Drug Rehabilitation Blog

Holistic drug withdrawal

Holistic Methods For Drug Withdrawal

A Huge Problem Across the US

Substance abuse is a huge problem in the US. As of 2010, nearly 22 million Americans age 12 or older use illegal drugs each month, and over 13 million Americans have an alcohol problem. The largest culprit of addiction? Painkillers. The United States alone absorbs over 70% of the world’s Oxycodone and nearly 100% of the world’s Hydrocodone (an ingredient in Vicodin). Every year, American doctors write over 60 million prescriptions for tranquilizers such as Valium and Xanax.

With this level of access to highly addictive substances, it’s not surprising that at any given moment a friend, family member, neighbor, or co-worker might be going through the painful withdrawal symptoms of detoxification. Understanding how to manage detox responsibly is a critical part of the recovery process.

Cold Turkey vs. Tapering Off

To an addict with an all-or-nothing mentality, it might be more appealing to quit an addictive substance “cold turkey” — that is, completely and all at once — in order to avoid the substance entirely. This can pose significant risks, however, if the addict has been using large amounts of the substance for a long period of time, creating extreme withdrawal symptoms.

Additional risks to quitting cold turkey include:

  • Relapse, due to extreme withdrawal symptoms and taking on too much mental and physical pain at once
  • Seizures, due to a pattern of acute substance abuse followed by a period of acute detoxification
  • Heart failure or a heart attack, due to system’s shutting down as drugs leave the system
  • Overdose, if a person relapses after losing the tolerance he or she had built up before initially quitting

The second option to recovery is a tapering-off method, in which addicts consume the substance in moderation, slowly weaning themselves off over a period of weeks or months. This option has its own set of risks:

  • In some cases, staying on the substance poses a greater risk than the withdrawal symptoms, and so continuing the substance can actually be more harmful than quitting cold turkey
  • Drugs with a shorter half-life (the amount of time it takes to metabolize the drug) are significantly more challenging to quit using this method and can require more time to taper off use
  • This method requires a great deal of self-control, as the substance is still a prominent part of the addict’s daily life

In either case, medical supervision is recommended. While neither option is easy, and both come with risks, the benefits of becoming substance-free far outweigh the short period of discomfort spent in detoxification.

Holistic Withdrawal Symptoms and Treatments

While patients with severe addiction may have the greatest chance of success by checking into a rehabilitation facility for a short detoxification period, many patients can do a detox at home with the supervision of a physician and regular doctor visits. Many doctors recommend working holistic methods into this treatment plan.

Here are a number of holistic remedies that can help manage and relieve common symptoms of drug withdrawal:

  • Dehydration
    • Half an ounce of water per pound of body weight per day, which helps flush the system of drugs and keep the patient hydrated.
  • Cravings
    • Narcotics Anonymous, which has hotlines in most areas in the United States
    • Productive or entertaining activities, such as books, movies, video games, or any other type of entertainment that can engage the addict during detoxification
  • Stomach pains (cramps, bloating, nausea)
    • Ginger, in tea or capsules
    • Lemon balm, which settles the stomach
    • Chamomile, green, or valerian tea, which can help ease nerves and tension in the body
    • Peppermint
  • Diarrhea
    • Apple juice (or any non-acidic fruit juice)
    • Soup, like chicken noodle, which can provide sustenance without digestion issues
  • Heart Palpitations
    • Lemon balm, which calms the nerves and helps reduce heart palpitations
  • Restlessness and insomnia
    • Antihistamines
    • Chamomile, passionflower, or valerian tea, which helps the body relax and prepare for sleep
    • A full stomach, which addicts can achieve by eating small amounts of food throughout the day, especially if stomach pains accompany their withdrawal symptoms
  • General pain and fatigue
    • Warm baths/showers, taken every few hours, to help relax the muscles
    • Walking and any sort of exercise, which produces endorphins that mimic the effect of pain medication on the body. This is a great natural remedy that can keep addicts from further abuse of medications
    • Korean ginseng, which helps boost energy levels and prevents adrenal fatigue
    • White willow bark or cayenne, both of which offer pain relief
  • Depression and anxiety
    • Chamomile, green, or valerian tea, which can help ease nerves and tension in the body
    • B6, which increases serotonin levels and decreases stress
    • St. John’s Wort, which, according to NaturalNews.com, is as effective at relieving mild depression as commonly prescribed antidepressants
    • Kava, which is a root used in the Pacific Islands to “take the edge off”
    • Yerba mate, a popular South American tea, which has mild MAOI properties that elevate low mood
  • Hot/cold flashes
    • Layers of clothing or blankets, which can be easily removed or adjusted to regulate body temperature

    Meet the Challenge Head On

    Detoxification is a challenging, arduous obstacle to sobriety, but these holistic methods can make the process easier by addressing all aspects of a patient’s recovery. With the help and support of friends, family, and a physician, addicts can conquer their addiction and end their substance abuse.

3 Comments

  • Amanda

    There are a lot of holistic ways to handle a drug withdrawal when different symptoms presence themselves. I had never read all these different ways to handle the different symptoms. I think if you can use these holistic remedies if you had someone who is trying to get off drugs. I really think for the best result finding a place where professionals can see the person who is coming off of the drugs. This ensures any curves or difficulties to be handled by someone who is fully trained and in an environment that can withstand any problems.

  • Diane C

    Going through detox is going to be hard whichever way you choose but doing it with the holistic methods mentioned above might be less of a shock to the body. It’s good that there are different remedies for each of the different things that might come up during the detox period. Having someone there to help the person get through it and notice which of these symptoms they are experiencing at the time and help them with the remedies listed. If the person does not have someone who can help them through this, I really believe they should go into a facility where there is someone to help them.

  • Walter

    Wow! I did not know that there were that many teas, and other drinks/food stuffs that would help to curb the need for drugs and going through the withdrawal process. I definitely with I had this information when I was coming off of drinking, it would have definitely helped a lot. As far as cold turkey/slowly coming off, I recommend the latter, but if there is no substitute for the coming off the drug. I think that either way you go, the decision to quit is the most important, and I think that getting help from a trained place that deals with this on a daily basis is the most successful option. You can never have too much help in my opinion, and I think that getting this help will go a long way towards staying clean and not having the plague of addiction on your back, and it will also give you the support structure that is often needed to get through the difficult times that you will face.

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