Many people struggle with addiction, but no two people with this disease are alike, so recovery must be tailored to meet individual needs. While there are many treatment options for recovery from addiction, some alternative treatments are less recognized than well-known programs of recovery like 12-step abstinence-based approaches. Learning more about alternative treatment therapies for addiction may help you make an educated choice about what is best for your personal recovery.
Acupuncture is the ancient Chinese practice of inserting thin needles into different acupuncture points in the body. It is believed that through this practice, the flow of qi (or chi) can be re-regulated throughout the systems of the body. The effectiveness of acupuncture as a medical treatment was recognized by the FDA in March 1996. When used in the treatment of addiction, acupuncture has been shown to raise endorphin levels, which can help individuals control cravings and symptoms related to withdrawal. While acupuncture can be helpful in treating addictions, it is best used in combination with other forms of treatment. Sandy Giltinan, LAc, acupuncture therapist at Morningside Recovery Center said, "Acupuncture works adjunctively with other therapies in the process of recovery. The most important part of addiction therapy is finding the combination of therapies best suited to the individual's recovery." Acupuncture can also be of assistance in helping to maintain sobriety by relieving some of the stress associated with staying clean. "Many patients who start acupuncture while in treatment at Morningside Recovery continue to undergo acupuncture treatments even after their recovery programs are complete. Acupuncture is a powerful support to both sobriety and overall health," said Giltinan. While there are still professionals in the medical field that remain skeptical about the use of acupuncture as a valid medical treatment for addiction, Giltinan stresses that it is a valuable tool in recovery. "While the results often seem magical, acupuncture is not magic," Giltinan said. "Acupuncture is a great tool in support of an individual's journey on their path of sobriety."
Biofeedback is a process in which physiological responses in the body of a person are monitored, and the feedback that is received is then used by the individual to control the nervous system. It is believed that when a person receives this feedback, he or she can use it to alter thinking patterns and gain greater control of the body. Biofeedback helps treat addictions by training a person to decrease anxiety levels. High anxiety is related to an increase in the severity of withdrawal symptoms, and a lowered ability to deal with withdrawal symptoms in a positive way. Neurofeedback (biofeedback that is specific to the brain) helps a person learn to alter brain wave patterns, which may have been disturbed if substance abuse has occurred over a long period of time. Neurofeedback can train a person in recovery to adjust these brain waves, resulting in relapse prevention. Dr. Donna Boone, M.D. has had over 30 years of experience treating people struggling with addiction, and is an expert in her field. Boone notes that while biofeedback can be very useful in recovery, it should be used with people that have been clean and sober for some time. "The power of emotions in active addiction are too overwhelming in early recovery, and the addict does not have any coping mechanisms to fall back on. Biofeedback is an excellent coping mechanism to develop and can help prevent relapse through the adjustment of physiological functions," said Boone.
Hypnosis is an alternate trance-like state of consciousness that requires deep concentration and allows a person to be more susceptible to positive suggestions. When applied to treatment for addiction, hypnotherapy can be helpful in the later stages of recovery, after a person has been clean and sober for a period of time. Hypnosis can aid a person in the maintenance stages of recovery to explore relapse warning signs and triggers, discover how to remain sober through problem solving, and gain insight into how to cope with cravings for substances. Dr. Boone said "Hypnotherapy is useful in terms of taking a stimulus, like a trigger to use a substance, and redirecting the outcome. Instead of A leads to B leads to C, hypnotherapy has the power to help a person override C and end up with D." Dr. Boone went on to say that hypnotherapy can be an extremely effective coping mechanism for recovering addicts trying to stay clean and sober. "Hypnotherapy is useful in controlling cravings and preventing relapse," she said. "It would be a great addition to any relapse prevention plan."
Recovery can be a difficult process. Staying clean and sober is a tremendous task for the recovering addict, and the more tools a person in recovery has to help them maintain their sobriety, the greater the chances of long-term success in recovery. If what a recovering addict is currently doing to stay clean and sober is ineffective, alternative treatment therapies provide the freedom and flexibility to make a positive impact in recovery.
Special thanks to Sandy Giltinan and Morningside Recovery for contributing to this article.