Modern medicine, with its plethora of specialists and targeted medications, can sometimes treat a person as a collection of disparate body parts that have no relationship to one another. This approach may be perfectly adequate in dealing with traumatic episodes. Someone with a broken finger, for example, may not need to discuss underlying issues of heart disease or depression. The person simply needs help with the trauma of the broken bone, and modern medicine is perfectly capable of dealing with that problem in a quick and efficient manner. There are some conditions, however, that aren’t best treated in a conventional manner. Addiction may be one of these conditions.
Addiction often stems from the complex interplay of body, mind, and environment. All of these items, held in balance, can allow an addiction to stay in place, and treating just one of these items may encourage the others to grow stronger, just to keep that addiction in place. Holistic drug rehabilitation programs strive to attack the addiction on all fronts, removing the impediments that could keep an addiction moving.
This is the sort of care we provide at Michael’s House. If you have any questions about the holistic approach, or you’d like to hear more about how we apply these principles in our treatment program, please contact us at 760-548-4032.
Finding Contributing Mental Illness
According to a study published in the journal Hospital and Community Psychiatry, 55.7 percent of cocaine addicts studied also met the diagnostic criteria for another mental illness. People who have both mental illnesses and addiction issues often need therapies for both conditions, and those therapies must be provided at the same time.
The holistic approach kicks in from the moment the addict enters the treatment program. In order to truly determine how the addiction has developed, and what might have caused it to grow stronger, therapists often screen their patients for underlying mental illnesses. Often, these tests come back positive. Facilities that do not use a holistic approach might treat only the addiction, but this could allow the mental illness to grow stronger. As that mental illness grows stronger, the addiction might recur or grow stronger as well. By providing a holistic approach that treats both conditions as equally important, the person can get the needed help and move forward.
How Exercise Helps With Recovery
While feeling physically fit and mentally sound might be beneficial for almost anyone, people with addictions might also encounter other benefits through the development of a regular exercise routine. For example, clinical research on the benefits of exercise published in Mental Health and Physical Activity followed a group of drug-addicted patients who participated in a three-month aerobic exercise class as part of a comprehensive drug rehab program.
At the end of their treatment, patients who participated on a regular basis showed significant increases in the number of days they remained abstinent from alcohol and drugs. While the physical and mental health benefits could be responsible for those gains, the chemical changes an exercise program can cause might also play a role.
Cardiovascular exercise can boost the brain’s production of neurotransmitters that support emotional stability and a sense of well-being, like dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. Many illicit drugs interfere with the production of these chemicals, causing the intense cravings and emotional instability that characterize addiction. People become accustomed to accessing large amounts of these chemicals on a regular basis, and they may feel as though their lives are just not worthwhile unless they can feel the effects of these chemicals. Exercise provides a natural and healthy route to the neurotransmitters these people need, allowing them to break a psychological addiction to drugs. When they exercise, they won’t need pills or hits of drugs. They’ll have the same benefit while they’re helping their bodies with exercise.
Rooting Out Physical Pain
The road to an addiction can be winding and varied, but for many people, it begins with a simple injury or illness. As they recover from these ailments, they use prescription painkillers to numb the pain. Over time, they begin to use and abuse these medications for personal pleasure, and the addiction blossoms. Addictions like this are quite common. For example, according to a study published in the Clinical Journal of Pain, 27.6 percent of chronic pain patients studied met the criteria for pain medication abuse. Some of these people are likely to move on to addiction unless they access necessary help.
While it would be easy enough to suggest that these people should simply stop abusing their substances altogether, some people do have chronic pain issues, and that pain is real and hard to control.
- Back injuries
Removing their pain medications and placing them in a standard rehabilitation program may not help them to control their pain. And, if they ever feel a resurgence of pain from their original conditions or another injury, they may be unable to handle the pain they feel without medications. This could lead them right back to addiction.
Holistic programs may help as they provide people with a variety of tools they can use to reduce pain.
For example, some people with arthritis find that swimming programs are incredibly helpful in improving mobility and reducing pain. The warm water helps to soothe sore muscles, and the buoyancy of the water allows these patients to exercise without experiencing jarring and painful movements. Some people with chronic back pain find relief through targeted physical therapy programs. As their muscles strengthen, they find using painkillers less helpful. Holistic programs that include exercise may help people to reduce their pain.
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Some people with chronic pain benefit from less traditional forms of medicine. For example, acupuncture may help to reduce tension and muscle pain in some people who have endured pain for years. Again, by removing pain, holistic programs may help these people to feel better about their lives, and they’ll learn that they can feel that improvement without relying on any drugs at all.
Lowered Stress, Improved Coping
Some people turn to drugs and alcohol as a means of coping with disappointment or stress. These might be behaviors they learned as children, as they watched their parents return home from stressful days at work and drown their stresses in glasses of wine. Or, they may have developed an addiction to drugs on their own in adolescence, as pressures to fit in seemed to grow and grow.
In a holistic recovery program, people are given the opportunity to learn new ways to cope with stress, and those new methods do not include substance use and abuse. For example, some holistic programs provide patients with lessons in mindfulness meditation. Through these lessons, participants learn how to focus on an event happening at the moment without allowing their emotions to take over. They breathe deeply and simply allow the moment to pass by without comment. This can be a powerful technique for someone who has become accustomed to judging a moment as bad or hopeless and then turning to drugs to numb the pain.
Meditation has been proven a remarkably effective technique for people in recovery. For example, according to a study published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine, people who were provided with mindfulness meditation lessons reported that the lessons were very important and useful in relapse prevention. In addition, 47 percent reported complete abstinence as a result of the tool. Meditation can be a useful way to lower stress, and these lessons can continue to reverberate throughout the addict’s life.
Holistic care is considered part of the alternative medicine movement, as many people who use holistic care focus on providing their clients with treatments they might not ever receive in traditional Western medicine. While these therapies can be quite effective, and many patients find them a valuable part of their treatment programs, it’s important to note that these treatment programs aren’t considered replacements for care that has been proven effective. Instead, alternative medicine techniques used within holistic care programs are considered additions to valuable care the person is already scheduled to receive. The treatment augments; it doesn’t replace.
Why Yoga Helps in Treatment
- Soothe stress
- Fall asleep
- Obliterate pain
The movements can, at times, help to stretch taut muscles and painful joints to such a degree that pain disappears altogether, and that might reduce a person’s need for addictive painkillers. In a study of the issue funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, researchers found that people with chronic low-back pain who practiced yoga had significantly less pain after six months of classes. It’s easy to see how this might break the link to addiction for some people, especially those who use substances to self-medicate their pain.
In addition to soothing a trigger with movement, the deep relaxation that comes from focused breathing might help some people to recover from trauma. For example, a study conducted on returning veterans who had post-traumatic stress disorder found that yoga helped to drop symptom severity from severe to mild after about six weeks. If people use drugs to soothe mental distress, yoga might show them another way to do that.
The holistic approach can also help people to understand how their minds work, increasing their awareness so they might be able to spot other unhealthy behaviors in their lives. In a traditional addiction program, an addict might learn that the addiction is the only cause for concern. Once that addiction has been addressed, the person can move on with life and expect no future problems.
But, unless the person understands the nature of addiction, and recognizes that he/she has a tendency to grow addicted to substances and actions, the addiction might return in a different form. For example, a study published in the journal Appetite found that many men in recovery from addiction transferred their addictions from drugs to food in recovery, engaging in binge eating sessions and using food to satisfy their cravings. In a holistic recovery program, these men would be given a significant amount of information on the nature of addiction, which may have helped them to identify their developing food addictions, and possibly avoid developing health problems down the line.
Increasing awareness also means providing information on how to improve overall health.
- Eat right
- Develop good sleeping habits
- Address health concerns
As overall physical health begins to improve, and people begin to see their bodies change and feel their mental state improve, they may be less likely to relapse to drug use. They may develop a respect for their bodies and their health, and they may be reluctant to jeopardize that health with substance use and abuse.
Helping at Home
While many people may succeed in their inpatient addiction programs, at some point they must return home and resume the lives they left behind. Sometimes, this reunion can be difficult to contemplate. People with addictions may have poor living conditions at home. They may even be homeless.
In a holistic program, therapists attempt to determine the person’s living situation, and then connect the person with programs that could improve those conditions, if needed.
- Low-income housing
- Group addiction housing
- Job placement
By ensuring that the person has a steady income that could be used for housing, as well as ensuring that the person has a safe place to live that doesn’t contain addiction temptations, a fragile recovery has the time to strengthen.
Some families need even more intensive help. For example, for some families, addiction and violence are closely linked. The violence may stem from the abuser’s drug use, or the violence may be in response to the victim’s drug use. In any case, that violence may become a persistent problem, and when inpatient programs are over, the patterns may recur. Holistic programs attempt to break the cycle by providing family therapy. Here, the root cause of family violence is addressed, and the results can be remarkable.
For example, in a study in the journal Addiction, therapy reduced violence from 43 percent pre-treatment to 17 percent post-treatment. After therapy, when violence levels are reduced, yet another trigger to use is removed.
Holistic therapies can help you learn more about your emotions, your addiction, and your inner strength. If you’d like to know more about holistic drug rehabilitation, and how it differs from standard addiction treatment programs, please contact us at Michael’s House at 760-548-4032.