Holistic approaches* to drug addiction and alcoholism can be of great assistance throughout the stages of recovery. From detoxification to reducing stress and improving mental and physical well being, holistic approaches play a vital role in regaining personal balance.
For the recovering addict, holistic approaches should be accompanied by a professional treatment plan but can be effective well beyond the initial recovery phase.
Recent scientific studies have demonstrated dramatically improved success rates with the addition of holistic treatment approaches.
*Note: Some of these methods are used in the Total Health Recovery Program as they have proven to be useful tools for a drug addiction recovery program. We must not close our minds or our eyes when it comes to ways to help the victims of drug abuse.
Read more about the Services and Treatments available through the Total Health Recovery Program.
The following are “Shortcuts” to each of the Topics:
Developed in China over 2,500 years ago, acupuncture is part of a system of medicine that seeks to establish the free and balanced flow of energy (or chi) by the insertion of needles on specific points along the energy pathways of the body. It is based on the idea that blocked chi is the cause of disharmony in the body/mind, and therefore disease.
Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Alliance (acupuncturealliance.org)
This site provides a referral service to help people locate acupuncture or Oriental medicine practitioners in the US. It contains over 8,000 practitioners who have been verified as state licensed or national board certified in acupuncture or Oriental medicine with the appropriate state agency or national certification commission. Searches can be done by practitioner’s last name, zip code, city, area code
American Academy of Medical Acupuncture (medicalacupuncture.org)
A physician-only professional acupuncture society. Their site provides a medical acupuncturist referral service located by state or area code as well as general information and research on acupuncture.
RESEARCH: Avants SK. Margolin A. Holford TR. Kosten TR. “A randomized controlled trial of auricular acupuncture for cocaine dependence.” Archives of Internal Medicine. 160(15):2305-12, 2000. This study was undertaken to evaluate the effectiveness of auricular acupuncture for the treatment of cocaine addiction. Patients who received acupuncture in this study were significantly more likely to test free of cocaine at the end of the eight week treatment period. Researchers concluded that acupuncture shows promise for the treatment of cocaine abuse and should be further studied.
Acupuncture is currently used in many drug rehab centers or can be part of a self-help program for recovery.
Aromatherapy uses essential oils extracted from plants and herbs that can be inhaled or applied through the skin. Aromas derived from these natural plant sources have been shown in clinical studies to have positive effects on the mind and the body. These essential oils, which are composed of naturally occurring chemicals, can help to support emotional balance, a sense of calm, stress relief, and feelings of well-being.
This informative web site contains an Article Archive with 32 articles covering an explanation of aromatherapy, its history, ingredients, safety, storage and more. Also available are detailed profiles on 90 essential oils. Aromatherapy can be used to lessen symptoms such as anxiety, depression and insomnia that often complicate drug recovery. Click on “Oil Profiles” on the left-hand menu and choose “Essential Oils for Emotional Well-Being” for a description of specific oils that address these needs.
Biofeedback is a scientific way of learning tension reduction. Biofeedback practitioners employ instruments to give a person immediate feedback about the level of tension in their body. People practicing biofeedback often say they gain psychological confidence when they learn they can control their physiology. Biofeedback has been found effective in several aspects of drug addiction treatment.
Biofeedback practitioners can be located at the Biofeedback Certification Institute of America (BCIA) (bcia.org).
RESEARCH: Stewart SH, Kushner MG. “Introduction to the special issue on “Anxiety Sensitivity and Addictive Behaviors.” Addictive Behaviors. 26(6): 775-785, 2001.
Anxiety sensitivity (AS) is characterized by a fear of arousal-related bodily sensations that are interpreted as signs of impending catastrophe on physical, psychological, or social levels. AS has been linked to increased risk for the development of panic attacks, anxiety disorders and more recently to substance use disorders. AS is thought to increase drug withdrawal severity and to lower tolerance for withdrawal symptoms.
Biofeedback is a technique that is used to treat the type of anxiety sensitivity described above by many drug rehab centers today.
Brain wave biofeedback (or neurofeedback) is a therapy in which patients learn to alter their brain wave patterns. In one type of neurofeedback the training involves normalization of alpha and theta waves which are disturbed by long term substance abuse. Brainwave Biofeedback has shown dramatic success in several studies to prevent relapses from drug and alcohol addiction. This very promising treatment can be more fully understood by Reading “Effects of Neurofeedback on Chemical Dependency Treatment” by D.A. Kaiser, S. Othmer and W. Scott at eegspectrum.com/Applications/Addiction/
Creative Arts Therapies: Dance, Art, Drama, Music, Writing and Poetry have been used by drug rehab centers for a long time.
The creative therapies can be very helpful in the process of recovery from drug addiction. They can provide time to get in touch with the inner self and with the higher power and can provide a form of expression for feelings that cannot be easily identified or put into words. Through helping the addict connect with his/her more authentic self, the expressive therapies can help raise self-esteem and provide an opportunity to create new experiences
beyond habitual and painful emotional patterns. The creative arts foster a renewed ability to relax without drugs or alcohol.
Coloring Therapy (www.coloringtherapy.com)
Many people find meditation difficult to attain even though the benefits are well documented. In Coloring Therapy, the focus of meditation is easily attained through the activity of coloring itself. Coloring is used as a way to begin to quiet the mind, listen inwardly and open up to higher knowledge, healing, and creativity. This alternative to formal meditation practices can help people of all ages in recovery improve coping and
awareness skills through an enjoyable activity. The web site describes three steps in color therapy, online articles, coloring stories and health links.
Creative Source (creativesourcesf.com)
Adriana Marchione, MA, CHT, specializes in working with recovery from all forms of addiction. Her work offers creative healing opportunities that complement psychotherapy and twelve-step programs. Her approach draws from a movement-based expressive arts therapy model and Depth Hypnosis – a method of hypnotherapy that utilizes hypnosis, meditation and shamanic techniques. Through individual and group sessions this therapeutic approach
employs a variety of methods to support emotional and physical health, creative growth and a deeper connection to life. Recovery groups and retreats are also available that offer the opportunity for participants to express their stories in words, images and movement both in the studio and in natural surroundings.
National Coalition of Arts Therapies Associations (nccata.org) Founded in 1979, this coalition brings together the professional associations dedicated to the advancement of six creative arts therapies. Their web site provides basic information on these approaches: art, dance/movement, drama, music, psychodrama and poetry. Each modality uses the creative process to support health, communication, self-expression, and positive change.
The American Art Therapy Association (AATA) (arttherapy.org/) Describes the therapeutic process of art therapy, posts research articles on its use, and in the Members section provides links to Chapter web sites throughout the U.S. to locate practitioners who are AATA members.
The American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA) (adta.org) Provides information on the field of dance therapy including its philosophy, training and credentials, and research. The Contacts page lists members who serve as contacts for various regions in the U.S. and the Information page contains a form to purchase the ADTA membership directory ($10.00) in order to locate a dance therapy practitioner.
The National Association for Drama Therapy (NADT) (nadt.org) Describes the process of drama therapy, educational qualifications for therapists, and provides contact information for regional representatives in order to locate member practitioners by geographic area.
American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) (musictherapy.org) Explains the practice and applications of music therapy and provides information on how to find a music therapist through calling the AMTA National Office or e-mailing mailto:indMT@musictherapy.org
Drumming can be a simple yet powerful way to enhance recovery. New medical research shows that it can slow down brain wave cycles, enhancing theta-wave production and brain wave synchronization. This is important as addicts often have brain wave abnormalities as explained in our section on brain wave biofeedback.
National Association for Poetry Therapy (NAPT) (poetrytherapy.org) Poetry therapy is the intentional use of the written and spoken word for healing and personal growth. Their web site provides links to poetry sites and training and education information. A Mentor list posted on their web site under Training and Education can be used to locate a poetry therapy practitioner in various geophraphical locations in the U.S.
Nurturing the spiritual aspect of life, which can include such things as music, poetry, literature, nature, or prayer, takes a person to a place above ego and day to day concerns and promotes a sense of peace and timelessness.
Spirituality and Health (spiritualityhealth.com) This web site was developed by the Publishing Group of Trinity Church of New York City with an advisory group of theologians, philosophers, researchers, teachers and writers. The site includes articles on spiritual issues and practice, original essays on spiritual matters, a database of over 15,000 reviews of current books, audiotapes, films and videotapes with online purchase available, a discussion forum, interactive self-tests on spirituality and health, and more.
Drug rehab centers have realized for a long time that spirituality plays a major part in recovery. Just look at any 12 step program and read about the “higher Power” aspect.
Herbs are natural botanical substances that have effects on the body. Many herbs have long been used in detoxification. Kudzu has the potential for moderating alcohol abuse. Kava and valerian can be used to treat the insomnia that accompanies withdrawal. Milk thistle has been shown to improve liver function.
The use of herbs in the recovery process may be most effective when used in conjunction with other strategies that support the whole person including nutrition, bodywork, acupuncture, relaxation and exercise.
Alternative Medicine Foundation (AMF) (herbmed.org) This site, highly recommended by herbal therapists and physicians who use herbs, features HerbMed, an evidence-based resource on medicinal herbs providing a variety of detailed information on approximately 125 herbs. The site also links to clinical and scientific publications.
Nutrition supplements, vitamins and herbs can be purchased online through various web sites such as Whole Health Products at http://www.wholehealthproducts.com/wholehealthproducts/index.cfm, Integrative Therapeutics at http://www.integrativeinc.com/and Vitamin Shoppe at http://www.vitaminshoppe.com/.
RESEARCH: Takahashi M, Toduyama S. “Pharmacological and physiological effects of ginseng on actions induced by opioids and psychostimulants.” Methods & Findings in Experimental & Clinical Pharmacology. 20(1): 77-84, 1998.
This review summarizes studies that looked at the effects of ginseng on the actions of opioids and psychostimulants. Among the findings, ginseng was able to block the analgesic effects of opioids and inhibit tolerance to and dependence on morphine. Findings provide evidence that ginseng may be useful clinically for the prevention and treatment of morphine, cocaine, and methamphetamine dependence.
Akhondzadeh S. Kashani L, et al. “Passionflower in the treatment of opiates withdrawal: a double-blind randomized controlled trial.” Journal of Clinical Pharmacy & Therapeutics. 26(5):369-73, 2001.
Clonidine-based therapies are used to treat the physical symptoms of withdrawal during opiate detoxification, but have not effectively addressed associated mental symptoms such as anxiety. The herbal extract Passionflower has been successfully used in the management of anxiety, and in this study the use of a daily dose of 60 drops of passionflower extract with a maximum daily dose of 0.8 mg of clonidine showed a significant superiority over clonidine alone in the management of mental symptoms associated with detoxification.
Homeopathy is a non-toxic system of medicine that uses highly-diluted remedies to treat illness and relieve discomfort in a wide variety of health conditions. It is thought that homeopathic remedies are able to stimulate a person’s bodily systems to deal with stress and illness more efficiently. Research is currently being undertaken to understand how and why these remedies work on the mental and physical level. Specific homeopathic remedies may be helpful during the period of withdrawal from alcohol or drugs.
Homeopathy is practiced by licensed physicians and other qualified prescribers in many parts of the world, including Europe, Asia, and the U.S. While self-care with homeopathy can be helpful for minor short-term illnesses and injuries, if an illness or condition is chronic or serious, it is best to consult an experienced prescriber for a remedy that more accurately meets an individual’s health needs.
Healthwell (healthwell.com) Click on Homeopathy from the menu at the top of the page, and then Alcohol Withdrawal Support for a list of some homeopathic remedies that may be helpful during the stress of withdrawal for symptoms such as anxiety, fear, fatigue, insomnia, irritability and more. Dosage directions are also provided.
Imagery involves the use of the imagination to achieve specific healing and life goals. It can be effective in helping people cope with stress and regain a sense of control and well-being. As with all other mind/body techniques, interest, motivation and practice are keys to the successful use of imagery for health and healing.
Health Journeys (healthjourneys.com/product_catalog.asp) Alcohol and Other Drugs (audiotape) Created by Belleruth Naparstek, a pioneer in guided imagery, this audiotape is designed to reduce addictive craving and the discomfort of withdrawal, teach new relaxation skills, and reinforce positive behavior change. Tapes can be ordered by telephone (1-800-800-8661), online or by mail.
Massage and bodywork address the mind/body/spirit, offering the possibility of healing and self-development on many levels. On a physical level they can facilitate the release of tension and holding and improve energy balance and flow. They also offer the opportunity to explore deeper levels of relaxation and peace, greater self-acceptance and awareness, and a deeper connection to self and others.
HealthWorldOnline (healthy.net/clinic/therapy/body/index.asp) This link will bring you to a series of articles on the history and basic principles of massage therapy and bodywork, the different varieties of bodywork, a resource center, self-massage techniques, and more.
There are many different types of meditation which all work to slow down the chatter of the mind and promote relaxation and mental clarity.
The Internet Yogi (theinternetyogi.com) This web site was developed by David Shannahoff-Khalsa, a research scientist at the University of California, San Diego who specializes in treating psychiatric disorders with Kundalini Yoga. He has developed a protocol using Kundalini Yoga meditation to treat obsessive compulsive disorders and drug addiction. These techniques can also help improve mental concentration and mental stability, reduce anxiety and depression, and promote a deep sense of inner peace. The protocol uses unique intense active meditative breathing, chanting, and movement techniques (all while sitting in a chair), and is available for purchase on videotape on his web site.
In addition, Dr. Shannahoff-Khalsa has written an article describing a specific Kundalini Yoga meditation technique for treating addictive disorders that is available full text online.
Shannahoff-Khalsa DS. “An introduction to Kundalini yoga meditation techniques that are specific for the treatment of psychiatric disorders.” The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. Volume 10, Number 1, 2004, pp. 91-101.
This has the potential to be very helpful in reducing the obsessive thinking and cravings that often lead to relapse.
Meditations for Life (newagemeditation.com/addiction-recovery-meditation.shtml) Addiction Recovery Meditations: Each meditation is available on CD or Cassette.
Plum Village (www.plumvillage.org) Vietnamese Zen Master Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh is a Buddhist monk, poet, scholar, and human rights activist. Nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr in the 1960’s, he has been living in exile in France since 1969 because of his positions on peace during the Vietnamese War. Thich Nhat Hanh teaches the art of mindful living (to be deeply aware in the present moment of what is going on within and around us). While the abuse of drugs or alcohol can be a way of running from life by trying to forget one’s difficulties and challenges, mindfulness is the opposite. It improves one’s ability to cope with life by teaching how to be present with whatever is going on without getting overwhelmed or disturbed by it.
The web site lists monastic retreats in various locations around the world, many in the U.S. (click on Sangha Directory in the left navigation bar), articles and books by Thich Nhat Hanh, mindfulness principles, and a directory of communities that regularly practice mindfulness together, organized by state in the U.S. and by country internationally. Users can sign up to receive his Dharma talks by email by clicking on “Dharma Talk Transcripts” on the left navigation bar and then scrolling down the page and filling in their email address.
Transcendental Meditation (TM) (tm.org)
The site describes the TM program, its health benefits, and the extensive research that has been done on TM. An online locator is provided in order to find the closest Maharishi Vedic University, College, School or Center where the TM technique is taught or you can call toll free at 1-888-532-7686.
Wildmind Buddhist Meditation (wildmind.org) Wildmind offers a variety of practical approaches to learning Buddhist meditation online, including written material, guided meditations in RealAudio format, and online meditation courses led by an experienced instructor. A good amount of guidance is provided overall, making the site appropriate for beginners as well as more advanced meditation practitioners.
The World Wide Online Meditation Center (meditationcenter.com) Simple written instruction for eight different types of meditation including healing, centering, relaxation, and mindfulness meditation are provided online.
RESEARCH: Taub E, Steiner SS, Weingarten E, Walton KG. “Effectiveness of broad spectrum approaches to relapse prevention in severe alcoholism: a long-term, randomized, controlled trial of Transcendental Meditation, EMG biofeedback and electronic neurotherapy.” Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly. 11(1-2): 187-220, 1994. Large improvements in relapse prevention were seen with the addition of Transcendental Meditation (TM) or EMG biofeedback to the routine treatment program in an alcohol residential treatment facility. Complete abstinence 18 months after leaving the center was reported by 65% of the TM group and 55% of the biofeedback group compared to 25% of the standard care group and 28% for the neurotherapy group.
The long-term positive effects of TM, in particular, seem to be correlated with a reduced relapse rate. TM may not only reduce tension and anxiety, but also enhance a sense of control in anxiety-provoking situations that strengthens the long-term resistance to stress.
It should also be noted that there are many ways to achieve a meditative state of mind. For those who have trouble sitting quietly for periods of time, various movement practices and martial arts, such as t’ai chi, qigong, and karate, can also focus and calm the mind and enhance feelings of self-confidence and self-worth.
In dealing with the chemical imbalances that are both a cause of substance abuse and a result of long-term substance addiction, nutritional therapy can be helpful in several ways.
Nutritional supplements such as herbs, amino acids (see chart below), vitamins and other nutrients restore the proper biochemical balance in the brain. These supplements are specified, according to your addiction, in an excellent book written by Charles Gant, MD, PhD, who has helped over 7,500 patients with his innovative nutritional program designed to help people addicted to drugs, alcohol, nicotine, or pain medication. The book, End Your Addiction Now: The Proven Nutritional Supplement Program That Can Set You Free by Charles Gant and Greg Lewis, published by Warner Books, 2002, can be purchased at amazon.com.
Nutrition supplements, vitamins and herbs can be purchased online through various web sites such as Whole Health Products at www.wholehealthproducts.com, Integrative Therapeutics at http://www.integrativeinc.com/and Vitamin Shoppe at http://www.vitaminshoppe.com/.
In addition, eliminating certain substances such as sugars and simple starches and increasing protein intake can help to rebalance brain chemistry. Good nutrition can also help heal damage to the body caused by the depletion of nutrients common in substance abuse.
Natural Highs by Hyla Cass M.D. and Patrick Holford published by Avery Books/Penguin Putnam in 2002 can be purchased at amazon.com. This book usefully reviews and gives specific doses of herbs, amino acids, nutritional supplements and foods that help a person have a sharp mind and feel happy, calm, energetic and connected to people. The main tips from this book including specific doses of herbs and amino acids can be found at naturalhighsbook.com.
Another helpful book which has benefited many people with its nutritional advice is Seven Weeks To Sobriety: The Proven Program to Fight Alcoholism Through Nutrition by Joan Mathew Larson Ph.D. This book can also be purchased at amazon.com.
Some people may decide to work directly with a nutritionist. The American Dietetic Association (ADA) web site at eatright.org can help you locate a nutritionist. The ADA is the nation’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. Their web site provides a “Find a Dietitian” feature locating dietitians in the United States by zip code. Descriptions include areas of practice or specialty for each dietitian.
Another important area of the use of nutrition in recovery and relapse prevention is the addition of appropriate amino acids that serve as the building blocks for powerful chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters, including epinephrine and norepinephrine, GABA, serotonin and dopamine, are closely tied to addiction behavior. With the use of various amino acids, brain chemistry can be changed to help normalize and restore deficiencies in the neurotransmitters that spur cravings that can lead to drug addiction and relapse.
AMINO ACID NUTRITION THERAPY
D-Phenylalanine or DL-Phenylalanine
L-Phenylalanine or L-Tyrosine
GABA (Gamma-amino butyric acid)
To assist in amino-acid nutritional therapy, the use of a multi-vitamin/mineral formula is recommended. Many vitamins and minerals serve as co-factors in neurotransmitter synthesis. They also serve to restore general balance, vitality and well-being to the Reward Deficiency Syndrome (RSD) patient who typically is in a state of poor nutritional health (see paragraph above chart for explanation of RSD).
This chart was originally published in the following article. Blum K, Ross J, Reuben C, Gastelu D, Miller DK. “Nutritional Gene Therapy: Natural Healing in Recovery
You can access the full article on the Counselor Magazine web site: counselormagazine.com.
1. On the homepage, click on Search the Archives
2. Choose January/February 2001
3. Click on Nutritional Gene Therapy.
Animal-assisted therapy is being used in a wide variety of settings to help people with acute and chronic illnesses. This is based on the many physiological and psychological benefits documented in patients during interactions with animals. These include lowered blood pressure and heart rate, increased beta-endorphin levels, decreased stress levels, reduced feelings of anger, hostility, tension and anxiety, improved social functioning, and increased feelings of empowerment, trust, patience and self-esteem. Animal therapy is looked upon as both a learning and healing experience.
The use of animals in the healing and rehabilitation of acute and chronically ill individuals. The web site discusses the nature and benefits of animal-assisted therapy, their training programs and seminars, and books and videos on the topic.
Equine therapy in particular is the discipline of using horses as a means to provide metaphoric experiences in order to promote emotional growth. The horses provide an excellent way for helping to heal from a different emotional pattern. Equine therapists will usually teach many lessons on ways in which horses learn, react, and follow instructions as it applies to the lives of client themselves.
Qigong is a traditional Chinese health practice. Qi (life energy or breath) gong (work) is a series of slow moving exercises that gather and stimulate the movement of Qi in the body. Qigong has also been called “moving meditation.” Qigong is believed to have general health promoting and healing effects.
Qigong Institute (qigonginstitute.org) The site provides a directory organized by state of Qigong teachers and therapists who are members of the Institute and briefly describes their practices. Recommended books and videos on Qigong as well as abstracts of published articles are also available.
National Qigong Association (NQA) (nqa.org) On the Professional Member’s page, practitioners who are members of NQA are listed by state. Listings often include the practitioner’s own web site with their teaching schedule and further information. The web site also includes an extensive list of links on Qigong.
RESEARCH: Li M, Chen K, Mo Z. “Use of qigong therapy in the detoxification of heroin addicts.” Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine. 8(1): 50-59, 2002.
In this study conducted in China on 86 male heroin addicts undergoing detoxification, the treatment group practicing Qigong experienced less anxiety and more rapid reduction of withdrawal symptoms than the group receiving detoxification drugs alone.
The practice of qigong, through its use of movement, breath work, visualizations and meditation, may be a beneficial addition to both a detoxification regimen and to an overall treatment and relapse prevention strategy.
Yoga is a technique that uses physical postures and controlled breathing to lengthen and strengthen the spine, increase flexibility, calm the mind, improve concentration, and promote patience. Yoga can also contribute to a greater sense of control in more acute states when experiencing cravings, insomnia, agitation, etc. Regular practice is needed to fully experience these benefits. Yoga is a growing practice for the drug rehab
American Yoga Association (AYA) (www.americanyogassociation.org/) This site provides information on the different types of yoga and guidance on how to choose a qualified teacher. A 15-minute online meditation is planned.
Himalayan International Institute of Yoga Science and Philosophy of the U.S.A. (himalayaninstitute.org/) This site provides a useful locator for yoga practitioners through the Yoga Teachers Guide. In the “Find a Teacher” section you can specify a zip code to locate yoga classes near you. Searches can also be done by organization name, practitioner name, city or country.
Developed by a chiropractor, this site provides online yoga classes with guided instruction (via RealAudio and Streaming Video) including breathing, stretching, relaxation, a yoga workout and chanting.
You can also learn about a type of yoga that focuses on meditation and breath-work described in our Meditation section here.
RESEARCH: Lohman R. “Yoga techniques applicable within drug and alcohol rehabilitation programmes.” Therapeutic Communities. 20(1): 61-71, 1999.
This article describes specific yoga techniques used for detoxification and rehabilitation including breath control, relaxation and meditation, postures, diet and chanting. Research results strongly suggest that yoga is a positive motivator for rehabilitation and an aid to detoxification. Yoga used in conjunction with counseling and group work appears to support and further the healing process from drug abuse.