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The Connection Between Opioid Addiction and Attachment Disorder

Opioid Addiction as Attachment Disorder

Opioid Addiction as an Attachment Disorder

An upcoming American Psychological Association-sponsored webinar will examine opioid addiction as an attachment disorder. Among the topics it will consider is the attachment theory view of substance abuse as connection-seeking behavior and the altered neural activity of those with attachment issues. As attachment-focused interventions are one of the foundational elements of dual diagnosis treatment at Creative Care, this week we would like to take a closer look at the connection between opioid addiction and attachment disorder.


A Quick Look at Brain Chemistry

To understand the connection between opioid addiction and attachment disorder, it’s helpful to take a quick look at brain chemistry. The body contains opioid receptors on the nerves that mediate its response, including feelings of pleasure and contentment, to chemicals like hormones, neurotransmitters, and drugs. These chemicals can occur naturally – for example, endorphins from love or a good workout – or can come from an external source, e.g., chocolate or pharmaceutical painkillers. Numerous studies of mammals have found that opioid receptors, specifically the µ-opioid receptors (MOR), those that regulate pleasure and contentment, are linked to long-term social bonding. By the same token, a 2015 study found that avoidant attachment in adults is negatively correlated with MOR availability. Viewed through the lens of attachment theory, opioid misuse is a means of compensation for this reduced MOR activity.


Attachment Theory at Creative Care

Attachment theory is one of the pillars of the dual diagnosis treatment program at Creative Care. Specifically, we focus on patterns of interpersonal relationships, especially those formed by early childhood experiences. Those who have suffered negative childhood experiences may have developed the attachment-avoidant patterns and resulting low MOR availability mentioned above. In addition to substance use disorders like opioid addiction, adverse attachment patterns can lead to damaged relationships, isolation, and depression. Creative Care aims to break this cycle with attachment-based psychotherapy. Our team attends to the Client’s inner child in order to empower them, rebuilding trust in themselves and others. For example, we re-center their relationship with their emotions and help them express those emotions authentically and constructively. Additionally, Creative Care offers cognitive-behavioral interventions and other evidence-based therapy to help Clients recognize and modify dysfunctional behavior. Finally, we introduce mindfulness techniques to calm the mind and heal the body.


Be Heard, Be Nurtured, Be Healed

Since 1989, Creative Care has been an oasis for individuals who need cutting-edge, innovative clinical excellence. In addition to treating co-occurring opioid use disorder, Creative Care also treats:

We offer a safe environment where the Clients can regain their voice and renewed hope. If you or someone you love is struggling with co-occurring disorders, please consider reaching out to Creative Care. Begin your journey to recovery today.