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Holistic Addiction Treatment: Homeopathy
A popular treatment for addiction and substance abuse today is the use of homeopathic medicine or homeopathy. This treatment, when used in conjunction with other medicinal treatments, can be beneficial for certain individuals who are hoping to minimize withdrawal symptoms, reduce cravings, and change their behavior toward the use of dangerous substances. Homeopathy is experimental, but many people living with addiction have found help and achieved real, beneficial change by using this method.
What is Homeopathy?
Homeopathy is a type of alternative medicine that was developed over 200 years ago. Treatments that use homeopathy are often called remedies. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, “Homeopathic remedies are derived from substances that come from plants, minerals, or animals, such as red onion, arnica (mountain herb), crushed whole bees, white arsenic, poison ivy, belladonna (deadly nightshade), and stinging nettle.” These substances are usually mixed with sugar and turned into pellets that are meant to be placed under the tongue but may also be made into ointments, creams, tablets, gels, and other types of products to be consumed or used in different ways.
In general, these remedies are defined by two specific principles:
- Like Cures Like: The concept that an individual with a specific disease can receive benefits from (and possibly be cured by) substances that produce similar symptoms in individuals without the disease or disorder
- The Law of Minimum Dose: The concept that medications or remedies given at lower doses will be more effective; the lower the dose is, the stronger its effectiveness becomes
Homeopathic remedies have been used to treat many different types of ailments, from colds and migraines to disorders like asthma and depression. In some cases, these methods can be beneficial to individuals living with addiction.
Why Do Addicted Individuals Use Homeopathy?
One of the strongest reasons why a person would reach out to homeopathy as an addiction treatment is because an individual who has struggled with substance abuse may be concerned about the prospect of becoming addicted to another medication.
For example, some people who go into treatment for opioid addiction wind up abusing their methadone medication because it causes the same euphoria that other opioids cause when taken in high doses. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Recent reports have highlighted the potential dangers, including death, of the improper use (or abuse) of methadone.” Even though methadone (and many other medications used to treat different types of addiction syndromes) can be extremely beneficial, there is a possibility that it could be abused by or cause serious side effects in the individual. Concern over these issues may cause certain people to turn to homeopathy.
Another reason one might choose homeopathic remedies for addiction treatment is because of the belief in the Law of Minimum Dose. For this reason, these substances are often more diluted or given in much smaller doses than prescription or over-the-counter medications. Therefore, they create little to no side effects in users and are safe for anyone, including children and animals.
What are the Benefits of Homeopathy as an Addiction Treatment?
Certain types of homeopathic remedies have been found to be helpful for certain addicted individuals. “Treatments are ‘individualized’ or tailored to each person––it is not uncommon for different people with the same condition to receive different remedies” (NCCIH). This is beneficial in many ways because treatment is focused on your specific needs instead of what works well for others.
The practice of homeopathy also takes into account the complete individual, including past experiences, spirituality, physical and mental health, and other factors. It does not merely treat symptoms but instead requires the assessment of all these factors by a homeopath to find an individual’s constitutional type. Then, a specific remedy can be determined.
Specific homeopathic treatments for addiction, cravings, and withdrawal symptoms include:
- Lachesis, which treats alcohol cravings, headaches, and issues with swallowing, all experienced by many individuals battling alcoholism
- Nux vomica, which treats common withdrawal symptoms like nausea, vomiting, irritability, and constipation
- Arsenicum album, which treats many of the same issues as well as diarrhea
- Belladonna, which can be beneficial to those who have stopped abusing opioids and may be experiencing hallucinations
- Tabaccum, which can be helpful in suppressing nicotine cravings
What are the Drawbacks of Homeopathy as an Addiction Treatment?
Some individuals who decide to use homeopathy to treat their withdrawal symptoms, cravings, or other issues associated with addiction do not take into consideration that a well-rounded treatment regimen is still important. According to the NCCIH, “Several key concepts of homeopathy are inconsistent with fundamental concepts of chemistry and physics,” making these remedies hard to evaluate and test for their effectiveness.
In addition, these substances are not regulated in the same way pharmaceuticals are. Though the FDA regulates homeopathic remedies, they are not officially approved by any governing body to treat any specific disorder. And, even though homeopathic remedies are usually very safe because they are given in such small doses, there is still a chance they could cause negative effects on an individual, especially if they were to react improperly with another medication the person is taking.
What is the Best Way to Use Homeopathy for Addiction Treatment?
If you decide to use one or more homeopathic remedies in the treatment of your addiction, make sure to do so safely, as to allow yourself the best chance of recovery and the best possible results.
- Research the remedies that have been known to be effective for your condition (the type of drug you are addicted to, the withdrawal symptoms you are experiencing, etc.).
- Learn about the possible repercussions of the remedy and how best to avoid them.
- Consult an experienced homeopath and have all the factors associated with your constitutional type assessed so you can find the best remedies for your personal situation.
- Talk to your doctor about any homeopathic remedies before you start to use them and make sure they won’t react negatively with any medications you are currently taking.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, “Homeopathy alone should not be used to treat alcoholism,” or any type of substance abuse disorder, but it “can be a supportive therapy along with counseling.” This is the best possible use for homeopathy, and the practice can be especially beneficial if you are choosing to forego pharmaceutical treatments.