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Holistic Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation for the 21st Century 'Fact or Fiction?

Alcoholism and drug addiction has reached epic proportions in the 21st century. Crime rates are escalating all over the world. People from every race, color and socio-economic background are becoming addicted to drugs such as Crack, Cocaine, Crystal Meth, Heroin, Alcohol and prescription drugs. As a result of addiction and drug abuse, marriages and families are being devastated; children are being endangered, both directly and indirectly.
The statistics are not encouraging. According to the 2001 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (NHSDA), a project of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the number of persons with substance dependence or abuse increased from 14.5 million (6.5% of the population) in 2000 to 16.6 million (7.3%) in 2001. We can no longer afford to ignore the impact of drugs and alcohol in our country and in our world. Addiction professionals need to continuously change and reevaluate the effectiveness of their treatment approaches. There are promising new treatment approaches that need to be properly funded; instead they are being held up by political and bureaucratic red tape. The intention of this article is to promote public awareness of the growing epidemic of addiction, expand the reader's knowledge and understanding of the root causes of addiction, and to emphasize the need to reevaluate the current wisdom in the field of addiction by developing and funding more effective methods of treatment. By acting locally and thinking globally, it is possible to turn the tide of addiction rates around.
A number of factors contribute to the development of addictive behaviors such as early childhood trauma, mental disorders, family history, and environment. Early childhood trauma includes sexual and/or physical abuse, neglect, or abandonment. Some of the mental illnesses that often accompany addiction are learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, depression and a multitude of others. Addictions are often developed through an attempt to alleviate the symptoms of these illnesses.
The 2001 NHSDA report states that among adults with mental illness in 2001, 20.3% (about 3 million people) were dependent on or abused alcohol or illicit drugs. The rate among adults without serious mental illnesses was about 6%. Family history is also very important as certain genetic factors that are attributed to behavior may be passed down from generation to generation. Genetics is also further influenced by the physical environment surrounding the individual. Some people develop their addictions at an early age and never learn to cope with adversity, thereby propagating their addictive behavior. As these individuals grow older, these behaviors become more deeply rooted and their addiction grows stronger until it becomes more difficult to satisfy.
Addiction destroys a human being on every level of their existence. It ravages them mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually, leaving them virtually drowning in a sea of loneliness and despair. The hope that they may one day win their battle to stop using vanishes completely. They lose touch with their higher power and their life becomes a seemingly endless series of failures that eventually leads to total resignation to their addiction and their pain. People suffering from addiction not only abuse drugs and alcohol, but every person, place, and thing with whom they come in contact. Although, it is not their intention to cause such tumultuous pain in those around them, these battered emotions seep into all areas of their lives, making attempts at recovery futile.

In years past, addiction treatment centers have focused primarily on treating the psychological aspects of the disease of addiction, while neglecting to address the delicate inter-connective balance of the body, mind and spirit. Most individuals who enter into a 28-day treatment program receive education about their addiction, they scratch the surface of the issues that underlie their addictive behavior, and are introduced to the program of AA (Alcoholics Anonymous), NA (Narcotics Anonymous), and GA (Gamblers Anonymous).

After treatment, clients are encouraged to live in a supportive environment such as a 'way house. However, most return to their homes and lives unprepared to live in a life without drugs. In some cases, this traditional approach to treatment may be effective. Usually, the success rate of traditional addiction treatment is very low. The wisdom of Western Medicine is that if you have a symptom, treat it. If a person has a headache they take Ibuprofen/Acetaminophen to alleviate the symptoms but never determine the root cause of the headache.
The Holistic approach to medicine and treatment holds that human beings have a body, a mind and a spirit. These elements of the human being are intertwined and exist in a delicate balance that determines positive or negative physical/mental health. The holistic method respects this balance and approaches treatment with the understanding that in order to achieve positive results this equilibrium must be restored.
Body The 21st century holistic approach begins first with the body. What we ingest internally creates the foundation for the proper functioning of our mind and body. Stimulants and toxins such as caffeine, refined sugars, processed foods, food additives, and a poor overall diet contribute immensely to an imbalance in brain chemistry. It is crucial that these foods and additives be eliminated or significantly reduced in the diet in order to restore healthy brain functioning. In exchange, a complete diet consisting of fruit, fiber, fish, turkey, whole grains, protein, and lots of water must be embraced. Generally, those entering treatment are dehydrated, hypo/hyperglycemic, and protein deficient. They also need to be evaluated for certain bacterial and fungal infections, such as Candida albicans. Chemical dependency along with an insufficient diet can wreak havoc on an individual's delicate immune system. These complications can contribute to depression, agitation, and decreased energy stores and eventually to relapse.

Along with a proper diet, a good vitamin supplement regiment is also necessary because much of the vitamin, mineral, and amino acid stores, which are the building blocks of neurotransmitters in the brain, are depleted from drug and alcohol abuse. Also, exercise, meditation, neuro-feedback, and stress reduction techniques are essential in keeping our mind and body stable. Some excellent disciplines for achieving mind/body congruency are yoga, tai chi, and karate.
Acupuncture is a modality that can often assist the body in the rebalancing process. This treatment allows energy to flow into the body to stimulate the production of neurotransmitters and calm some of the cravings for drugs and alcohol. Also, nurturing the body with hot baths and steams, to rid the body of toxins, good music, and gentle relaxation will help to restore peace of mind.
Mind Current research has suggested that certain chemical imbalances in the brain appear to play an important role in contributing to addiction. The use and abuse of drugs and alcohol causes brain chemistry to deviate even further from the normal range. The 2001 NHSDA reported that those who use illicit drugs were twice as likely to have serious mental illnesses as compared with those adults who did not abuse illicit drugs. With chronic abuse, a vicious cycle is formed that grows exponentially over time. This causes a lack of concentration, emotional instability, feelings of depression, and a total absence of a moral and spiritual balance. In many cases, medication is necessary to correct the chemical imbalance resulting from mental illnesses. In some gamblers suffering from chronic relapse for example, psychotropic medication is an integral part of their recovery. It is paramount to change the root causes of the addictive behavior in order for treatment to be successful. Some effective new therapies that can effectuate tremendous changes in behavior are EMDR, NLP, and neuro-feedback.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is an approach to psychotherapy that uses eye movements to stimulate the information processing in the brain. This therapy provides much faster results than traditional therapy. It is often used for treating trauma such as: sexual abuse, domestic violence, war, crime, depression, addiction, phobias, and self-esteem issues. A recent study performed by Kaiser-Permanente found that EMDR was twice as effective and in about half the amount of care than typical therapy. Overall, EMDR allows the brain to heal its own wounds at the same rate that the rest of the body is able to heal its physical ailments, making a long and tedious recovery a thing of the past.
Another interesting modality that is very effective is Neuro Linguistic Programming (N.L.P.). NLP is the study of the structure of subjective experience. It is a therapeutic tool, which can reprogram a client's belief systems and behaviors. NLP incorporates a set of models on how communication can be affected by subjective experience. It utilizes a change in language and thought processes to understand behaviors.
Neuro-feedback is a cutting-edge technique that trains the brain in order to help it improve body function regulation and overall brain health. When there is poor brain functioning, it is recognized through the EEG (Electroencephalogram). By challenging the brain, much like muscles are challenged in physical exercise to improve their strength, normal brain functionality can be restored. The benefits of neuro-feedback include healthier sleep patterns, relief from anxiety and depression, and attention and emotional management. Emotional management is very important in how an individual reacts to a particular situation.
Spirit One of the most important steps in addiction recovery is psychological awareness. Becoming aware of personal speech, thoughts, body language, and actions is crucial in maintaining a life free from chemical dependency. It is important to learn how to avoid the pitfalls of negative thoughts and negative people. An individual must learn that it is more important to be kind than to be right, and to develop values and integrity and finally, to learn to be good to one's self and others by trusting in a higher power. By believing in a higher power, it is easier to submit oneself to recovery and treatment. The relationship that is developed through spirituality enriches life and gives hope and inspiration. Recovering individuals discover that a life free from the clutches of drugs and alcohol is not only possible, but is a life well worth living. Spirituality is the foundation for the development of a positive living philosophy. The twelve-step programs are a spiritual way of life. They are non-denominational, anonymous and non-controversial. The success of these programs is based upon "the therapeutic value of one addict helping another". Many atheist and agnostic individuals have been able to embrace the twelve steps with their own personal concept of a higher power. The role of a higher power in their life becomes G.O.D. (Good Orderly Direction). Every addict that is serious about recovery is able to attain serenity and fullness of life by applying these steps and these principles to their daily life.
Conclusion Addiction treatment has come a long way through the years and still has a long way to go. In the 21st century, it appears that the most effective approach to treating addictive disorders is the holistic approach. In this approach, individuals suffering from the disease of addiction are treated with respect, dignity, and as a whole person with a body, mind and spirit. It takes time to heal and to restore the proper functioning of these three elements, and they are fundamental to a successful recovery. It is very important to increase public awareness of addiction in order to decrease the stigma that surrounds it, which is preventing some of the afflicted from accessing necessary treatment. There are roughly 5 million people in this country who need addiction treatment that are not receiving it. If our communities embraced a more holistic attitude toward recovery, perhaps there would be a decrease in the number needed to treat and more resources would become available to the population suffering from addiction. Knowledge of addiction is a powerful tool that will assist our planet in defending itself against this moral, physical, and spiritual decay.
More information can be found at www.drugrehabcenter.com
About the author:

This article was written by: John Giordano, CAP, MAC & Trina Geiss, MPH. More information can be found at http://www.drugrehabcenter.com


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