When a person decides to end their addiction, they need support and help from as large a community as possible. In the past, this community has consisted of friends and family, peers going through the same recovery process, and clinicians, like nurses, doctors, therapists, and counselors. However, as the medical field learns more about addiction and treats it like a chronic disease, more rehabilitation and recovery programs are beginning to work with complementary therapies.
Everyone who struggles with addiction will walk a different path. Even if going through medically supervised detox and then entering a rehabilitation program is the standard path for most people, details of the specific treatment and aftercare are very personalized.
List of Holistic Treatments
- Chiropractic care
- Massage therapy
- Nutritional support
Complementary and alternative medical treatments are often referred to as holistic treatment, and they are sometimes called wellness treatment. The term holistic refers to working with the whole person. While therapy focuses on the person’s mind and medication focuses on the person’s body, many holistic, complementary treatments work to help a person heal spiritually or emotionally. Ideally, these treatments support clinical rehabilitation work by offering a wider network of professionals and companions to support the recovery process.
Holistic and Wellness Treatments Offered in Recovery
There are many options for holistic and wellness treatment in many recovery programs.
- Mindfulness: This is one of the most popular modern treatments available. By combining several meditation traditions, like yoga and Buddhist philosophies, mindfulness practitioners can work with their clients to help them focus on the present moment, relax from stress, and accept themselves as people working to recovery. In many 12-Step-based programs, people are taught to resist cravings and suppress their perceived need to take drugs. With mindfulness techniques, in contrast, the individual is encouraged to become curious about why they are craving a drug or why they feel triggered by a certain situation. By accepting impulses without acting on them, people who practice mindfulness are better able to delve into their psychologies. Anxiety and depression can be eased, and psychotherapy during and after rehabilitation is supported.
- Yoga: This is a form of stretching and strengthening exercise that combines meditation practices, ancient spiritual guidance, and specific poses to improve physical health. Meditation while holding a pose, or while flowing between poses, can help the practitioner examine thoughts that distract them from their physical practice. This form of exercise has also been linked to lower pain, better stress management, and better muscle and heart strength. The combination of improved mental and physical strength supports the clinical recovery process.
- Acupuncture: In some medical studies, acupuncture sessions between 30 and 45 minutes have been shown to increase endorphins in the body, which helps to naturally alleviate pain. People experiencing withdrawal symptoms from a variety of substances can feel physical pain, exhaustion, and muscle weakness or tremors. Acupuncture has helped several individuals going through the recovery process feel less pain and more contentment. Endorphins also help to reduce cravings, so the person is better able to focus on their goals in recovery.
- Chiropractic care: Chiropractors are known for adjusting the bones of the spine, as well as joints like the shoulders and hips. This helps to properly align posture, reduce pain, and improve physical ease. In a treatment setting, a chiropractor may focus more on the neurophysiology of the spine or the nerves that twine around vertebrae. These nerves are very sensitive to emotional changes, sickness, stress, and physical discomfort; by relaxing the nerves and releasing tension in the muscles, a chiropractor in a rehabilitation setting provides stress relief as well as relief from physical pain.
- Massage therapy: People who struggle with addiction often use substances to force a separation between what their body feels and what their mind experiences. Massage work specifically helps to release tension throughout the body and helps the person rebuild that fragile connection between the sense of self and physical existence. Additionally, platonic touch can release neurotransmitters and build trust between the practitioner and client.
- Reiki: This form of energy therapy and gentle touch focuses on aligning centers of energy that flow through a person’s body. Much of the practice is esoteric and spiritual, but the relaxing flow of the experience can relax the individual. Clients often report that the loving touch that is part of reiki helped them relearn that touch should be healing and healthy between humans, and that it is not about a transaction or abuse.
- Nutritional support: People who struggle with addiction often neglect the quality of their food. They do not eat regular meals or a balanced diet. Many people focus on substance abuse above eating and lose unhealthy amounts of weight. Many intoxicating substances, like alcohol and methamphetamines, strip nutrition out of the body or make the digestive system less able to absorb nutrition. This can lead to malnourishment. Nutritional support means the person in recovery will work with a nutritionist to understand healthy eating patterns and how they can eat the right kinds of low-sugar, high-protein, high-fiber, and high-vitamin foods their body needs to recover.
- Ayurveda: Based on medicinal approaches to diet developed on the Indian subcontinent, Ayurveda uses specific foods to cleanse and purify the body. Much of the practice upholds good nutritional practices, including getting enough fiber, vitamins, and minerals in a largely plant-based diet, with some lean proteins. In addition to nutritional guidance, food is treated like medicine; ingesting specific foods can support the body’s healing process, both physically and energetically. A nutritionist who specializes in Ayurveda can work in conjunction with a clinically trained nutritionist to support psychotherapy, pharmaceutical interventions, and more.
Addiction is a chronic disease involving changes to brain chemistry and the risk/reward system. If a person struggles with addiction, they must detox from their substance of abuse with the help of medical supervision and enter a rehabilitation program to get therapeutic treatment to learn better coping mechanisms, thereby reducing the risk of relapse.
Complementary, holistic treatments, offered by professionals such as yoga teachers, nutritionists, massage therapists, and other specialists, can support overall recovery by alleviating stress, improving physical and psychological health, and providing a more well-rounded approach to wellness.