Win the battle against drug addiction with a holistic approach

Addiction to illegal drugs is one of the scourges of the world we live in today. At least 15.3 million people around the globe suffer with drug use disorders and of this number it is estimated that 9.2 million use heroin. The good news is that many addicts want to change their lives and seek help to overcome their substance reliance. This path towards a drug free life often ironically involves medication assisted treatment, an approach which works for some recovering addicts. Others however prefer to regain control over their lives without the need for more drugs – even if they are of the prescription variety. They employ a range of alternative techniques to get clean. Here we take a closer look at how it is possible to beat drug addiction by taking a holistic approach which involves mind, body and spirit.Mental attentiveness

Mental illness is extremely common among people with substance abuse issues. According to a study published in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) around half of those who suffer with a serious mental condition are also abuse substances including illegal drugs. Even those who are not considered to be suffering from mental illness will face challenges to their way of thinking during a period of recovery.

Overcoming these demons is likely to involve a combination of talking therapies such as counseling, and learning to focus the mind away from drugs and onto new interests. Taking time each day to care for the mind and teach it to resist negative thoughts and old attitudes can be an extremely worthwhile part of the recovery process.

Drug taking is often accompanied by a lifestyle which involves spending large amounts of time with other addicts. It is important to sever these links and develop a new social context. Taking up new interests like reading will distract the addict, exercise the brain and by joining a book club or library can help build a new circle of friends.

Physical fitness

Exercise is increasingly being seen as a powerful tool in the fight against addiction. In the period after quitting the substance of choice, the addict’s mind and body physically crave and miss the effect of the drug. This is because the chemical release of endorphins (hormones in the body) which causes the ‘high’ feeling addicts describe, is no longer occurring. Physical exercise can however mirror this process by causing a similar dispersal of endorphins into the body.

An added bonus of regular physical exercise is that studies show it can reduce stress. As everyday stress can add to the pressure faced by a recovering addict and increase the likelihood of relapse, exercise can act as an effective safeguard and support.

Various exercise options are available but an increasingly popular choice for drug treatment therapy is yoga. Calming the mind, improving concentration and promoting patience are all products of regular yoga sessions which can contribute towards an effective substance addiction recovery program. Addicts often feel that something is missing from their lives and use their substance of choice to try to fill that void. Using yoga as part of a comprehensive recovery program can help strengthen addicts’ resolve to stay clean during challenging times. The tools honed in yoga can help the recovering addict have greater control in relation to dealing with cravings, insomnia and agitation and so can prove a useful tool in the armory required to resist a return to substance abuse.

Spiritual awareness

Recovering from an addiction is a difficult journey, but one of the biggest challenges is developing sufficient self-worth to want to get better. Reaching this point of self awareness through greater personal understanding and the willingness to love oneself is about getting to grips with the inner spirit. Learning to respect and listen to the inner spirit can be a major part of an addict’s recovery.

Many former drug addicts credit their ability to kick the habit at least in part to spirituality. Evidence from scientific studies supports this position and suggests that incorporating a spiritual element into rehabilitation programs can lead to higher abstinence rates than other types of treatment.

Those whose spiritual practices involve joining a religious organization often enjoy particular benefits such as the group support provided in a collective worship setting. Faith based recovery programs tend to focus not only on beating the addiction but also on strengthening the individual’s religious belief.

The bottom line is that help is out there for those who want to overcome drug addiction without reliance on other medications. As however with any rehabilitation program, the first step has to be an acknowledgement and acceptance that a problem exists and needs to be addressed. Taking ownership of a drug addiction problem is a vital first piece in the jigsaw to build a new drug free life.

contributed by Jenni Falconer

jenni@calibri.org