8 July 2019 at 13:20Share
Rosa Shemesh (Israel)
Simposium – English – Hebrew
Dreams during varying stages of recovery from substance use disorder
Drug addiction can lead, among other things, to criminality and delinquency. The withdrawal and therapy process is long and complex, and includes changes of many kinds at different stages. One of these is dreaming, which has significant repercussions on the quality of sleep and the addict’s alertness. These repercussions can in turn jeopardize rehabilitation and therapy.
Previous studies of this subject focused on the dreams of addicts while still achieving abstention and addressed the drugs themselves. Such studies were quantitative and based on the Freudian theory that dreams are an expression of an unrequited desire in conscious life. They sought to identify the desire for drugs in dreams, with the supposition that early identification of such desire in dreams would lead to better prevention of desire and drug seeking in consciousness, thus enhancing prevention of the recurrence of drug use.
The present study approaches the subject from a different angle, according to Moreno’s idea (Furst, 2013; Moreno, 1972) that dreaming is a creative expression of a person’s internal world. The aim was to consolidate a comprehensive approach to the dreams of addicts at different stages of recovery, and the way in which they experience their dreams. Accordingly, changes in the dreams of all addict-subjects at all stages of recovery were examined. This study is qualitative and phenomenological; thus, it aspires to enable participants to write about and relate their dreams and report their feelings and perceptions in semi-structured, in-depth interviews.
The present study reveals that the dreaming experience at all stages of dependency is filled with fear and panic, causing frequent awakening from sleep and compromising the quality of sleep. Most participants felt that their irregular sleep pattern is jeopardizing their recovery.
On the whole the findings point to a clear change in the dream content and dreaming experience of addicts arising from the three stages of recovery. The content of dreams typifying different stages of recovery, the ways in which the participants cope with their dreams and the implications on their sleeping and waking hours significantly expand knowledge gleaned from prior studies that focused on narrow characteristics and the first stage of recovery.
The findings of the present study indicate that drug dreams express a complex and difficult emotional experience of withdrawal from drugs, involving a process of bereavement and separation from drugs, friends associated with the period of drug taking and related behaviors. This study shows, for the first time, that at most stages there are dreams addressing therapeutic content, according to the stage of recovery when they occur. It was also found that both early and advanced stages of withdrawal are characterized by dreams of key life experiences, connected to pivotal events in the participant’s life. Such dream content also appears infrequently with the achievement of abstention. Furthermore, most of the dreams, regardless of their content, were found to be nightmares and recurrent nightmares. In previous literature this pattern has been considered typical of people suffering from PTSD, which reinforces the findings of several researchers who see in addiction the characteristics of post-traumatic disorder.
The present study is the first of its kind and could prove significant in the planning of therapeutic interventions at different stages of recovery. The implementation and practical implications of the results have the potential to help towards withdrawal from drugs, the promotion of therapeutic processes, the improvement of the quality of addicts’ waking lives, the enhancement of their quality of sleep and enabling the enjoyment of dreaming.