Holistic or “alternative” therapies are nothing new, and our awareness of varying practices such as meditation and yoga has never been greater. However, less is known about how holistic approaches can be beneficial in addiction treatment. In this article, we take a closer look at the alternative therapies that are increasingly being offered at holistic alcohol treatment centers and how they work in rehab to motivate long-term sobriety.
What Exactly Are Holistic Therapies for Addiction Treatment?
Therapies used in holistic drug and alcohol treatment include:
- Guided meditation
- Experiential treatments such as animal-assisted or adventure therapies
- Homeopathy and herbal remedies
- Nutritional therapy
When someone has been fighting physical addiction to substances and the harsh side effects of withdrawal, holistic treatment for alcoholism offers a more gentle way of treating patients. Holistic therapies focus on the whole person in terms of mind, body, and spirit rather than the specific symptoms related to addiction.
As well as reducing cravings for drugs or alcohol, some holistic therapies also lessen physical discomfort and pain. This is extremely invaluable when treating patients who have become addicted to prescription drugs, particularly if this was due to chronic pain. Finding natural techniques to relieve painful symptoms through therapies such as acupuncture and Reiki or herbal remedies can offer patients other, more healthy ways of managing their pain.
Holistic drug and alcohol treatment has also been shown to provide an additional level of emotional and physical support. Although there is an element of genetics involved in addiction, other environmental or socioeconomic factors also come into play. Some people develop dependency and addiction after becoming vulnerable following a physical or sexual trauma. Holistic treatment for alcoholism improves a patient’s emotional wellbeing to empower them to achieve successful recovery.
Mechanisms for Success in Holistic Alcohol Treatment
There are many different theories as to why holistic approaches are so effective in holistic alcohol treatment. However, one common school of thought is that their efficacy has much to do with the positive changes they promote in a patient’s biochemistry. Prolonged substance abuse wreaks havoc on the neurotransmitters to the brain and effectively strips a person of their sense of ‘choice’ when it comes to using. After abusing substances has become an addiction, someone is likely to have lost all ability to control their use as it has been replaced by a compulsion or physical need for drugs and alcohol.
Holistic practices like yoga or meditation increase endorphin production, sending feel-good messages to the brain to reduce pain and discomfort. Many people will be familiar with the buzzing sensation one feels after exercise and this is effectively a natural way of achieving a “high” that can significantly boost a patient’s chances of preventing relapse.
Another mechanism that contributes to the efficacy of holistic drug and alcohol treatment is the fact that therapies increase neurotransmission of an amino acid that reduces anxiety and stress called gamma-aminobutyric acid or GABA. There are also therapies such as acupuncture that stimulate the hypothalamus, which has an effect on the central nervous system and also the pituitary gland which is responsible for maintaining hormonal balance in the body.
How Work To Treat Drug and Alcohol Addiction
Holistic drug and alcohol treatment is divided into different areas of focus. Some involve physical manipulation of the body such as chiropractic and others work on the patient’s energy levels like acupuncture or Reiki and some are biological such as homeopathy and herbal medicine. The majority of holistic alcohol treatment centers offer patients a good range of each type of holistic approach.
Each area of focus has its own merits but all are extremely powerful in promoting a healthy recovery both by reducing cravings and improving responses to triggers. Naturally, every individual in holistic alcohol treatment centers responds differently to both medical and holistic alcohol treatment and so it is always essential for therapists to devise a personalized program on a case-by-case basis.
Although something as simple as taking a brisk walk for ten minutes each day is not widely considered a holistic therapy, it is an activity that increases endorphin and dopamine production in exactly the same way. When combined with an alternative approach such as nutrition therapy, even walking can serve to considerably improve a patient’s overall physical health while restoring natural stress relievers at the same time.
Someone who takes regular exercise gets the same benefits as someone practicing yoga in terms of increasing levels of GABA to reduce anxiety. Studies have shown that yoga is a particularly effective coping mechanism for recovering addicts as it is a practice that can easily be introduced into a daily routine. Patients in rehab offering holistic treatment for alcoholism will be educated on how to incorporate holistic principles to use as coping mechanisms in recovery.
Holistic Approaches Allow Patients to Follow Their Own Path to Sobriety
An individual’s issues surrounding addiction are invariably deeply personal. Some may have mental health conditions that have led to them using substances to reduce distressing symptoms; others may have been through a traumatic experience in their lives they have struggled to cope with alone. Whatever the reasons behind someone’s substance abuse, a personalized approach to treating their addiction in rehab is crucial to achieving sustainable recovery.
Holistic drug and alcohol therapies introduce a variety of alternative approaches to suit all types of personalities in holistic alcohol treatment with varying levels of addiction. Some may respond to acupuncture better whereas others gain particular benefits from Reiki or experiential activities such as adventure therapy. When used in combination with traditional medical treatments, holistic treatment for alcoholism has been proven to be highly successful in healing the more emotional and psychological damage done by substance abuse.