Home Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy How to Treat Substance Addiction: Interview with Dr Alexander Lapa

How to Treat Substance Addiction: Interview with Dr Alexander Lapa

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How do you begin treating substance addictions?

There are many treatments and therapies available for treating addiction. Although all our rehabilitation programmes are bespoke for each client, you will go through a medically assisted detoxification first if you arrive with a substance issue as you need to remove the harmful substances from your system before you can begin working on the emotional issues linked to addiction.

Once you have safely withdrawn, you will begin a variety of treatments and therapies.

Psychological therapies are vital when helping someone to recover from an addiction. At our facilities, we offer a range of therapies to treat addictions: bereavement, trauma and abuse counselling, family therapies, and group therapies. However, one of the most common therapies used is cognitive behavioural therapy. CBT helps you identify negative thoughts and challenge them while developing strategies to break the habit of negative thoughts. It is very beneficial for both addictions and mental health issues.

Which mental health issues can CBT be used to treat?

CBT is very successful in treating a variety of issues and disorders. Including but in no way limited to: anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, self-esteem issues, irrational fears, hypochondria, and insomnia.

Beyond this, CBT can help with relationship issues, behavioural problems, and as previously mentioned, substance abuse disorders. When clients present with both an addiction and a mental health issue, they will be treated for dual diagnosis.

Can you talk more about dual diagnosis?

Dual diagnosis is a significant issue for many of our clients. More often than not, our clients will present with both an addiction and mental health issue. This is unsurprising as most people will use a substance to self-medicate or distract from their negative feelings.

So at our facility, we believe you must treat both issues to achieve and maintain long-term sobriety. Dual-Diagnosis treatment will begin once you have been initially detoxed from all substances. So your mind can be clear to begin the previously mentioned psychological therapies.  

Do you only use psychological therapies?

No, at Addiction Advocates, we strongly believe in using various treatments and therapies to achieve the best results. We have a strong focus on well-being therapies and holistic therapies.

We believe that we must challenge and psychologically tackle your issues but additionally, learning a new skill or experiencing relaxation and reflection can be very beneficial for long-term recovery. Some of our most successful well-being therapies are relaxation and sleep managements yoga, meditation, acupuncture, low-level laser therapy and Satori chair therapy.

What is Satori chair therapy?  

Satori chair therapy, also known as ZRO Wellness System, works by utilising sound and vibrations to relax and balance the whole body. The Satori chair is located in a purpose-designed room with relaxing decor and soothing lighting, so the whole experience creates an almost meditative state.

The wellness system has been clinically proven to positively affect the mood and create behavioural changes connected to addiction. The US Military’s Institute of Surgical Research found that the ZRO Touch wellness system improved mood 97%, along with a significant improvement in sleep, stress reduction, and mental resilience among deployed military.

Especially with the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, relaxation is crucial for our clients.

How has lockdown affected treatment centres? 

The lockdowns have been hard for all medical facilities. We provide an essential service that is time-sensitive in many cases. Once someone has decided they would like help, we must get them into treatment and begin helping them.

Throughout the lockdown, we have had systems in place to remain open but follow government guidelines to keep everyone safe. We created isolation units for new clients to quarantine before joining the rest of the facility and conducted Covid-19 testing periodically. Additionally, if anyone was uncomfortable attending group therapy, they were offered laptops to partake and protect themselves in their rooms. We have maintained social distancing and encouraged wearing masks in communal areas.

Are more people suffering from addiction and mental health issues because of the pandemic?

Throughout the pandemic, we have seen an increase in admission requests. This was not necessarily a surprise as with the increased stress, it was anticipated, but what was surprising was how many walks of life and different avenues of referral we were receiving.

There was a significant spike in relapse cases because when people are confronted with stress, especially of the magnitude of the pandemic, they will fall back on old habits. Additionally, we had an increase in friend and family referrals. I believe this resulted from families being at home together and becoming more aware of someone close to them struggling. Many found that their reliance on alcohol whilst at home during lockdown had quickly spiralled beyond their control.

The increased reliance on substances, particularly alcohol, during lockdown is directly linked to mental health. Stress, isolation, fear, depression and anxiety have been common feelings throughout the pandemic, and because people have been stuck at home, the ways of relieving the negativity have been limited.  

The experiences we have had are mirrored in Government Statistics released and articles from all the major news companies. The Office for National Statistics announced back in May that alcohol-related deaths were the highest they had been for 20 years in England and Wales.

Any final thoughts?

Although the pandemic and lockdowns have affected everyone, we are still here to help anyone struggling with mental health issues and addictions. Reach out; we are ready to listen and help you. 

About Dr Alexander Lapa

Dr Alexander Lapa finished his medicine degree in 2000 and has since been fully indemnified by the Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland (MDDUS) and MIAB expert insurance for psychiatric and private medical practice. He is fully registered with the General Medical Council (GMC) in the UK with a licence to practice. Plus, Dr Lapa is approved under Section 12(2) of the Mental Health Act (1983) and is a member of the Independent Doctors Federation (IDF), British Association for Psychopharmacology (BMA), and the Association for the Study of Obesity (ASO).

Currently, he is working with Addiction Advocates, treating addictions and mental health issues. I interviewed Dr Lapa to learn about his experiences treating addiction and mental health, particularly during the last year with lockdowns because of the pandemic.

Dennis Relojo-Howell is the managing director of Psychreg. He tweets @dennisr_howell.


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