To begin with, addiction to drugs and substances is a particularly complex illness, which is characterized by the constant craving for drugs and drug seeking, despite the devastating consequences influencing the person’s mental and physical health. In fact, drug addiction includes addiction to narcotics, certain types of medication, alcohol, and other substances, consumtion of which becomes rather compulsive and uncontrollable. The prolonged consumption of drugs causes the changes in functioning of human brain, influencing this type of behavior.
Considering the fact that drug addiction can disrupt many aspects of human life, the treatment of this disease is quite complex, including medication treatment, abstinence from drugs, and psychological therapy or behavioral treatment. Since drug addiction is mostly a chronic disease, addicted people cannot stop using drugs at once and be healthy for the rest of their lives. Most patients have several or even numerous treatment episodes of their drug addiction before they fully recover. Thus, a combination of medication treatment and psychological therapy is the best way to fight drug and alcohol addiction. As such, one of the most profound behavioral treatments of drug addiction is positive psychology, which is proved particularly successful in drug addiction treatment. Thus, this paper seeks to discuss positive psychology and its effects on drug addiction treatment, as well as to analyze the application of positive psychology to addiction problems. As such, one may consider that positive psychology can be particularly successful in drug addiction treatment, especially as a complex and long-term approach.
Positive Psychology and Its Application to Drug Addiction Treatment
Positive psychology is a relatively new branch of psychology that concentrates on patient achieving satisfactory or happy life, instead of treating the patient and his mental illness, like most of the traditional psychological approaches do. However, positive psychology is not ignoring the basic methods of psychology, it rather emphasizes positive human development and “mental wellness” and their scientific investigation (Seligman, 2005).
Positive psychology was firstly introduced as a new area in 1998 by Martin Seligman, however, the term “positive psychology” was firstly used in 1954 in the book Motivation and Personality by Abraham Maslow (Seligman, 2005). It is generally agreed that positive psychology connects human positive experience with three main points in time: the past, which concentrates on contentment, well-being, and satisfaction with life; the present, which mostly focuses on positive experiences and happiness; the future, concentrating on optimistic thinking and hope. Traditionally, positive psychology is considered a mixture of eudaimonic and hedonic well-being. Eudaimonic well-being is concerned with creating a positive purpose in human life, and hedonic well-being aims to create life satisfaction. As such, Seligman (2005) argues that in positive psychology, it is important to combine pleasurable and meaningful life. He states that pleasurable life includes positive emotions, such as inspiration, love, joy, interest, gratitude, and many others. Moreover, positive emotions, which accumulate, create a protective shield from stressful and unpleasant events. Therefore, in order to pursue happiness, individuals should maintain positive experience in three main points in time, which is a core concept of authentic happiness theory (Seligman, 2005).
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In fact, sometimes individuals misinterpret their pursuit of happiness with their pursuit of pleasure. As such, one can see how positive psychology is connected with drug addiction treatment and how effective it may be. In most cases, people start drinking alcohol or taking drugs seeking pleasure and avoiding problems, stress, and dissatisfaction in life. Unfortunately, a person addicted to drugs cannot always realize that short-term gains from drugs can result in long-term losses. Moreover, people addicted to drugs tend to lose control over their lives, and the situation worsens when the sense of powerlessness increases. Therefore, forming a positive attitude to life would be the most effective long-term solution and treatment in case of disease. Certainly, treatment with positive psychology may be different for each individual as there are many factors contributing to individual’s happiness (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2012).
Factors that Influence Happiness
In fact, age, gender, past experiences, ability to resist stress and social life obstacles considerably influence individual’s happiness. On the one hand, the studies suggest that most people become happier with their life as they get older. However, between 40 and 50 years, people are likely to experience a stage of enormous stress and anger, which reduces their level of happiness (Akhtar & Boniwell, 2010). Therefore, people are more likely get addicted to drugs when they are young and in between 40 and 50 years. On the other hand, a significant decrease in happiness of women in the last 20 years leads scholars to believe that men feel happier than women. Therefore, females are more prone to become drug addicts than men are.
Especially dangerous is drug addiction in children and adolescents, who experience transitional period in their physical and mental development, and are prone to seek happiness in short-time pleasures. Usually, their desire to drink or take drugs is driven by such factors as conforming to norms, escaping stress, individual identity, and self-management. In such case, positive psychology acts as an intervention, addressing the well-being of addicted to drugs adolescents, and analyzing individual reasons of young people to take drugs or drink. Moreover, it helps youngsters find other alternative options and new routes to happiness, resilience, and positive emotions (Akhtar & Boniwell, 2010).
Virtually, many people experience ineffective prospecting of feeling happy, engaging in short-time pleasures with no effort involved. Drugs and alcohol are examples of such pleasures, which have an ability to get people addicted. Substantially, when happiness comes in the form of such easy pleasures, people may not always realize the price they have to pay for it. The price for such happiness is loss of freedom, when a person can no longer be happy without an incentive, which is called an addiction (Seligman, 2005).
Amy Krentzman (2013) in her application of positive psychology to drug addiction identifies three points that motivate individuals to contribute to the society and remain happy. The first point, called a pleasant life, embraces good feelings of the past, present, and future.
To tie this with addiction, the author chose an example of alcoholism. She argues that most of the drinking population associates alcohol with pleasure, which is a somatic immediate feeling that does not last long. The author states that pleasure alone is not necessarily a constituent part of a well-lived life and that life is more than just pleasure. The second one, called the engaged life, is associated with character strength and development of positive traits. The author views an addiction as an “erosion of character strength”, and states that in order to be happy, people should try to develop such traits of character as integrity, humility, bravery, gratitude, prudence, citizenship, and hope. The third point, the meaningful life, is about serving positive organizations, such as social groups, family, and society in general. Treatment programs can also be positive organizations, which can promote strength in people’s characters and assist them in fighting addiction (Krentzman, 2013).
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Programs and Institutions for Drug Addiction Treatment and Theory of Positive Prevention
Seligman (2005) have developed a theory of positive prevention, arguing that encouraging optimism, perseverance, and future mindedness protects people from mental illnesses, such as drug addiction, and is more successful in dealing with this problem than illness treatment. Contribution of positive psychology to the well-being of adolescents is both specific and general. For instance, it has general impact on pediatric psychology, which now switches a focus from children’s pathology and deficits to a more positive strength-building approach. Thus, the aim of this intervention is to facilitate positive aspects of well-being, such as optimism and happiness. So far, the most successful positive psychology implementation is the Penn Resilience Program, a model aimed at preventing depression and drug addiction in children and adolescents. As far as other models of positive psychology are concerned, one can mention the ABC model, which encourages people to change their attitude to negative beliefs connected with different events and substitute them with more optimistic alternative explanations. However, so far, positive psychology has mainly focused on general populations, rather than the specific ones (Seligman, 2005).
One more recovery institution, which provides various services to individuals facing drug addiction, is Recovery Community Center. It includes recovery workshops, telephone support, training, job-hunt coaching, and other types of positive psychological support. Among other aims, this recovery institution facilitates the entry of previously addicted individuals in the community (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2012).
In fact, for individuals who have recently experienced problems with drug abuse, positive psychology offers a meaningful and rewarding direction on how to live their life and how to accept negative events they experience. Therefore, each person beyond all doubt should experience physical and emotional changes, which can help him or her reduce the level of stress and anxiety, which undermines the person’s judgment and changes his/her behavior.
As far as positive psychology in drug addiction treatment is concerned, it is important to conclude that positive psychology can be particularly successful in drug addiction treatment, especially when complex and long-term approaches are used to improve the treatment. Each person should experience physical and emotional changes in order to reduce the level of stress and anxiety, which can undermine person’s judgment and change the behavior. Thus, the most important solution to the problem is maintaining mental health in patients, focusing on positive, engaging, and meaningful life, where they are effective members of community, their family, and workspace, and strengthening their character.