The concept of alternative drug treatment may sound a bit scary and obscure, but the reality is that it refers to supplemental therapies, mostly offered in holistic drug rehab programs.
While holistic drug treatment has gained significant popularity over the past few decades, the various types of alternative approaches offered within those programs have exponentially increased over the same time period.
What is holistic drug treatment? Holistic refers to the whole person; mind, spirit, body, and emotions. Traditional drug addiction treatment has generally focused on the addiction only and offered some form of the12-step process for recovery.
As it became evident to clinicians and therapists over the years, that one singular approach to drug rehab and recovery is not effective for all who struggle, the demand for variety was fulfilled with holistic treatment, which addressed the individual needs and preferences for each addict. These needs which are addressed by holistic treatment include things like spirituality, culture, emotional wellness, and mindfulness.
Whereas traditional drug treatment has provided tools to teach addicts a more linear set of instructions to stay sober, holistic approaches aim to heal the whole person; mind, body, spirit, and emotions. This is based on an understanding that a healed, and a more whole individual has a better chance of remaining sober, than one who has simply been taught how to stay sober but remains a broken individual.
What is Alternative Treatment?
Alternative treatment approaches are most effective when used to supplement a traditional drug rehab program. These programs, however, can vary in their population and approaches as well. For example, drug addiction treatment can be categorized as gender specific, adolescent, religion-based, holistic, wilderness-based, chronic pain management, and a plethora of other categories. Despite the variations in the programs themselves, most apply scientifically proven methods in the rehabilitation process, such as individual and group therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and motivational therapy.
In holistic treatment specifically, some alternative treatment methods are typically built into the program details, which are intended to address individual needs within the rehab population.
The most common forms of alternative treatments are largely based on the individual and the type of addiction(s) being treated, and include the following:
As a branch of biofeedback, neurofeedback is a conditioning technique used to reinforce or inhibit specific forms of electroencephalography (EEG) activity in the brain. This process, when used in addiction treatment can change abnormal brain frequencies and rhythms, which can contribute to addictive behaviors, transitioning to healthier thought patterns and behaviors.
- Equine (horse) Assisted Therapy
Equine assisted therapy, or EAT is a treatment which includes equine activities and environments in the effort to promote physical, occupational and emotional growth, and has been effective in treating a host of mental health disorders including anxiety, depression, autism, ADHD, PTSD, abuse issues, brain injuries, along with a many other mental health disorders.
Also commonly referred to as equine-assisted psychotherapy, this experiential form of therapy can involve activities like grooming, feeding, haltering, and leading horses, with the guidance and support of an equine trained therapist.
- Mindful Meditation
Meditation has long been heralded as an effective method for regulating mood and lowering stress. While it is often a staple of holistic treatment programs, traditional 12-step addiction treatment programs also recommend and utilize the practice, and generally agree on it's effectiveness to prevent relapse in recovery.
Specifically, mindful meditation is the practice of being fully and attentively present in the moment, freeing one's mind of everything else, which includes the concerns of past and present, triggers for stress and relapse.
- Biochemical Restoration
It sounds like a new-age futuristic process, but biochemical restoration is the process by which a tailored diet, nutritional supplements, and activities like targeted exercise regimens are established for the purpose of restoring balance to an individual.
Biochemical imbalances are common in addicts, as health is not a primary concern when in the throes of addiction. Foods and lifestyle choices can drastically change mood and behavior, and as such, biochemical restoration seeks to introduce healthy food and habits, to establish better moods, and healthier systems in the body, many of which can be severely damaged by malnutrition, attributed to drug abuse and addiction.
A Hindu spiritual and ascetic discipline, yoga includes breath control, simple meditation, and the adoption of specific body postures, used for increased health and relaxation.
As an alternative treatment approach, yoga has effects much like meditation, drawing attention away from outside stimuli, and back to awareness of one's self, in the moment. In addition to the benefits of meditation, yoga introduces bodily awareness, a healthy response to the disassociation from the body, which commonly occurs during drug abuse and addiction.
Exercise has long been an excellent form of recovery and therapy, mostly due to its natural ability to increase the production of endorphins in the brain, which is directly related to feelings of well-being and happiness.
When exercise stimulates the reward center in the brain, happiness ensues, encouraging a repetition of the same behavior, for more happy feelings. This is the same function which takes place during drug abuse and addiction, making exercise an easy and natural alternative treatment approach.
Arguably, the most well-known form of alternative therapy in addiction treatment, acupuncture is a technique originating in Chinese medicine, based on a premise that there are flows of energy, or Qi, in the body which is essential to health and wellbeing. Acupuncture is intended to rectify imbalances in that flow.
In addiction treatment, acupuncture has been used to treat pain during detox or reduce stress, anxiety, depression and other symptoms of trauma. While more research is still needed to pinpoint the exact healing methods of acupuncture, it is widely regarded and utilized as a supplemental form of treatment in the drug rehab process. As with any element of holistic and alternative treatment, the effectiveness of acupuncture depends greatly on an individual's willingness to maintain healthy lifestyle choices and habits.
- Activity-based Therapy
One of the most important parts of recovery from addiction is a sense of purpose, beyond simply staying sober. With a singular focus on not relapsing, addicts can actually become so fixated, that they engage in dangerous activities which may trigger a relapse. For this reason, the alternative supplementation of activity-based therapy can provide a healthy sense of purpose, which promotes sobriety.
Activities like gardening (horticulture), art, music, and pet therapy give recovering addicts a focus outside of themselves, and their immediate work in remaining sober. Activities like these also give a sense of purpose, caring for a pet, cultivating a garden, or creating meaningful artwork. These activities are just a few examples but have been shown to reduce stress and aggression, as well as improving concentration, especially in addicts who suffer from depression.
More Controversial Alternative Treatment Methods
Alternative treatment methods vary greatly, and should always be tailored to the individual, and the form of treatment which may be most effective for that person. As such, not every alternative treatment is an appropriate supplement for everyone seeking help. In fact, some forms of alternative treatments are flatly disregarded by mainstream addiction treatment, in the United States.
One such form of this is hallucinogenic treatment using drugs like LSD, psilocybin (the active ingredient in magic mushrooms), MDMA (ecstasy), and ibogaine.
While all of these drugs are illegal in the United States for recreational use, their re-emergence in controlled studies to affect the symptoms of mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD have been at the forefront of a new push to authorize more research on their efficacy.
Currently, there are numerous small studies around the world, which have observed the effects of micro-doses of LSD, MDMA, and psilocybin, on the brain, and its functions. Hallucinogens are well known for "expanding the mind" and creating a greater sense of open-mindedness. However, researchers are unsure of the long-term effects of this kind of therapy for the treatment of mental health issues and illnesses.
The controversy with ibogaine treatments is the dangerous nature of the drug, and the psychedelic trip it provides. Since ibogaine is a Schedule I drug in the US, it is among the most strictly regulated drugs, making its approval in any form of treatment unlikely. Much more research is required to determine the safety and long-term efficacy of these drugs as alternative forms of addiction treatment, however many people have traveled to countries like Brazil, Mexico, and as close as Canada, to experience the ibogaine trip, in efforts to end their long-term addiction. For those who survive the trip, the testimonials have been astounding in the beneficial results. Researchers today are optimistic in their efforts to develop a drug which replicates the anti-addictive qualities of ibogaine, without the dangerous hallucinations.
Despite the studies and hopes of these controversial alternative treatments, it should be noted that none are approved or condoned by any addiction treatment authority in the United States, and such treatments should not be sought out, as they all carry a strong potential for severe, and possibly irreversible consequences.
Finding the Best Alternative Treatment Approaches For You
If you or a loved one is in need of addiction treatment, but more interested in seeking holistic or alternative supplemental therapies in a rehab program, it is vitally important to understand the type of alternative treatment s being offered, how they are practiced by each program in which they are offered, and carefully consider if that is the best approach for your situation.
It can seem like a daunting task to sift through all of the various methods and approaches to alternative addiction treatment, but you don’t have to figure it out on your own. Call one of our trained counselors now, to get a free confidential consultation, so you can make the most informed decision possible, about beginning the journey toward a healthy and sober life.
Don’t wait another day, get help now. We are here to help.