The Root Cause of Addiction and Healthy Treatment Approach
Today’s world is overwhelmed with the effects of addiction, whether it be physical, psychological or emotional. Most addictive habits take hold of a person as a way of coping with some pain that occurred earlier in a person’s life. Many times, someone within the family, or close to the individual, betrays the individual in a hurtful or negative manner. Childhood is a very vulnerable time, and if a child cannot feel safe in his/her home or environment, then developing positive or negative coping mechanisms becomes common place.
Generally, the pain is too much to bare, and the means of coping which may develop into a habit, and become more common place the longer it is used to cope. As you may have heard it said, the addiction is not the problem, it has become the solution to the underlying problem. The concept of Adverse Childhood Experiences was extensively studied by Kaiser Permanente in 1998 to study how these experiences affect longterm health outcomes. It was found that children often experience a range of physical and psychological traumas that often have a negative impact on their life as time goes by. It was also found that just one Adverse Childhood Experience such as divorce of parents, alcohol or drug abuse in the home, or experiencing or witnessing violence can independently result in substance abuse in teenage or adulthood.
Many recovery programs developed for the treatment of drug and alcohol addictions have been formulated by dedicated healthcare professionals who are mindful of the need for Trauma Informed Care with consideration of the effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences, and the need to address issues at the root of the problem. An Integrated Holistic approach is a wonderful solution for the treatment of chemical addiction, whether Adverse Childhood Experiences are a factor or not. Approaching the patient in a holistic manner by treating the underlying cause of illness, condition, or addiction, as such, addresses the needs of the individual not his disease, illness or addiction.
The nutritional status of a person with a substance abuse addiction is most often very deficient. If a person eats a diet with inadequate amounts of vitamins, minerals and protein over a prolonged period of time, it becomes difficult to remain healthy. Research shows that restoring these nutrients to healthy levels can help addicts recover more effectively.(1) Recovering substance abusers often mistake hunger, irritability, nausea, headache, and/or dizziness for drug or alcohol cravings. Learning how to distinguish between the normal feeling of hunger and a craving for drugs helps a person in recovery to differentiate the difference, and overtime make healthier responses to these sensations. Nutritional therapy can be instrumental in helping the recovering addict feel up to making better eating habits and better life choices. Studies have implied that reducing sugar in the diet could make it easier for an opioid addict to withdraw from the drug.(2)
In addition to nutritional therapies and healthy eating counseling, many supportive therapies have been shown to be instrumental on a successful journey to restored health and recovery from substance abuse. One of the modalities necessary to assist in the recovery of substance abuse, especially in regards to Adverse Childhood Experiences, is consultation with an experienced psychotherapist. This is especially critical when there is past trauma standing in the way of recovery. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing are therapies often used by counselors to assist the recovering person in healing from past traumas. The use of breath work and the practice of mindfulness have also been used to help a recovering person cope with day to day stressors as they move forward.(3)
A well rounded treatment for the recovery from substance abuse may also include therapies such as acupuncture, massage and yoga. These modalities have all been researched over the years, and have been shown to individually have positive effects on the central nervous system. In 1998, the Touch Research Institute said that “a program of regular therapeutic massage can result in a significant, lasting increase in dopamine levels.” Dopamine is the feel good hormone; one definitely needed for recovery.
An Integrated Holistic Addiction treatment plan is a safe and effective way to recover from abusive drug and alcohol use. When treating the individual and not the addiction, by providing essential nutrients for healing and supporting emotional healing through the use of Integrated Psychotherapies, there is a increased chance for life long health and happiness.
(1) Houston, Reagan, Addiction Therapy for Drugs, Alcohol, Caffeine, and Sugar, Orthomolecular Medicine News Service, October 21, 2014
(2) Alan Gaby, MD, Nutritional Treatments for Opioid Addiction, Nutritional Medicine.
(3) How Psychotherapy Works for Drug Addiction, drug rehab.org.