating Addiction
By Cheryl Steinberg
If you’re one of those people who “just isn’t into music,” this post might just change your mind. First off, I am a self-proclaimed music connoisseur (read: music snob). Yeah, I’m that person who would rather listen to music in the car than have a conversation with my passenger. Sorry, not sorry.
Driving is basically the only time I can lose my cool at any moment and have been known to flip the bird and even follow people who have somehow “wronged” me on the road. I believe the name for this condition is ‘road rage’ (sarcasm). And, believe it or not, people can change and I have when it comes to my road rage; I’ve calmed down…A LOT.
And music is probably the main reason I’ve been able to cool my temper when I’m behind the wheel.
So, I’m basically here to sell you on the idea of the importance of music when it comes to our mental health and well-being.
But don’t take my word for it. Let music and the art of music therapy speak for itself.
Healing music – and that can be whatever music “speaks” to you – can help you fend off stress, find comfort, and even manage pain. And “healing music” works whether you prefer heavy metal, country, opera, rock, post-industrial punk, hip hop or something else entirely different.
If you’re one of those people who never really gave a second thought to music but want to see for yourselves the healing powers it possesses, I suggest starting out by identifying the kind of music that soothes you, comforts you, makes the nape of your neck tingle, and/or puts a smile on your face – even without your realizing it.
Many have recommended classic music in the past. There have been articles and studies touting how listening to Mozart before an exam somehow makes you smarter or that playing classical music through headphones pressed against your pregnant belly will give your baby a leg-up in life.
But, for music therapy to work, it doesn’t have to be classical music; it just has to be the stuff that you like and that has a way of relaxing you.
“What people say soothes them, soothes them, even if it’s heavy metal,” says music therapist Joanne Loewy, DA, director of the Louis Armstrong Center for Music and Medicine at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City. “The most important aspect is how it is incorporated in your life.”
Healing Music: Music Therapy and Your Health
Music therapy goes beyond simply listening to your favorite, soothing music; if you want additional release through music therapy, unplug and pick up a drum or other instrument. Participating in the music-making process or just accompanying it enhances the beneficial effects of healing music.
In fact, a study of 10 healthy adults in their mid-thirties showed that their blood flowed 26% more easily while they were listening to music that they self-defined as joyful, which is an increase in blood flow that’s similar to doing aerobic activity. To be clear, listening to music can’t actually replace a workout, but appears that it’s an activity that’s good for the heart.
Fun Fact: If you have high blood pressure, one study prescribes listening to at least 12 minutes of Mozart three times a week as it can help lower your blood pressure, as found by said study.
Music Therapy Key in Treating Addiction
The use of music therapy in treating recovering drug addicts can be highly beneficial. By participating in group music-making, people who are struggling with addiction can find relaxation, social connection, and emotional release.
Some people may feel discouraged or daunted by the idea of picking up an instrument, if they’ve never played one before but, getting invested in and excited about the benefits should help you get over that.
It’s been shown that beating a drum to a rhythm, for example, eases pain among patients in cancer wards and nursing homes, and it could even buffer the pain of menstrual cramps or other daily aches and pains.
An example of using music therapy to treat addiction can be simply joining a drum circle, which is an informal gathering of people for the purpose of creating rhythm together. This sort of activity can prolong the pain-fighting benefits of music therapy by:
- Increasing relaxation
- Reducing loneliness
- Providing emotional release
- Enhancing a spiritual connection
So go ahead and make that playlist and fill up your iPod with your favorite music. This is a wonderfully easy and entertaining way to combat stress and boost your overall sense of well-being.
The Orchid Recovery Center focuses on the health and well-being of women who are beginning the healing process of recovery from alcohol and drug abuse and addiction. We use all kinds of treatment modalities, including music therapy, in our holistic approach to restore the health and joy to the lives of the women we are honored to serve. Please call toll-free 1-800-777-9588.