Therapeutic support after Ibogaine. It’s safe to say that alternative treatments for addiction are no longer alternative in the “outside of the mainstream” sense. At Higher Path Living many types of “supplemental” therapies, including exercise, recovery support services, meditation and mindfulness, yoga, nutrition coaching and biochemical restoration, acupuncture, neurofeedback, biochemical restoration and many more.
The dominant view in the profession is that such treatment modes in combination can be highly effective complements in early sobriety. But these techniques can’t do the recovery job alone; a “holistic” therapy such as meditation, for example, should be used in conjunction with traditional treatment-as-usual approaches which includes psychotherapy, recovery support services, and medical-assisted treatment.
Daily exercise, even in small doses, can boost mood—what most recovering people with addiction issues need in the absence of their substances of abuse. Starting an exercise regimen can help fill the void of using, lending a sense of purpose and offering a substitute, but natural, high. Generally speaking exercise, whether aerobic or otherwise, has well-known health benefits, including improvements in the function of the cardiovascular, pulmonary, and endocrine systems. Physical exercise has many cognitive benefits that can specifically help recovering people with addiction issues. For one, it leads to increased neurotransmitter levels, improved oxygen and nutrient delivery. It can have a positive effect on learning and memory. Executive control processes—working memory, multitasking, and planning—are more positively affected in comparison to other regions of the brain.
Recovery Support Services
At Higher Path Living we introduce the following support services to expose each guest to their different approaches and discussions the strengths and short-comings of each. This allows the guest to select the service (and often the combination of services) that resonates with them the most. Some guests tend to gravitate to a particular approach, while others use them in tandem, taking the best of each to build a recovery plan to works for them.
SMART Recovery – workbook and meetings. SMART Recovery which stands for Self Management And Recovery Training helps individuals gain independence from addiction (substances or activities), and efforts are based on scientific knowledge and evolve as scientific knowledge evolves.
The 4-Point Program offers specific tools and techniques for each of the program points:
- Building and Maintaining Motivation
- Coping with Urges
- Managing Thoughts, Feelings and Behaviors
- Living a Balanced Life
Refuge Recovery – mindfulness & meditation. Refuge Recovery is an Eastern-oriented path to freedom from addiction. This is an approach to recovery that understands, “All individuals have the power and potential to free themselves from the suffering that is caused by addiction”. By using the power of divine law (Dharma), we can relieve suffering of all kinds, including the suffering of addiction. This is a process that cultivates a path of awakening, the path of recovering from the addictions and other delusions that have created suffering in our lives and in this world.
Meditation is the art of practicing mindfulness, and counselors alike recommend it as a method to prevent relapse. Gaining mindfulness helps substance abusers become aware of their thoughts and feelings, good and bad, but not react to the negative ones—a key step forward in preventing relapse.
Mindfulness meditation is also a good way to help regulate mood. It can lower the levels of stress hormone cortisol, increase immune system compound interleukin, and assist in the body’s ability to detoxify itself of harmful chemicals, which can affect neurotransmitter receptors and alter mood.
Different types of mindfulness meditation exist. Vipassana meditation teaches the mind not to react to the emotions and thoughts that result in harmful behavior. Some claim that with enough practice, it’s possible to become permanently free of all negative behaviors—addiction included. The Transcendental Meditation organization claims that controlled studies demonstrate that TM “compared to other forms of meditation and relaxation significantly reverses physiological and psychological factors which lead to substance abuse. Compared to control conditions, TM significantly reduced the use of alcohol, cigarettes and illicit drugs in general population as well as among heavy users. Over time abstinence was maintained or increased.”
In fact, an increasing number of studies indicate that mindfulness-based relapse prevention techniques do reduce cravings and prevent relapse as well as, if not better than, traditional treatment. The journal Substance Use & Misuse published an entire special issue in April, 2014, focused on mindfulness-based interventions for substance use disorders. Katie Witkiewitz, an associate professor of psychology at the University of New Mexico, published two studies this year that found that mindfulness-based relapse prevention was more effective than a traditional relapse prevention program in decreasing substance use and heavy drinking up to one year later. “There have been several randomized clinical trials, as well as smaller controlled studies, that have found meditation to be as effective or more effective than existing treatments for addiction,” she says.
Yoga, which means “union” in Sanskrit, combines three aspects: physical postures, breath work, and meditation. The philosophy of yoga is to bring the mind, body, and spirit together in a united alignment. This can promote a state of inner peace that might assist recovering people with addiction issues in preventing relapse. Many studies indicate yoga can relieve anxiety, stress and depression.
The physical aspect teaches bodily awareness and how to release pent-up emotions and stuck energy. For many in recovery, there has been a disassociation from the body through the use of drugs, alcohol, food, or other substances. Through practicing the physical “asanas,” recovering people with addiction issues can become aware of their outdated behavioral patterns and make the conscious decision to change.
Breath work can be a key aspect of healing and recovery from addiction. The lungs are the link between the circulatory and nervous systems, and they provide detoxification, energy, and a built-in relaxation response.
Meditation is important because it allows recovering people with addiction issues a deeper sense of self-awareness. By becoming less influenced by the world around them, people with addiction issues can learn to shrug off cravings and embrace their inner strength without the need for external validation through substances.
Nutrition and Biochemical Restoration
A new type of treatment, biochemical restoration, aims to repair the biochemical imbalances that cause cravings, depression, anxiety, and the unstable moods that lead to—and perpetuate—addiction.
There are certain biochemical imbalances that make a person more prone to addiction and which this treatment—a form of chemical nutrient therapy—strives to improve. These include imbalances of neurotransmitters in the brain, nutrient deficiencies, amino acid imbalances, hypoglycemia, inflammatory and oxidative stress, and adrenal fatigue.
Once biochemical imbalances are assessed, an individualized biochemical restoration plan can be established. This can include a personal nutrition plan, a micronutrient supplement including amino acids (sometimes with a futuristic approach of micronutrient injections), and exercise, physical activity and relaxation.
David Wiss, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who operates a consulting company, Nutrition in Recovery, in Los Angeles, believes the single most ignored aspect to treating addiction is treating nutritional deficiencies. Many other nutritionists second this. Recovering people with addiction issues tend toward highly palatable foods that can provide a temporary reprieve from negative feelings. These are almost invariably processed foods with added sugar, salt, and vegetable oil fats; refined carbohydrates, and caffeine—rather than high-nutrient foods. Unfortunately, these foods destabilize blood sugar, spur inflammation, and deplete the brain of essential neurotransmitters that play a large role in stabilizing moods.
Wiss believes that “nutritional interventions should be based on real food rather than supplementation.” He recommends a “never hungry, never full” approach of eating six small meals a day, or every two to four hours. People with addiction issues should strive for more protein, fiber, and healthy fats like those found in fatty fish, nuts, and flax seeds. Certainly, learning about nutrition, how to cook healthful meals, and making good food choices are accessible options for the majority of people in recovery.
From a nutritional perspective, an individual in early recovery can improve mood and fight off depression, anxiety, and stress by incorporating foods that contain an ample amount of omega-3 essential fatty acids, complete proteins, and antioxidant and anti-inflammatory vitamins and minerals. These foods will also help the recovering person’s mind—provide essential building blocks for depleted neurotransmitters, for example—as well as the body, promoting healing of all systems and tissues damaged by malnutrition.
Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) is a coenzyme derivative of vitamin B3 – otherwise known as niacin—found in all living cells. NAD is a key agent in metabolism, as well as many other basic cellular processes. Because it is essential to the production of energy in our bodies, it has become a valuable resource for helping people with addiction issues. In many cases of substance abuse, the body’s reserves of protein and vitaminsare low, resulting generally in low energy.
The mega-dose treatment is in IV form and can reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms in patients without using replacement therapies. According to reports, it has been used successfully to treat addictions to prescription drugs including opiates, benzodiazepines, and stimulants, alcohol, cocaine, marijuana, suboxone, and methadone. Results may include improved mental clarity, increase in cognitive function, returned focus and concentration, more energy, better mood, and more positive outlook. It opens people with addiction issues up to participate in effective therapy. Bill Wilson, the founder of AA, became an advocate of large doses of vitamin B and once claimed that it was the most effective help he had ever received.
Neurofeedback is a process by which electroencephalography (EEG) sensors are attached to one’s head which allows the brain’s activity to be fed back into a computer that displays brain waves in real time. The subject can then interact with her brain waves in order to alter them, directly impacting their frequency.
The procedure is a form of biofeedback, and it has been used for treating a variety of conditions, namely PTSD. Over the past several years, neurofeedback has been gaining traction as a form of alternative treatment in recovery. Some people with addiction issues claim that it helps with everything from anger to insomnia—key triggers for relapse. The limited science on it is positive but funding for a range of credible controlled studies has been hard to come by.
In essence, neurofeedback can increase or decrease states of arousal—a level of neural activity linked to brain wave frequency. An anxious person would obviously aim for a calmer state (a lower frequency) in a neurofeedback session; someone depressed would seek to create higher frequency and more neural arousal. “It can help keep [people with addiction issues] from leaving treatment early,” says Matt Morgan, a neurofeedback treatment specialist. While neurofeedback has a 40-year history, it is still in its infancy as a treatment form for substance disorders. Morgan says there is “no medication out there with such a wide [therapeutic] use.”
While acupuncture as a helpful treatment for addiction has less of an evidence base than meditation (though a strong one for dealing with pain), it has grown in popularity for treating addiction and related emotional imbalances such as anxiety and depression. In the 1970s, Michael Smith of New York’s Lincoln Hospital developed a five-point acupuncture protocol that focused on the ear alone. Called the Acu-detox method, or National Acupuncture Detoxification Association (NADA) protocol, the auricular acupuncture treatment has been shown to be primarily effective in treating cravings in early recovery.
Among several theories about how acupuncture works are these: it modulates neurotransmitters; it stimulates the endocrine system, resulting in relaxation; it stimulates circulation and tends to reduce inflammation. As a whole, a TCM program stimulates the body to correct itself through restoring balance in what TCM considers to be the five body systems: heart, liver, lungs, kidneys, and digestion. Advocates argue it gives recovering people with addiction issues the ability to process material that may be at the root of their addictions. People in recovery…often have chronic pain or other imbalances that will undermine their recovery or quality of life if not addressed.
Animal Contact and Pet Therapy
As an assist to more traditional types of addiction treatment, animal/pet therapy works by helping recovering people with addiction issues focus outside of themselves in the care of someone else—or “something” else, in this case. Its advocates in the rehab community believe that by caring for a dependent creature, a person in recovery discovers the nurturing side of himself and thereby cultivates a deeper sense of what it means to be nurtured.
Evidence suggests there are are many benefits to spending quality time with pets or companion animals. These include lower stress levels, a reduction in anxiety and depression, lower blood pressure and heart rate, higher self-esteem, and even a reduction in the severity of painful physical symptoms of illness.
Equine therapy, for instance, originally started as a program that used riding horses as a therapy for individuals with physical disabilities. Since then, many recovering people with addiction issues (and their therapists) claim to have benefited from interactions and bonding with horses—which appears to build confidence, trust, patience and self-esteem.
Gardening / Horticulture Therapy
Technically known as horticulture therapy (HT), gardening is used to promote well-being. The therapy is now utilized in a wide range of treatment settings including prisons, psychiatric hospitals, mental health programs and addiction rehab. By offering a recovering substance abuser a caregiving role, gardening provides a sense of purpose, similar to animal therapy.
Evidence shows that gardening can have a positive effect on a range of problems, including reducing aggression, lowering cortisol levels, improving self-esteem, helping people to feel less anxious, reducing the severity of depression, and improving concentration in people who are depressed.