Endorphins & Addiction: Using Natural Endorphins to Stay Sober
Euphoria — a feeling of intense happiness or excitement — is something all people crave, and on some level need from time to time. When a person is addicted to alcohol or drugs, they are seeking that intense feeling of joy over and over again. Endorphins are the brain chemical that leads to euphoria. Addictive substances artificially tap into the brain’s production of endorphins. The problem is that the way drugs and alcohol work on endorphins can alter the way the brain functions and lead to dependence. The good news is you (and any addicted loved one) can harness your brain’s natural endorphins to stay sober.
To do this, you need to understand better the connection between endorphins and addiction.
What Are Endorphins?
How Do Drugs and Alcohol Work On Endorphins?
How to Pursue Natural Highs (ie. Endorphins Without Addiction)
The good news is there are ways you can release endorphins naturally, without the use of drugs or alcohol. The following evidence-based methods release endorphins at a variety of levels.
- Exercise naturally releases endorphins into the body. Exercising 20 to 30 minutes, three times a week, can produce beta-endorphins that help improve mood, increase feelings of pleasure and reduce overall body aches and pains. Exercise such as running, dancing, weight-lifting, gardening, walking, swimming and a variety of other forms of physical activity are all helpful. Simply choose the activity that you like and get moving.
- Laughter has been shown to reduce stress hormones and produce beta-endorphins. Even the anticipation of laughter works. Attend a comedy show, read the comics or find other ways to incorporate laughter into your life. It is an effective, healthy and low-cost way to release endorphins and feel good.
- Aromatherapies can be very effective in releasing endorphins in the body naturally. The sense of smell is one the most powerful human senses. Stimulation of scent causes immediate changes in the body, including heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension and brain activity. Inhaling specific scents can activate the release of endorphins as well as other neurotransmitters like serotonin and norepinephrine to cause immediate changes in mood, pain levels, stress and anxiety. Some commonly used scents include vanilla, jasmine, sandalwood and lavender.
- Food can also release endorphins naturally. Chocolate, your favorite food, spicy foods and foods high in antioxidants — which can help fight free radicals that can affect mental health — have all been shown to activate the production of endorphins at varying levels. Additionally, foods containing omega 3s and other “good” fats help produce endorphin-promoting hormones called eicosanoids. But be sure to stay away from processed foods that can interfere with brain chemistry and function.
- Human touch, especially hugs, can release endorphins as well as a chemical known as oxytocin. It helps improve bonding, social interaction and lower stress responses. So rather than give your friends a hearty handshake when you see them, why not go in for the hug and get a dose of natural feel-good?
- Sex, or more specifically orgasm, also stimulates oxytocin and endorphin release.
Naturally releasing endorphins can help reduce pain, increase pleasure and improve overall sense of well-being without the unwanted and dangerous side effects that are associated with drug and alcohol use and abuse. So enjoy your natural highs and stay sober.