Those individuals who have made the decision to escape addition will first need to deal with withdrawal symptoms. These can be unpleasant and potentially even life-threatening. Fear of withdrawals can be one more reason for the addict to remain as they are. Any treatments then can help ease the transition are therefore welcome. Holistic therapies are promoted as a way to relieve the symptoms of withdrawal. As well as benefiting people who are combating withdrawals these therapies can also provide other benefits in early recovery.
The basic premise of holistic treatment is that the individual will have needs that are physical, social, and spiritual in nature. Modern medicine tends to focus predominately on treating physical symptoms. This can mean that important aspects of the individual’s care will be missing. It is the aim of holistic treatments to redress the imbalance. A person is not just a physical symptom that needs fixing but instead a complete whole. It is therefore beneficial to provide treatments that are individually or collectively aimed at treating the whole person.
An important idea in holistic treatments is that a physical symptom is a sign of an overall imbalance within the individual. If attention is only given to treating the physical symptom then this will only be providing a temporary solution. The imbalance will continue to cause problems elsewhere in the body. In order to find the root of physical symptoms it is necessary to look at the individual fully – this will include their spiritual, social, emotional, and mental aspects.
Holistic treatments will often be referred to as complementary or alternative medicine, many of which are based in traditional medicine. Such practices and treatments may include:
* Chi Kung/ Tai Chi
* Light therapy
* Massage therapy
* Meditative techniques
* Nutrition therapy
The holistic view of addiction is that it is created by imbalances within the individual. The addiction is only a symptom of a deeper problem. It is the inability of the individual to feel comfortable in their skin that drives them into alcohol or drug abuse. If balance is restored within the individual they will no longer have any reason to rely on chemicals. The different holistic treatments work to bring the person back into a natural balance. Instead of just treating the symptom the aim of holistic treatment is to get right to the root of the problem. That way the individual will benefit from more than just a temporary reprieve.
There are a number of holistic treatments that have proved effective in addiction treatment as a complementary therapy, including:
* Acupuncture has been shown to lessen the experience of withdrawal symptoms. It can also reduce anxiety and help people sleep better at night.
* Hypnosis involves creating a heightened sense of consciousness. While in this altered state the individual will be able to develop effective strategies for dealing with addiction.
* Massage can help to calm the body and mind. It also encourages the addict to become more in touch with their physical body.
* Meditation techniques also increase mental well-being and are good for helping people deal with cravings. The addict who is still going through withdrawals can find it difficult to concentrate, but there are simple meditation techniques that may be beneficial.
* Nutritional therapy can be effective in recovery. Most addicts will develop nutritional deficiencies because of their poor dietary habits. This lack of proper nutrients can cause a lot of damage in the body. Nutritional therapy can not only remedy and deficiencies but also use food as a way to promote healing in recovery.
* Yoga can be highly beneficial in early recovery. It not only improves physical health but also increases the sense of mental well-being. Those who practice yoga may find it easier to settle into a life free of addiction. Tai Chi and Chi Kung can also produce similar results.
There tends to be less empirical evidence available with some of these holistic treatments. This is slowly changing, specifically as the UN has recognized traditional medicine as a repository of knowledge which can provide effective and low-cost health care benefits. There is little doubt that such treatments can be beneficial and this is why there is a growing acceptance of them in the west. One of the real attractions of holistic therapies is that it empowers the individual. They are no longer just a passive recipient of the doctor’s care but instead they are in charge of their own health. There is also little doubt that just focusing on the physical aspects of ill-health can be ineffective. In countries such as Thailand, there is integration of traditional and complementary therapies along with western medicine at various levels of health care from local clinics to regional hospitals.
There attempts to bring holistic treatments and western medicine closer together in the west, with recognition of complementary and alternative medicine as a legitimate stream of research and practice. Empirical studies will continue to provide evidence of the effectiveness of many of these techniques. However, in the west, the amount of money available for researching these treatments tends to be constrained. The main reason for this is that such therapies are not patentable. As most research is privately funded there is a lack of interest in alternative therapies as they are unlikely to prove profitable. The emerging economies are taking the lead in this kind of research.