People struggling with drug dependencies are essentially characterized by choosing instant gratification, such as a high, over a prolonged benefit, such as staying healthy. This is known as future or delay discounting. However, a new study, published in Clinical Psychological Science, illustrated an unusual pattern. Individuals with drug dependencies, who lived in the moment, benefitted most from certain treatments.
The study was.
Researchers found an unexpected pattern that may provide hope for tailoring addiction treatments.
“It was an incongruity in our data that caught my eye,” said Warren Bickel, the lead author of the study, and a professor and the director of the Addiction Recovery Research Center at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute. “I realized that the people who discounted the future the most — the ones we least expected to be able to recover from addiction – also showed the best outcomes when they received an effective treatment. And the ones who discounted the future the least improved the least.”
Bickel realized how rate dependence could play a huge role in the situation of future discounting.
“Rate dependence generally refers to an inverse relationship between people’s rates of responding to something at the outset and then again after an intervention,” Bickel said. “This phenomenon is believed to be the reason stimulant medications work for kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Stimulants that would make most people bounce off the walls actually slow these kids down.”
To further understand the relationship, data was reviewed from five of Bickel’s prior studies that included a total of 222 assessments of people addicted to stimulants, heroin or tobacco. The results further confirmed the relationship.
Participants who were more concerned about future consequences demonstrated little variations in the extent to which they were willing to delay gratification compared to those living in the moment, who showed larger reductions in their future discounting.
Even more so, the treatments resulted in the greatest reduction in substance use among those who had begun with the highest rates of future discounting.
Treatments focused on training a patient’s working memory proved to be one of the most effective. Bickel’s prior research had illustrated the importance of the process of valuing future overlaps with mental processes and brain regions associated with memory, alongside the fact that a training program targeted towards enhancing working memory could help repair self-control.
“These findings extend our understanding of how interventions can change future discounting as a measure of self-control,” said Bickel. “A simple cognitive test that measures the degree to which individuals live in the moment might help us personalize treatments for their addictions.”
Vigilance is an important element to maintain a sustained recovery, but can easily be distorted by focusing too much on the past or the future. It is important to not take one’s recovering self for granted. Living in the truth and fully understanding that every moment spent glorifying the past or obsessing over the future is a moment of diminished power in the now; and today, everyone is all about taking their power back so that their lives aren’t ruled by alcoholism or drug addiction.
The 24/7 Recovery Helpline is specifically designed to help those battling a drug or alcohol addiction embark on a journey to sustained recovery. Our representatives are committed to connecting you or a loved one with the best treatment plans and aftercare programs. Addiction doesn’t have to live your life for you. That decision should always remain in your hands. If you or a loved one is ready to reclaim his or her life from addiction, call us right away.