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Beating addiction is usually very challenging. Often, it involves intensive treatment, lifestyle changes, behaviour modification and time spent changing belief systems. A complete healthcare plan, combining conventional and natural therapies, can help overcome a drug addiction and manage withdrawals. Here we take a look at some common natural therapies for drug addiction and what they involve.
What is a Drug Addiction?
All addictions are associated with a complex series of neurocircuits in the brain that fail to generate satisfactory amounts of a brain chemical known as dopamine. Dopamine is responsible for feelings of pleasure. It also reduces negative feelings.
Dopamine is what addicts crave. When the neurocircuits are not allowing for a sufficient release of dopamine, individuals may crave substances or pursue activities to lessen their negative feelings. Eventually something goes awry and the craving for that “dopamine rush” becomes insurmountable. For some people, the net result is compulsive behaviour and addictions to smoking, alcohol, drugs, and other destructive behaviour.
Today, there appears to be new hope for those who suffer from addictions to substances harmful to their health. There is a huge emergence of natural therapies available to support addicts in their recovery, many of which are backed up by compelling research.
Acupuncture For Addiction
Acupuncture is rapidly increasing in popularity as an effective aid in the control of many addictions—from serious ones involving alcohol and hard drugs to relatively less serious ones involving nicotine and overeating.
Excellent clinical evidence supports the use of acupuncture for addiction control. What has been found is that acupuncture is a natural procedure with no side effects, and it can treat a wide range of addictions. It works equally well for cocaine and crack addicts, heroin addicts, alcoholics, users of psychedelics, and people addicted to barbiturates and amphetamines. Addicts report a marked reduction in craving for drugs, a relief from symptoms of withdrawal, and feelings of relaxation along with improved sleep.
Research has shown that acupuncture can raise the level of endorphins in the nervous system. Resembling opiates in structure and function, endorphins are the body’s natural pain killers. Their level is also increased by endurance exercises, and they are responsible for the phenomenon called “runner’s high”, a feeling of euphoria experienced by long-distance runners who have crossed the five-mile line. It seems that the cravings and withdrawal symptoms experienced by people giving up smoking or drugs can be alleviated by raising the level of endorphins in the nervous system. Some researchers also believe that the desire to eat is also mediated by the endorphin level in the brain, which would explain why acupuncture helps dieters to control their appetites.
Other Natural Therapies for Addiction
Massage and Aromatherapy for Addiction
While it doesn’t replace medical treatment, aromatherapy may help the sufferer relax and work through the complex emotional issues that often come with addiction. Research continues to show the enormous benefits of essential oils in helping the mind and body to unwind. In fact, some hospitals are even incorporating aromatherapy and other therapies into wards to create a soothing space. Combining essential oils with massage only boosts its effects, as massage therapy has been proven to reduce anxiety and increase feelings of well-being.
Lymphatic Drainage for Addiction
Lymphatic drainage massage works by detoxing the body, as toxins are moved through – and removed from – the lymphatic system. By doing so, circulation is stimulated and more lymphocytes are produced to help the body ward off illness and infections.
Mineral & Vitamin Support
Anyone who has severely over-used alcohol or drugs has pushed the limits of their body. Substance abuse not only increases stress, it depletes the body of vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, and many other nutrients. As a result, a high-quality broad-spectrum multivitamin and mineral support is highly recommended to replenish insufficiency states. Vitamins and minerals of particular benefit are:
- Omega-3s: Omega-3 essential fatty acids help to stabilize mood, improve nerve-to-nerve communication, and support the survival and growth of brain cells. The daily dose of omega-3 essential fatty acids should provide at least 1,000 mg of eicosapentaenoic acid and 300 to 750 mg of docosahexaenoic acid.
- Vitamin B complex: B vitamins support the nervous system by enhancing mood, decreasing anxiety, reducing cravings, and increasing energy. Since people in recovery are typically stressed, they require increased amounts of B vitamins to support their metabolic needs. A well-rounded B-complex supplement includes 50 to 100 mg of vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, and B6; 200 to 500 mcg of vitamin B12; and 200 to 1,000 mcg of folic acid. An effective dose is one to three pills daily with meals.
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C helps the body maintain biochemical homeostasis or balance. Many addictions increase the body’s metabolic need for vitamin C, which makes it an important antioxidant nutrient to protect against physiologic stress and tissue damage. An effective and normally tolerable dose is 1,000 mg three times daily with meals, but some people in recovery might have to take considerably more than this amount.
- N-acetylcysteine: The amino acid N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is emerging as one of the most important supplements to support recovery. A leading theory of compulsive behaviour is that the glutamatergic system within the brain is underfunctioning, which increases cravings and compulsive behaviour. Because NAC regulates the glutamatergic system in the brain, it satisfies the brain’s reward centres, and reduces cravings and compulsive behaviour.
Please Note: Always talk to your health professional before self-prescribing any vitamins or minerals.
Other Important Wellness Activities
The key to achieving wellness and maintaining sobriety is to participate regularly in relaxation-based therapies, including yoga, mindfulness, and physical exercise.
Yoga: Yoga helps to build body awareness and is excellent at calming the nervous system. It involves numerous postures that integrate or unify the body and mind. According to a 2011 study, yogic practices “enhance muscular strength and body flexibility; promote and improve respiratory and cardiovascular function; promote recovery from and treatment of addiction; reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and chronic pain; improve sleep patterns; and enhance overall well-being and quality of life.”
Mindfulness: Mindfulness training is a form of meditation that brings the focus on the present by broadening attention to one’s breath and bodily sensations. It helps people to focus attention on the present and encourages a positive attitude toward that experience. People with addictions tend to be rather diffuse in their ability to stay present and often ruminate about negative things, which fosters more negative feelings and compulsive behaviours. Mindfulness training insulates one’s thoughts to be more present, positive, and life-affirming.
Exercise: Recent scientific research reveals exercise’s incredible impact on addiction. Such effects include reduced cravings for cigarettes and managed withdrawal from nicotine dependence, reduced urges for alcohol, decreased anxiety and depression among problem drinkers, and even reduced withdrawal and anxiety among heroin users on morphine.
Physical exercise facilitates recovery by increasing blood flow to the brain, stimulating the release of feel-good chemicals such as endorphins and the neurotransmitters norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin. In addition, physical activity has been shown to protect brain cells, provide a healthy distraction, and reduce self-esteem issues.
Recovery, of course, is a multifaceted approach. It’s most important to seek counselling to address the mental aspect of addiction. Hypnotherapy may also be valuable, as are support groups. Call us today to find out more about how we can be help your recovery from addiction.