When deciding to enroll in a treatment program for addiction, how do you know which type is best for you? Should you choose holistic or drug-based rehab? There are a number of approaches to treatment for drug and alcohol addiction, not just holistic or drug-based rehab. To better understand these, the first step is to define some of the basic terms.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) defines addiction as a complex illness characterized by intense and, at times, uncontrollable drug craving, along with compulsive drug seeking and use that persist even in the face of devastating consequences.
Describes treatment wherein the patient stays at the hospital or facility. Length of time can vary anywhere from days to months.
Describes treatment wherein the patient visits a hospital or facility without being admitted overnight. The number of visits will vary.
To remove toxins or poison from; specifically, medical treatment of an alcoholic or drug addict involving abstinence and reduction of cravings and withdrawal symptoms to remove the addictive substances from the bloodstream. Detox addresses the physiological aspects of addiction.
To restore to health after illness, injury, etc.; the process of restoring to better health and a better life by training and therapy after detoxification. Rehab would ideally address the full range of factors that cause and contribute to addiction, and contain steps to prevent relapse.
Holistic or Drug-Based Rehab Differences
Characterized by the treatment of the whole person, taking into account personal, mental, familial, social, environmental, and spiritual factors – rather than just the physical symptoms of a disease or condition.
In the fields of detox and rehab, “drug-based” can mean two things:
A. The use of prescription medications to aid in the detox or rehab process.
B. A focus on the specific characteristics of the drug (or drugs) being abused, in contrast to the full range of factors that cause and contribute to addiction.
Drug-based detox refers to the use of medication to ease withdrawal symptoms. Certain addictive substances cause severe physical reactions in the addict who stops using. Most notably, these drugs include opiates (morphine, heroin, prescription painkillers), alcohol, as well as benzodiazepines (anti-anxiety drugs). That is not to say that any drug – even caffeine and nicotine – do not carry physical withdrawal symptoms, but certain drugs are known for the acute nature of withdrawal.
Types of Withdrawal
A heroin user going through withdrawal (without medication) is expected to experience such symptoms as insomnia, muscle/joint pain, chills, sweats, fever, nausea, vomiting, intense cravings, depression, and anxiety.
Alcohol withdrawal without medical aid can be life-threatening – involving seizures, hallucination, and temporary psychosis. Delirium Tremens (DTs or “trembling delirium”) is a term used to describe the most severe phase of alcohol withdrawal.
Benzodiazepines (Xanax, Klonopin, Valium) are central nervous system depressants. Dependence and addiction are quite common, and when people stop their use abruptly, they can experience benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome – symptoms of which include insomnia, panic attack, anxiety (worse than what the prescription was intended for), nausea, dry wretches, heart palpitations, and flu-like symptoms. Life-threatening seizures and psychotic reactions are also reasons medical attention is essential.
Use of Medication in Detox
The safety of withdrawal and the comfort of the addict or alcoholic are of primary concern in medical detox.
There is, however, another side of drug-based detox. an excellent example of this is the outpatient methadone clinic. Such clinics provide methadone as a replacement for heroin. Methadone is itself a highly addictive opiate in the same class as morphine (Schedule II). The advantage is that it is taken orally and not injected intravenously and thus the risk of infection and spread of disease is reduced. HIV/AIDS is a risk for drug users due to needle sharing and sexual transmission. Methadone is a controlled substance but still has a high potential for abuse. This type of treatment for drug addiction does not accomplish detoxification nor does it bring about rehabilitation.
Another point to consider in detox is whether the facility prescribes other drugs such as antidepressants to the recovering addict or alcoholic. Prescribing drugs can result in dependency (either physical or psychological) on yet another medication. Addicts and alcoholics often have – to one degree or another – an “addictive personality” or are prone to addictive behavior, thus using the “crutch” of another drug on a long-term basis is a risky proposition. Any psychotropic medication produces side-effects, some very severe, thus use should be avoided.
Ideally, any medications are used only to ease withdrawal and guarantee safety. After detox is accomplished, any drugs used can be tapered off.
Holistic detox refers to a drug-free approach. This is not to be confused with “cold turkey” which people will often attempt without professional help. Holistic methods are those who seek to help the addict or alcoholic in the withdrawal process through natural means. A calm and peaceful environment where someone can eat and sleep is often precisely what a drug addict or alcoholic needs while going through a detox process.
Withdrawal from cocaine addiction, for example, can often be accomplished through holistic detox. Cocaine withdrawal symptoms include intense cravings, disturbed sleep, agitation, anxiety, and severe depression. Quitting cocaine can also induce suicidal ideation. Thus professional supervision is essential. Despite its apparent addictive properties and notoriety, cocaine produces more psychological than physiological addiction; therefore, a holistic approach may be made depending on the individual’s circumstances.
Combined Methodologies, Holistic and Drug-Based Rehab
Instead of choosing either holistic or drug-based rehab, a mixture of the two would be the ultimate solution in the field of detox. Most addicts are polydrug users meaning they use multiple substances and are often addicted to more than one drug simultaneously, such as a combination of alcohol and cocaine. Thus the use of combined methodologies would be an efficient way to address the complex problems relating to addiction.
Drug-based rehab could include one or more of the following systems to address underlying reasons a person started using and what motivated their continued drug or alcohol abuse:
- Individual or Group Therapy, including the techniques of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.
- Conscious Decision Making, which seeks to help users isolate the situations in which they are most likely to use drugs and prevent or avoid them.
- Moral Reconation Therapy (MRT), a system developed to enhance moral reasoning and better decision making. The term “reconation” refers to the process of making conscious decisions.
- Multidimensional Family Therapy, designed for use with adolescents with drug problems and their families in dealing with the many influences upon a young person’s life.
- Motivational Interviewing, utilizes the willingness of an addict or alcoholic to engage in treatment.
- Motivational Incentives, using positive reinforcement to promote abstinence.
While a holistic approach could utilize any of the above systems, it seeks to expand the range of methodologies used in rehab. The basic theory of the holistic approach is that there is not one set system for rehabilitation. Each individual is different and thus different techniques can be employed. A holistic center could use a core program while simultaneously offering options that a patient can utilize to address their specific problems. Some of the methodologies that could be employed in a holistic approach include:
- Nutrition – Addicts are often malnourished, and a comprehensive nutritional regimen can have very therapeutic effects.
- Fitness and Yoga – A regimen involving exercise or yoga is beneficial for motivation and physical health.
- Martial Arts – The disciplines of martial arts are useful not only for fitness but to help an individual’s focus and spiritual values.
- Spirituality – A wide range of spiritual paths can be taken to help a person in their journey of self-discovery.
- Faith-Based Programs – The full array of faith-based programs can be employed to assist a person to use their faith or religion in their personal recovery process.
- Educational and Vocational Programs – Dealing with addiction often means addressing such things as literacy, ability to communicate, how to get a job or pursue a career, and many other practicalities.
Complete Rehabilitation, Holistic or Drug-Based Rehab
While no one can guarantee that someone will never again abuse drugs or alcohol (that is ultimately up to the individual) complete rehabilitation would ideally employ many of the methods listed above. That is why we don’t always know whether to choose holistic or drug-based rehab. Drug addiction is one of the most serious problems in society today. It is linked intrinsically to such things as massive governmental spending, global crime, and an incalculable toll upon human lives.
While the problem is global, it can be broken down into the individual and his or her individual situation. Complete rehabilitation means helping one person at a time to deal effectively with the many aspects of addiction. When one individual conquers their addictions, we are one step closer to tackling the overall pandemic. Whether holistic or drug-based rehab, or a combination of the two, the goal is the same.