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Holistic Addiction Treatment: Naturopathic Medicine

Holistic medicines often help individuals in many ways that traditional medicines cannot. While these methods have not always been as thoroughly studied or understood as traditional ones, certain people are able to find a number of benefits from holistic methods to treat, and sometimes even cure, health issues from the most minor to the most severe.

Naturopathic medicine is one of these techniques, and its methods have been used to treat a number of conditions. One of these is addiction and the issues associated with recovery including withdrawal symptoms, cravings, feelings of depression and anxiety, and others. For certain individuals, naturopathic medicine, or naturopathy, has been an extremely positive influence on their overall recovery and rehabilitation.

What is Naturopathic Medicine?

natural medicine and addiction

Naturopathy includes several holistic therapies including herbal medicine, massage, and nutrition therapy.

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, naturopathic medicine is “a medical system that has evolved from a combination of traditional practices and health care approaches popular in Europe during the 19th century.” The school of thought behind this system is holistic and “guided by a philosophy that emphasizes the healing power of nature.” Naturopathy utilizes a number of treatments, both traditional and holistic, to help a person heal.

This system abides by many of the same principles as primary care medicine, including:

  • First do no harm.
  • Physician as teacher.
  • Treatment of the whole person, not symptoms.

However, the most important concept of the practice concerns nature’s ability to heal also known as vis medicatrix naturae. This is why practitioners of the system use only methods that are

  • The least invasive
  • The most natural
  • The most likely to “remove obstacles to the body’s natural processes for maintaining and restoring of health”

What Types of Treatment Fall Under the Category of Naturopathy for Addiction?

A practitioner of naturopathy may use a number of different modalities during substance abuse recovery, including:

  • Nutrition counseling: This method is helpful as many addicted individuals, especially those who abuse stimulants like methamphetamine and cocaine, become extremely malnourished and are in need of proper nutritional counseling and care.
  • Homeopathy: Rooted in the concept that a substance known to cause the symptoms of a disease in a healthy person will help cure an individual who is already suffering from the disease, homeopathy has been used in many instances as a treatment for cravings, withdrawal symptoms, and other issues related to addiction.
  • Hydrotherapy: Using water to treat sensations of pain, hydrotherapy can be beneficial for those who experience painful withdrawal symptoms or struggle with pain after attempting to quit opioid medicines.
  • Herbal therapy: Herbal therapy utilizes plants and their stalks, seeds, leaves, etc. to treat specific issues like withdrawal symptoms, insomnia, mood imbalances, cravings, etc.
  • Massage: The ability for massage to soothe an individual and to reduce stress can be extremely beneficial. In addition, because massage is not a “talking therapy,” it can help many individuals who are uncomfortable discussing their feelings and looking for an alternative to this type of treatment.
  • Acupuncture: Acupuncture can help a person achieve balance during their recovery, an important element, as well as help regulate temperature, which leads to comfort, reduced issues with insomnia, and other benefits.
  • Exercise therapy: Not only does exercise release endorphins, it also relieves stress and has a number of other positive benefits on individuals living with addiction.
  • Meditation: Like exercise, it reduces stress and can also be done safely, even by people with a limited range of motion. Meditation also promotes mindfulness, or the concept of awareness toward our thoughts, feelings, and actions that does not end in judgment, a very important and helpful concept for individuals attempting to fight cravings and recognize triggers in their day-to-day lives.

A naturopathic practitioner may also use different types of counseling to help individuals discuss their feelings about addiction and recovery and to become more self-aware. The methods listed above will often be used in conjunction with traditional treatment methods, but the primary goal of naturopathic medicine is to provide the most natural and least invasive treatment that also promotes and encourages the body’s innate functions and natural state.

Why Do People Turn to Naturopathic Medicine for Addiction Treatment?

According to Bastyr University, “Naturopathic doctors… blend centuries-old knowledge and philosophy that nature is the most effective healer with current research on health and human services.” For these reasons, many individuals turn to this concept for their addiction treatment.

  • Naturopathic methods include the use of natural substances for treatment (herbal therapy, homeopathy, etc.), often in place of pharmaceuticals. For someone who has been addicted to drugs, this could seem safer and more beneficial. Many recovering addicts are concerned about the possibility of merely moving from one addiction to another.
  • The system of naturopathy utilizes ancient methods as well as contemporary ones, attempting to create a treatment program that is not only time-honored but is also influenced by current medicinal knowledge.
  • Naturopathy teaches that the individual’s whole condition and self should be acknowledged, studied, and treated, rather than merely treating a handful of symptoms. For addicted individuals, many of whom are wary about being given easy answers but no real help, this can be very reassuring.

Are Naturopathic Methods for Addiction Treatment Effective?

Just like so many other treatment approaches, no one naturopathic method is guaranteed to be effective for every individual. That is why it is important to thoroughly research a method that appeals to you and discuss the pros and cons with your doctor. There are also a number of licensed practitioners with whom you can discuss the method or methods you choose at length and find out if they may be right for you.

It is always important to discuss any alternative approaches you are considering with your doctor before you begin to use them. Just because these methods are natural does not mean that they are free of side effects or that they won’t react negatively with other treatments you are using (especially pharmaceuticals).

Naturopathy and its treatment modalities have been used in many ways to treat issues caused by addiction, and numerous individuals swear by certain techniques they believe have been indispensible to their care and recovery. The only way to know for sure, though, if one of these treatments will work for you is to try it because every individual and every addiction syndrome is different and must be treated differently.

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