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How the “Runner’s High” Can Help Fight Chemical Addictions

by Landmark Recovery

March 10, 2022
runners high

Overcoming a drug or alcohol addiction involves a shift in focus, time and energy. Many people who successfully recovered from a substance use disorder have taken up healthier hobbies, like running. Some even become addicted to running. They love the way it makes them feel—almost as if they’re experiencing the chemical high that fueled their substance abuse in the past. To an extent, the idea that you can experience a similar kind of high through physical activity, like running, is true!

Running and Cravings

Physical activity, whether it’s a brisk walk, workout at the gym or running a marathon, has been found to reduce the urge to drink in clinical studies. Scientists aren’t sure exactly why exercise lowers the desire for alcohol or drugs. Some experts theorize that physical activity activates similar reward circuits to improve a person’s mood. Another theory has to do with how running affects the body’s production of cortisol. Whatever the reason, these findings are great in looking for ways you can lower your susceptibility to cravings and substance abuse. Spending your time exercising is a way to invest in your health and  a good distractor from unhealthy cravings for drugs, alcohol or junk food if done consistently.

Is Cortisol the Problem?

Cortisol is a neurotransmitter produced by the body in response to stress. Cortisol essentially triggers the fight-or-flight reaction of humans in response to external stimuli that the brain classifies as “stressful.” Cortisol might be the missing link between running and addiction. It’s been theorized that cortisol regulation could be a key part of why some people are genetically predisposed to addiction. When certain people with dysregulated, higher levels of cortisol are subjected to this in the long term, it can raise the possibility of experiencing addiction.

Running, on the other hand, temporarily increases the levels of cortisol in the body through exercise, but it helps get your body back into a more regulated schedule of cortisol production. Moderate to strenuous activity creates narrow windows during which the body concentrates its cortisol production, helping it to start producing cortisol at a healthier rate. The dopaminergic response your body has in the aftermath of exercise feels better, too.

Landmark Recovery Is On the Move!

Landmark Recovery is very excited to sponsor the upcoming Second Chance 5k run in Las Vegas. We believe, based on the scientific evidence, that becoming a healthy individual and staying healthy is one key to maintaining recovery in the long term. You can register for the race here. We’ll see you there!

If you want to learn more about how Landmark Recovery of Las Vegas can help you with addiction treatment and put you on the path to recovery, give us a call at 725-217-9910 today.

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About the Author

Landmark Recovery

Landmark Recovery

Landmark Recovery was founded with a determination to make addiction treatment accessible for all. Through our integrated treatment programs, we've helped thousands of people choose recovery over addiction and get back to life on their own terms. We're on a mission to save one million lives over the next century. We encourage all those struggling with substance use to seek professional help.