Addiction is a complex disease that affects body, mind and spirit, often creating a sharp dissociation between these parts of the self. On the other hand, successful recovery from drugs and alcohol depends on strengthening the interconnections between mind, body and spirit.
Addiction to drugs and alcohol is often undiagnosed and untreated. Physicians are often unaware or have negative attitudes regarding these patients, such as the perception that treatment is ineffective. Addiction–psychological dependence with or without tolerance and withdrawal–is essentially compulsive uncontrolled substance use despite physical, psychological, or social consequences. We have an understanding of the 2 major pathways involved in addiction. First, the dopamine reward pathway, which is essential for survival, can be physically altered by drug abuse to result in uncontrolled cravings. Second, the decision-making prefrontal cortex, which suppresses inappropriate reward response, can also be altered by drug abuse. Thus, accelerated “go” signals and impaired “stop” signals result in uncontrolled use despite severe consequences.
It used to be that 12-step programs were overwhelmingly the recommended treatment protocol for people with substance use disorders. “Holistic” programs that employed alternative therapies (such as yoga, art therapy and massage) were relegated to the margins of the mainstream.
Today’s addiction treatment landscape looks far more diverse, with many rehab programs offering alternative interventions alongside more traditional medical and clinical therapies (including 12-step groups). That’s because a growing body of research has unearthed the therapeutic benefits of these previously “fringe” therapies for people with SUDs. Consider some of the more common holistic features of many current rehab programs and the science behind their effectiveness:
- Art Therapy
- Massage Therapy
- Dance/Movement Therapy
Before anybody takes their first steps toward recovery, a sound assessment of the situation is crucial. This pre-recovery process involves users realizing that no additional benefit can come from using the substance and that there is no viable alternative pathway to freedom. It is also a period of time for individuals to come to terms with what the recovery process will entail. Regardless of the type of treatment program pursued, it is necessary to prepare mentally and emotionally for the journey.
There are endless reasons why individuals turn to alcohol and drugs. Some people attempt to self-medicate physical problems like back pain, some will attempt to numb feelings of pain related to spiritual emptiness, and others may attempt to self-medicate many underlying mental health problems.
Many people who struggle with any type of substance abuse may not be aware of the area(s) of health that they are attempting to control with their behavior. For that reason, a program that centers on improving and sustaining all areas of your health and lifestyle ultimately has the best possible chance of addressing the problem area so individuals can become clean and remain sober.