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Resolving to Break an Addictive Habit?

5 key steps might make it easier to start 2009 with less dependency

TUESDAY, Dec. 30 (HealthDay News) -- No matter the addiction -- drugs, gambling, shopping, smoking, alcohol or more -- people who want to kick their habit in the new year might find help in a new Harvard University publication.

"Overcoming Addiction: Paths toward recovery" offers guidance for breaking unwanted addictive habits. The advice applies universally, because what all addictions have in common, the Harvard experts say, is the way the brain responds to pleasurable experiences.

To break the pattern, they recommend the following steps to increase the chances of success:

  • Seek help and create a support network. Get input, advice and support from peers as well as professionals. Start with your doctor or a community mental health center for advice, a plan and -- if necessary -- medication to help with the break. Ask family, friends and co-workers for encouragement and backup.
  • Set a quit date. Some people find it helpful to choose a significant date -- a birthday or anniversary, perhaps.
  • Change your environment. Removing reminders and temptations from your home and workplace can make the break easier. For example, ridding the home of alcohol, bottle openers and wine or drink glasses might help a person trying to stop drinking. Don't let others bring reminders into the home. And, if necessary, break relations with people who enable your condition.
  • Learn new skills and activities. Find something to replace the addiction and help conquer urges. Many people find that exercise is a good substitute activity to help fight temptation.
  • Review your past attempts at quitting. Note what worked, what didn't and what might have led to falling back into old habits. Then, make appropriate changes.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse has more about understanding drug abuse and addiction.

-- Kevin McKeever

SOURCE: Harvard University, news release, December 2008

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