What (If Any) Part Can Tai Chi Play in Addiction Recovery?

You would have to live in under a rock to be unaware of the opioid epidemic. Believe it or not, opiods are the #1 cause of drug overdose in the US today. And it’s not just opioids. What about alcohol addiction? Other drug addictions? Sex addiction? Gambling addiction?

List goes on and on…

Obviously, there are an endless variety of addictions, and an endless number of causes behind them. But regardless of the addiction, just about everyone is looking for a more effective, non-pharmacologic method of treatment.

Let’s focus on chemical (drug and alcohol) addiction. Here’s are some typical consequences of chemical addiction:

  • The ability to manage stress and tension is compromised

  • There is an increase in depression, negative outlook, cravings and impulsivity

  • There is a decrease in energy, clarity and sense of well-being

  • From a biological perspective, toxic debris lodges in the tissues, affecting both physical and mental wellness

  • Coping mechanisms become more impaired as the duration of addiction increases

Because Tai Chi combines movements, visualization, breathing and meditation, it creates a powerful complementary therapy for many addictions. Hence, the reason it is employed in many recovery and treatment centers. Not only is Tai Chi a tool that can be used to keep addiction at bay for the rest of your life, but when combined with traditional treatment, it literally becomes a mind-body flow to recovery.

So, you’re asking, how does Tai Chi help? Consider that regular Tai Chi practice:

  • releases stress, anxiety, tension and restlessness

  • helps you keep your emotions in balance

  • improves blood and lymph flow, which speeds up removal of debris and toxins

  • strengthens coping mechanisms, resulting in lower relapse rates

  • reduces cravings and impulsivity, and decreases depression

  • improves strength, flexibility, clarity and mindfulness

Opioid abuse and misuse in the military has been the focus of the Defense and Veterans Center for Integrative Pain Management. This task force, designated as a Defense Department Center of Excellence, has stated that they now have good evidence for the use of non-pharmacologic, non-opioid treatment and endorse the use of alternative modalities, such as Tai Chi, qigong and yoga.

At one time or another, we all (addicts and non-addicts) experience stress, cravings, pain, or lack of clarity. Try doing five to ten minutes of Tai Chi or even qigong. You may find out that you feel so much better, that ten minutes will stretch into twenty or more. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.