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Holistic Addiction Treatment: What Does It Mean and Is It Really Better?

Holistic Addiction Treatment: What Does It Mean and Is It Really Better?

Remember, too, when we practice and work on ourselves, it is not just our kinesthetic or body awareness, or our intellectual capacity, and it is not just our emotional intelligence, our spiritual depth, or our ethical clarity, but it is all these things together, the sum of all these healthy parts, that makes an extraordinarily healthy, and brilliantly capable whole.” ~ John Dupuy, Integral Recovery: A Revolutionary Approach to the Treatment of Alcoholism and Addiction Among the many different addiction treatment approaches, one that offers holistic therapies may be the most comprehensive option, because it is focused on the substance abuser as a COMPLETE INDIVIDUAL, and treatment encompasses each aspect – spiritual, mental, emotional and physical.

Holistic Addiction Treatment Approaches

A drug or alcohol rehab program that utilizes holistic therapies will include modern evidence-based treatment methods such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or pharmacological options such as medication-assisted-therapy (MAT), but it will also include non-traditional therapies such as:

  • Stress Reduction – The National Institutes of Health has reported that elevated stress is a major causal factor for developing a substance abuse disorder, and it also plays a significant part in the risk of relapse. Patients in holistic treatment are taught how to use their social support system, healthy coping mechanisms, and productive problem-solving skills to reduce stress.
  • Fitness Programs– In 2010, a report in Biological Psychiatry determined that laboratory rats engaging in regular exercise experienced a marked reduction in drug cravings and suffered less damage to their prefrontal cortex than other, non-exercising rats.

According to the Scandinavian Journal of Public Health, patients who were in rehabs that included exercise therapy enjoyed a much higher quality of life and a significant reduction in drug use.

  • Nutrition – Newly-sober substance abusers can mistake hunger –irritability, nausea, headache, dizziness, etc.–for a drug or alcohol cravings. Learning how to differentiate between a normal sensation like hunger and a craving for drugs allows the person in recovery to maintain a proper perspective and allow them to take proper positive actions.

Also, when a person has been abusing alcohol or drugs for any length of time, their unhealthy lifestyle can rob their bodies of essential vitamins and minerals. Alcoholics, for example, invariably suffer from depleted thiamine levels, and this can cause complications later on in life. Nutritional therapy helps restore optimal health by helping the recovering addict/alcoholic learn better eating habits.

  • Acupuncture – The National Acupuncture Detoxification Association says that addictions are caused by an imbalance within the liver and that specifically-targeted acupuncture – typically around the ear – can restore that balance.

Acupuncture also calms the central nervous system, regulates the autonomic responses, and takes the person out of the adrenalized “fight-or-flight” mode that makes it so hard for addicted people to stay balanced.

  • Yoga – Many addictionologist believe that one of the causal factors of addiction is an inability to cope with past trauma –painful emotions, thoughts, and memories. This is why alcohol and drug abuse are so common among veterans with PTSD.

Yoga can give a traumatized addict new ways to maintain control and balance. Controlled breathing, for example, can aid in self-discipline by keeping harmful emotions and thoughts in check.

  • Therapeutic massage–Dopamine– the neurotransmitter responsible for pleasure and reward – plays a primary role in addiction. Addictive substances create artificially-high dopamine levels, to the point where the addict is incapable of feeling any pleasure without the presence of the drug/alcohol.

During withdrawal, the body’s dopamine levels are extremely depleted, and this disruption of the brain’s reward center is what makes a withdrawal so harshly unpleasant and difficult.

In 1998, The Touch Research Institute said that a program of regular therapeutic massage can result in a significant, lasting increase in dopamine levels.

In 1989, General Pharmacology published a study reporting that therapeutic massage raises endorphin levels by 16%. Endorphins are the body’s “feel-good” hormones.

Massage is a way to feel better without dangerous or addictive drugs and can provide a healthier, safer outlet for bottled-up emotions.

In 2003, Joni Kosakoski, BSN, RN, CARN, wrote an article for Counselor, the Magazine for Addiction Professionals entitled, “Massage: Hands Down, a Treatment for Addiction”.

Kosakowski wrote, “Emotional release can commonly occur with massage, which provides a safe, non-threatening opportunity to begin the process of recovering long-buried emotions and memories.”

Maureen Schwehr, NMD, a naturopathic physician, says, “The spirit is who we really are. Our mind is our thinking brain, and our body houses this. If you’re an addict, you often have to ignore your body, because you are, in essence, hurting your ‘house’.” If you or someone you care about is looking for the absolute best in addiction recovery – contact Northpoint Recovery today. Northpoint utilizes a “total-wellness” philosophy that attacks the disease of addiction on multiple levels, thereby giving you the help and hope you need during the first tentative steps of your sober journey.