Floating for Addiction
Addiction exists in all aspects of our lives as the mechanisms that occur in the brain and body reward us when we eat, when we are with loved ones when we are excited and entertained. It also gives us signals when we lack something that the brain believes is paramount to our ability to survive and thrive in this life. Some of us are addicted to sugar, smoking, alcohol or caffeine, while others tend to turn to more explicit substances on a regular basis because it simulates feelings we are genetically programmed to seek. To understand the ways in which floating can reduce addictive behaviour, we must first understand the primary causes. It is important to recognise that while every individual suffers from addiction for different reasons, there are physical mechanisms in the brain and body that cause addiction to occur. Whether someone is filling a void, chasing a rush or stuck in a rut of addictive consumption patterns, there are ways to treat and overcome these patterns and floating is one of them. In this article, I will be outlining 3 proven physical causes of addiction alongside the correlating benefits of floating.
Last week, I bumped into a guy called Henry, who opened up to me about his newfound discovery of floating and it absolutely warmed my heart. This is what he said:
"Hey, you may not remember me but we met when my mate bought your car. You were talking about the float tanks and I actually ended up going down to Freedom Float to give it a try and I have been quite a few times since then. You see, I used to have a heroin addiction and although now I'm completely cured, I never really knew what I was looking for in my life until I tried floating. It has really helped in my recovery and with giving me that feeling I had been looking for. I think I have been turning to substances for sedation or something and I didn't know what I was really trying to achieve before. Floating has changed my life, it is exactly what I needed". - Henry
This blog is for those who of you who are interested in facing your addictions with floating, or those who want to help their loved ones. Here is an outline of the key hormones involved in addiction and how floating can help.
Serotonin, the neurotransmitter in the brain involved in sleep, sensory experiences, and sense of well-being, plays a key role in many cases of addiction. Decreased serotonin levels have been linked to behaviours associated with:
- Poor impulse control.
- Suicidal behaviour.
In some cases, addiction occurs when people seek substances to escape these feelings or fill a void which is often caused by a lack of serotonin production or release. Float tanks can assist in the production of serotonin because as outlined in this study, Magnesium in the Central Nervous System, Magnesium causes serotonin production and release which reduces symptoms associated with low levels of this hormone.
In a Study published by the US National Library of Medicine on the antidepressant effect of floatation, 50 participants who were diagnosed with anxiety and depression tried floating. The results concluded that “the float experience induced a reduction in self-reported state anxiety that was evident across all 50 participants”. That's a 100% rate of improvement after floating.
The neurotransmitter dopamine is responsible for incentive, reward and motivation, and is a key neurotransmitter involved in addiction.
Drugs of abuse activate reward pathways, releasing excessive dopamine. Dopamine surges produce:
- Strong behavioural reinforcement.
- Cravings or compulsions to perform certain behaviours
When floating, you are benefiting from ‘REST’ which is Restricted Environmental Stimulation Treatment. During your float, your body is placed in ideal conditions for relaxation and healing to occur. Those who are addicted to a substance due to the Dopamine rush it provides can benefit from floating as it heals the body and neurotransmitters by replenishing the supply of endorphins and dopamine in the body. For many, after a float, they will experience a healthy release of Dopamine which can prevent them from seeking other harmful substances to feel similar feelings.
Another neurotransmitter, glutamate, the primary excitatory brain neurotransmitter stimulating brain cells to fire, is associated with learning and memory, and has been implicated in the perpetuation of addiction.
Research has demonstrated that glutamate, operating independently and interacting with the dopaminergic system, fosters the development and maintenance of addiction through:
- Conditioning (cues in one’s daily routine become associated with use).
The brain adjusts to surges of Glutamate by reducing dopamine production and the number of receptors that can receive signals. Dopamine depletion, along with disruption in other neurotransmitters, reduces one’s ability to experience pleasure. Dopamine depletion following major release of dopamine use may account for binges and craving.
Floating in sensory deprivation tanks can regulate Glutamate to healthy levels because rest and sleep play an important role in repairing neurotransmitters and restoring them to their optimal functionality. Many people visit float tanks because it assists the brain in falling into deep sleep faster and in some cases, a 1 hour sleep in a float tank can equate to an 8 hour sleep when it comes to repairing neurotransmitters. This is because you can fall into a deep REM sleep faster inside Sensory Deprivation Tanks. Also, for those who don’t sleep in while floating, but instead practise awareness of their addictions and focus on changing their habits, the tanks provide excellent conditions for creating new neurological pathways and positive habits.
Other ways floating can help with addiction
1. Relaxation of the Mind and the Body
Addiction can often get worse when you experiencing stress, worry, or anxiety. Floatation therapy (also known as Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy) allows people to experience a change in their state of being which is more relaxed, and at ease due to the lower cortisol (stress hormone) and increased melatonin (sleep hormone), that occurs within the tank. Floating allows the mind and body to replenish hormonal supplies in the brain and body which can reduce addictive tendencies.
2. Shifting Biochemistry
As our biochemistry and the nervous system shift into a place of relaxation and expansion, the need for addictive substances can be lessened substantially. Since endorphins (pleasurable, happy chemicals) and dopamine are released when you float, the biochemical “need” for pleasure is satisfied, and thus reduces one’s likelihood of needing to seek out other ways of meeting this need.
3. Increased Awareness of Internal States
Being in the float tank cuts out the need to place attention on external events, and instead shifts awareness inwards. With attention placed on one’s internal state, (i.e. awareness of how you are feeling, what you are thinking and what is going on inside you), there are no distractions from your internal state. As there are no external problems to solve, problem-solving can be turned inwards instead. Observing and monitoring the internal state can be motivating to do something about changing it. Increased consciousness of one's actions can play a significant role in overcoming addiction.
4. A Safe Alternative to Activate Pleasure
Floatation therapy is a safe and effective way of reducing stress, anxiety, depression or other challenging feelings. Since these states can trigger the desire to repeat addictive behaviours for the sake of feeling pleasure as opposed to these pain-related states, the float tank can be a wonderful tool in providing a safe space to relieve both physical and mental symptoms of withdrawal and post-withdrawal. Even long after we have quit an addictive behavioural pattern, there are circumstances that will cause us to want to return to the addiction. When we realise there is a chance that we may return to our addictive behaviour, we can simply take a float, stimulate our pleasure pathways, and avert the return to the habit.
If someone you know is struggling with an addiction, why not suggest one of our floatation therapy packages as a safe and effective way to overcome addiction. Feel free to pop in to say hello any time. We will be more than happy to have a chat with you, show you around and hopefully brighten your day in some little way.
Call us on 55 35 77 78 to make a booking or book online here.
Thanks for reading xx