Holistic Treatment for Heroin Addiction
Holistic therapies for heroin abuse and other forms of addiction use techniques such as acupuncture, herbal therapy, meditation, and hypnosis to treat withdrawal symptoms and help people manage stress and anxiety. They have become more popular in recent decades, and many programs now offer at least some of these services.
What Is Holistic Addiction Treatment?
Holistic treatments focus on the person as a whole and improving physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. Such forms of treatment tend to be used in combination with more traditional treatment techniques such as therapy and support groups.1
Holistic practices are being increasingly incorporated into rehab programs. In one study, out of 139 substance abuse treatment centers that were examined, 26% used prayer, 58% used meditation, and 33% used other forms of holistic techniques in their programs.2
More investigation is needed on holistic addiction treatment options and their effectiveness. But according to the American Holistic Health Association, some research suggests techniques such as acupuncture, biofeedback, and meditation are improving recovery rates.1
Some of the more common holistic methods used in rehabilitation centers include:1
- Acupuncture, which involves stimulating different points on the body with needles to treat mental and physical conditions. Auricular acupuncture, or inserting needles into a person’s ear, is used in some treatment programs to ease symptoms of withdrawal.3 Acupuncture may also reduce anxiety, cravings, irritability, and muscle pain.
- Neurofeedback, a specific type of biofeedback that includes teaching people how to change their brain wave patterns. Neurofeedback is used to help restore alpha and theta waves disturbed by long-term substance abuse back to their typical patterns.
- Herbal therapy, which uses natural herbs to affect the body in specific ways. Herbs may be used during the detoxification process. Examples include kava and valerian to treat insomnia and milk thistle to enhance liver function.
- Nutrition therapy, which focuses on a person’s diet and its potential impact on the body. Diet and nutritional supplements have been used to boost the immune system, elevate mood, and help with the detoxification process.
- Hypnosis, which includes inducing a person into a state of heightened awareness, attention, and concentration. It can be used to help people stay focused on their treatment goals.
- Meditation, a technique that includes slowing down the mind and increasing mental clarity. It may also increase feelings of relaxation and can help people cope with anxiety and stress.
- Qigong, which uses slow-moving exercises along with specific breathing techniques, imagery, and meditation. Qigong may reduce anxiety and symptoms of withdrawal.
- Yoga, another technique that promotes relaxation, increases concentration, and calms the mind. Yoga includes stretching, breathing techniques, guided relaxation, and meditation. It can reduce anxiety and may help people better regulate their response to stress and manage depression.4
- Prayer, which can help people feel more connected to a higher power. It can help people deal with stress, make them more optimistic about the future, reduce powerlessness, and lead to a feeling of safety and well-being.
Other Forms of Therapy Used in Rehab
The holistic treatment techniques described above are often combined with traditional forms of treatment. These traditional techniques include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which involves looking at how thoughts affect a person’s feelings and behaviors. CBT helps a recovering user evaluate the pros and cons of using substances, identify high-risk situation where they may use and how to cope with them, and substitute positive rewards for drug habits.5
- Motivational interviewing, which uses techniques that increase people’s motivation to engage in treatment and quit using drugs or alcohol.6
- Contingency management, a technique that includes giving people rewards to reinforce positive behaviors and changes, such as when someone in recovery continues to maintain their sobriety.7
- Medications, which can help reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms and block the effects of heroin and other opioids. Medications that have been found to be effective for those struggling with heroin addiction include methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone.8
- 12-step groups such as Narcotics Anonymous, which provide opportunities for participants to share and listen to others who have also struggled with substance use. Attendance at 12-step meetings can help people make connections with others who may have gone through similar experiences, which can be an effective form of support.
Traditional rehab programs typically require an initial assessment, in which each person is evaluated to determine what level of care is needed. Next is the detoxification process, in which the body processes heroin and any other remaining substances out of a person’s system. After completing detoxification, treatment begins and typically includes therapy, support groups, and medication. Once the treatment program is complete, aftercare services such as ongoing one-on-one therapy, group therapy, family therapy, continued medication use, and support groups are important for continued recovery.
Some holistic programs may include the traditional techniques described above. However, some may only offer holistic approaches, and though it is important to consider these options, it is also crucial to consider safety. For example, heroin withdrawal symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable and difficult to overcome without the use of medication. Therefore, it may be necessary for some who are struggling with heroin addiction to participate in treatment options that offer medications, along with other more traditional techniques, as a form of treatment along with holistic approaches.
If you or someone you love is struggling with heroin addiction and is interested in holistic treatment options, search for centers online or ask your healthcare provider for a referral.
. Waletzky, L.R., & Handel, M.J. Holistic approach to the addiction recovery process. American Holistic Health Association.
. Ross, C. (2018). Acupuncture and Addiction Treatment: What You Need to Know. Center on Addiction.
. Priester, P.E., Scherer, J., Steinfeldt, J.A., Jana-Masri, A., Jashinsky, T., Jones, J.E., & Vang, C. (2009). The frequency of prayer, meditation and holistic interventions in addictions treatment: A national survey. Pastoral Psychology, 58:315.
. Harvard Health Publishing. (2018). Yoga for anxiety and depression.
. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Motivational enhancement therapy (alcohol, marijuana, nicotine).
. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2018). Treatments for Substance Use Disorders.
. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). What are the treatments for heroin use disorder?
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