Western medicine can tend to focus predominately on symptoms (though of course with attempts to understand causes). This approach has proved to be fruitful in many ways, but it can leave the individual feeling as if they have been treated as a problem rather than a whole person. Those people who turn to western medicine for help with their addiction will find effective treatments that can make a differnce, but they may feel that all their needs are not being met – they need some extra and this is where complementary therapies like acupuncture or aromatherapy can come in.
Holistic treatments offer a different approach. Instead of viewing the individual as a list of symptoms the focus is on their full physical, mental, and spiritual health. This way of approaching things is based on the idea that the symptoms of ill health are due to imbalances in the body, and if balance can be restored the symptoms will go away. By fixing the underlying problem it means that the individual will not just be getting a temporary reprieve from their symptoms. These alternative treatments can be helpful – although it needs to be stressed that they are not recommended as a replacement for western medical approaches. One of the holistic approaches that can be of benefit to people recovering from an addiction is Ayurveda medicine.
Ayurveda Medicine is a type of alternative medicine that originates from India – it can also be referred to as Ayurvedic medicine. The word Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word meaning knowledge for long life. It is believed to be the world’s oldest form of medicine and its roots is believed to go back to at least 1500 BC. It is considered to be a whole medical system by practitioners, but in the west it is usually classified as an alternative or complimentary therapy.
Ayurveda medicine is based on the idea that health problems occur due to imbalances in the body. The way then to restore health is to deal with these imbalances. This can be done by making changes to lifestyle, diet, spiritual practices, or physical activity – it can also include body cleansing practices. Ayurveda medicine has had an influence on western medicine – for example, rhinoplasty was first performed in ancient India.
The underlying theory of Ayurveda medicine is that everything is composed of five elements:
These elements can be combined to form the three doshas which are:
* Pitta which is a combination of fire and water.
* Vata which is a combination of air and space.
* Kapha which is a combination of water and earth.
Proponents of Ayurveda believe that the three doshas account for different body types – from these three come thousands of separate bodily functions. Mental, physical, and spiritual health problems are said to exist where there are imbalances between the doshas. The aim of treatment then is to rectify such imbalances.
Those seeking help from an Ayurvedic practitioner will first need to be fully assessed. This involves:
* A detailed questionnaire that provides a full picture of the person’s lifestyle, diet, physical fitness, happiness level, and current health situation.
* An examination of the tongue.
* An examination of 12 different pulse points on the body.
* Other factors such as the appearance of the skin and eyes will be carefully recorded.
Once this full assessment has been made the Ayurvedic practitioner will then be able to diagnose where the imbalances in the doshas exist. They can then go on to prescribe a course of treatment to remedy the situation. This could be something as simple as making changes to diet, taking up meditation, or performing a particular yoga routine on a regular basis. It may also be necessary for the individual to begin a course of herbal treatments or have a massage.
Ayurveda experts such as Yogi Amrit Desai believe that people become addicted to alcohol and drugs because they are attempting to escape imbalances and inner tension caused by stress. The intoxicating effects of these substances fool the individual into believing that they are being helped, but they are actually creating further imbalances in the body. The aim of Ayurveda then is to fix all the imbalances that have been created and provide the individual with the ability to deal better with stress. This can be done because most of the emotional stress that people experience is due to reacting badly to external stimuli and this creates internal tension. If the individual can learn to remove their blocks to stress, so they can stop resisting it, the need to abuse alcohol or drugs will fall away. But before this can happen they will need to detoxify the body and fix all imbalances.
Ayurveda can offer a number of treatments that may be of value for people recovering from an addiction including:
* The regular practice of yoga postures can improve health and help people deal better with stress. According to Ayurveda medicine it will also restore energetic balance in the body and provide deep purification following the cessation of alcohol and drug abuse.
* Most addicts suffer from nutritional deficiencies so following an Ayurveda diet may help with this. It is advisable that people check any changes they make to their diet with a qualified dietician – this is particularly important in the early recovery.
* Meditation is a wonderful tool for people recovering from an addiction. It not only helps them better deal with stress, but it can also increase their ability to manage the stressors that occur in their life.
* The lifestyle changes advised by this form of medical treatment are usually sensible and therefore can be of benefit to people in recovery.
* Those who are already established in recovery from addiction may find that Ayurveda helps them maintain good physical, mental, and spiritual health.
Overcoming an addiction can be a real challenge for people. Ayurveda medicine may be right that it is the inability to deal with stress that leads to substance abuse but knowledge of this is usually not enough to end the problem. This is because the individual becomes physically as well as psychologically addicted to these substances. If they try to stop alcohol or drugs abruptly they will usually experience withdrawal symptoms, and these can sometimes be life threatening. Western addiction medicine is a fast growing area and there are now many treatments that can help the individual pass safely and more comfortably through the withdrawal process. It can also be extremely helpful for people to attend rehab because this gives them the opportunity to pick up skills and knowledge which they can use to build a better future. Rehab is sometimes compared to a strong foundation – if the foundations are weak the structure may fall.
The eastern idea that bad health is due to imbalances in the body has proved to be a lasting theory. It is a sophisticated approach that arose at a time when people in other parts of the world, including Europe, believed that ill health was caused by demons. Ayurveda provided a practical means of restoring health, and this is why it continues to be well respected. There is a temptation to believe that because something is older it must be better, and this idea can get people into trouble if taken too seriously. Western medicine may be younger than Ayurveda but it relies on hard evidence, and this is why it has managed to become so successful. This is not to say that the Ayurveda approach has nothing to offer people in the modern age – only that it may be unwise to choose it as a replacement for western treatments. At the moment there is a lack of independent research into the efficacy of Ayurveda medicine – the research that does exist tends to have been done by those involved in this field so it may be biased.
There have been some concerns expressed about the safety of medicines prescribed by Ayurvedic practitioners. The major concern is that some of the ingredients for these concoctions include toxic heavy metals such as mercury, lead, and arsenic. These medicines have not undergone the same rigorous trials that western drugs need to go through before they are accepted. This means that these herbal remedies could actually harm the person taking them.