Drug and Alcohol Detoxification with a Holistic Approach - Alcoholism, Heroin Addiction, Opiate Addiction, Prescription Drug Addiction and Others by John Giordano, CAP, MAC, CCJS and Trina Geiss, MPH

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There are several new approaches to drug and alcohol detoxification and addiction treatment that not only aid in alleviating the symptoms associated with drug and alcohol addictions, but also enable the individual to embark upon a new life with a more positive outlook than ever before. More information can be found at http://www.drugrehabcenter.com, http://www.drug-alcohol-rehab.net and http://www.helpaddicts.com or by calling 800-559-9503.

Today’s drug and alcohol detoxification centers are really just stabilization centers. In order to comply with the term ‘detox’, detoxification centers would have to wait until all drugs are out of the client’s system before discharging them. This, of course, is not cost effective. There are several new approaches to treatment that not only aid in alleviating the symptoms associated with addiction, but also enable the individual to embark upon a new life with a more positive outlook than ever before. These new treatments are considered complementary, or alternative to conventional medicine. Unfortunately, addicted individuals are far from functioning in society if they do not enter a treatment program immediately following a detox episode. Otherwise, they are sure to fail and relapse back into their drug abuse. With our current ‘detox’ methods, failure occurs much more often than not and most people never make it to receive the type of treatment they need. This is because most of the individuals leaving detoxification centers are still drug affected, rendering them unable to make clear decisions about treatment programs and recovery options. In order to effectively combat this alarming and growing problem, alternative treatment methods must be explored.        

One such complementary modality that is quite popular for a variety of functions is acupuncture therapy. Acupuncture is most widely used for its pain relieving properties through sensory stimulation2. More recently, acupuncture has been shown to successfully treat depression4,5 and alcohol withdrawal7. Acupuncture can be an efficacious treatment of alcohol withdrawal symptoms when used in combination with traditional therapies7. Acupuncture has been shown to reduce the desire for alcohol1. The relief acupuncture causes works through local tissue healing effect and central anti-stress mechanisms2. Acupuncture detoxification therapy uses the application of acupuncture needles to the ear, also called auricular acupuncture. These points target different bodily functions and organs. The effects witnessed on the individual include relaxation, decreased anxiety and restlessness, reduced perspiration, intestinal cramps, watery eyes, and sneezing. It also aids in the excretion of toxic substances for a speedier recovery3,11. Acupuncture for addicted individuals supports a positive mood, relieves stress, and aids in craving control. This therapy also appears to assist in the healing process of the mind based on the client’s affect. In Oregon, heroin addicts MUST try acupuncture before getting methadone6. The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) Consensus Panel on Acupuncture reviewed the scientific literature and concluded that acupuncture for addiction "may be useful as an adjunct treatment or an acceptable alternative or be included in a comprehensive management program”. Overall, acupuncture has been shown to increase substance abuse treatment adherence, reduce recidivism, and stabilize mood.

Decreasing withdrawal or craving symptoms is an integral part of the recovery process. Substance detoxification of the addicted individual is paramount for the holistic healing process to occur. Some of the most difficult substances to overcome include opiates and amphetamines. One such holistic treatment that has worked wonders with withdrawal and craving symptoms is ibogaine treatment. Ibogaine is taken from the shrub, Tabernanthe iboga, and native to West Africa10,13. Indigenous people use ibogaine in low doses to fight fatigue, hunger, and thirst; it is taken in higher doses as a sacrament in religious rituals10. Ibogaine has been shown especially effective for opiate detoxification and for short-term stabilization of addicted individuals preparing to enter substance abuse treatment8. Its healing effects have been shown to significantly decrease craving for both heroin and cocaine along with a decrease in depressive symptoms9,10.

Ibogaine appears to be a hopeful detox drug for the future. The results seem extremely promising for long-term recovery and relapse prevention. Research has been performed on ibogaine’s efficacy in treating alcohol addiction, and researchers found that there was some proof that ibogaine suppresses alcohol intake in animal models9,12. Ibogaine treatment is not accepted by the FDA and therefore must be obtained in clinics outside the United States. Ibogaine leaves the individual feeling clear-headed with increased motivation and significant insight into the causes of their addiction. For most, ibogaine does not serve as the proverbial “magic bullet,” however this treatment is definitely above current detoxification methods, where individuals leave shrouded in their addiction while remaining hopeless of a future free from the clutches of drugs.

There are a variety of other holistic substance abuse detox treatments that aid those previously mentioned in overcoming cravings and ridding the system of toxins. These should be used in conjunction with other therapies. Proper diet and nutrition consisting of vitamin C, amino acids, essential fatty acids, and sulfur proteins can have a very positive effect. Vitamin C is a very potent anti-oxidant and will help cleanse and destroy free radicals in the tissues. It also aids in intestinal motility, which is an important component of getting clean and sober. Amino acids, especially glutamine will stimulate the body’s natural opiates and endorphins to help alleviate some cravings. Essential fatty acids such as flax oil in combination with foods containing sulfur proteins (cysteine or methionine) such as yogurt, eggs, codfish, sesame paste, garlic, and onions will allow fat soluble toxins to become water soluble for excretion through sweat and urine6. In order to facilitate and expedite excretion of toxic substances, perspiration must be enhanced. This should be done through rigorous exercise and steam therapy, such as a Turkish wet steam. Following heavy perspiration, the individual should clean themselves with a high-fat soap to remove toxins excreted on the surface of the skin and prevent their readsorption6.    

Utilizing a variety of techniques that recognize the numerous needs and requirements of an individual undergoing substance abuse detoxification and treatment will have much more positive effects concerning treatment outcome. Addiction is a disease that weaves its web throughout every facet of an individual’s life, therefore, when treating this insidious disease all angles must be approached from a fresh perspective to gain insight into more efficacious treatment opportunities.

More information can be found at http://www.drugrehabcenter.com, http://www.drug-alcohol-rehab.net and http://www.helpaddicts.com or by calling 800-559-9503 24/7 for a free consultation.

Works Cited:

1.    Bullock ML, Kiresuk TJ, Sherman RE, Lenz SK, Culliton PD, Boucher TA, Nolan CJ. (2002). A large randomized placebo controlled study of auricular acupuncture for alcohol dependence. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, vol. 22(2): 71-7.

2.    Carlsson CP. (2001). Acupuncture therapy today. Background, clinical use, mechanisms. Lakartidningen, vol. 98(46): 5178-82, 5185-6.

3.    Fidler S. (n.d.) The successful use of auricular acupuncture in the supported withdrawal and detoxification of substance abusers. Retrieved 4/2/04 from: http://www.acupuncture.com/Research/addictres.htm

4.    Gallagher SM, Allen JJ, Hitt SK, Schnyer RN, Manber R. (2001). Six-month depression relapse rates among women treated with acupuncture. Complement Ther Med., vol. 9(4): 216-8.

5.    Han C, Li XW, Luo HC. (2002). Comparative study of electro-acupuncture and maprotiline in treating depression. Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi, vol. 22(7): 512-4, 521.

6.    Hoffmann DL, Kane E. (n.d.). Addiction. American Association of Naturopathic Physicians.

7.    Karst M, Passie T, Friedrich S, Wiese B, Schneider U. (2002). Acupuncture in the treatment of alcohol withdrawal symptoms: a randomized, placebo-controlled inpatient study. Addiction Biology, vol. 7(4): 415-9.

8.    Leal MB, Michelin K, Souza DO, Elisabetsky E. (2003). Ibogaine attenuation of morphine withdrawal in mice: role of glutamate N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry, vol. 27(5): 781-5.

9.    Levi MS, Borne RF. (2002). A review of chemical agents in the pharmacotherapy of addiction. Curr Med Chem, vol. 9(20): 1807-18.

10.    Mash DC, Kovera CA, Pablo J, Tyndale RF, Ervin FD, Williams IC, Singleton EG, Mayor M. (2000). Ibogaine: complex pharmacokinetics, concerns for safety, and preliminary efficacy measures. Ann NY Acad Sci, vol. 914: 394-401.

11.    Miller J. (n.d.). An evaluation of an acupuncture program for drug treatment in San Diego county. Retrieved 4/2/04 from: http://www.acupuncture.com/Research/DrugSD.htm

12.    Rezvani AH, Overstreet DH, Leef YW. (1995). Attenuation of alcohol intake by ibogaine in 3 strains of alcohol preferring rats. Phamacol Biochem Behav, vol. 52: 615-20.

13.    Vastag B. (2002). Addiction treatment strives for legitimacy. JAMA, vol. 288(24): 3096-3101.

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