Gratitude May be a Preventative Factor to Drug Use
Node Smith, ND
Gratitude May Serve as Resilience Against Drug Abuse
A recent article champions gratitude as a trait that may reduce the severity of drug use, or perhaps curb drug behavior altogether.1 Dispositional gratitude, a tendency to perceive as well as appreciate positive elements of life, is often a personality characteristic that is correlated with greater well-being. Since substance abuse is often associated with perceived negative stimuli, hopelessness, and suffering, and utilized as a coping mechanism, it may not seem out of the question that a tendency to see the “brighter side of life,” could actually serve as a preventative resilience against drug abuse.
Disposition of Gratitude
The study comes from the National University of Singapore (NUS), where the 2 authors are heavily involved with the prison system and working with male drug abusers. The 2 psychologists, Associate Professor Eddie Tong and his PhD student Ms Leung Chi Ching, found that a disposition of gratitude significantly decreased the amount of drug use current abusers participated in. They also found that individuals were more likely to find healthier outlets for coping with stress and negative emotions – such as taking action to change their circumstances, or seeing positive aspects of bad situations.
Estimates from 2015 Indicate about ¼ billion People used Drugs
The World Drug Report of 2017 by the United Nations, estimates that in 2015, about ¼ billion people used drugs, and among those, roughly 29.5 million or 0.6 percent were considered problematic users or suffered from a diagnosed use disorder.
Substance Abuse Known Coping Strategy for those in Distress
It is well known that substance use/abuse is a coping strategy adopted by those in distress when they feel that other methods of coping are either unavailable or ineffective. This has led many drug addiction programs to utilize methods which seek to change that perception; a large aspect of this is learning gratitude.
Gratitude is a Health Benefit for All
And it’s not just for drug addicts that gratitude is helpful. It has been shown in studies that being grateful is beneficial for our physical as well as mental well-being. Many counselors and therapists utilize gratitude lists, or gratefulness journals with their patients to help reinforce priority to positive elements of one’s life. Sometimes it’s just so easy to get trapped into a negative pattern and not know how to get out of it.
Next Step in Study
The next step of the research at NUS is to study whether gratitude can actually lead to a reduction in drug consumption over time, as well as if it can reduce the likelihood of relapse.
- Leung CC, Tong EMW. Gratitude and Drug Misuse: Role of Coping as Mediator. Subst Use Misuse. 2017;52(14):1832-1839.
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Node Smith, ND, is a naturopathic physician in Portland, OR and associate editor for NDNR. He has been instrumental in maintaining a firm connection to the philosophy and heritage of naturopathic medicine among the next generation of docs. He helped found the first multi-generational experiential retreat, which brings elders, alumni, and students together for a weekend camp-out where naturopathic medicine and medical philosophy are experienced in nature. Four years ago he helped found the non-profit, Association for Naturopathic ReVitalization (ANR), for which he serves as the board chairman. ANR has a mission to inspire health practitioners to embody the naturopathic principles through experiential education. Node also has a firm belief that the next era of naturopathic medicine will see a resurgence of in-patient facilities which use fasting, earthing, hydrotherapy and homeopathy to bring people back from chronic diseases of modern living; he is involved in numerous conversations and projects to bring about this vision.