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Alternative Medicines for Alcoholism & Drug Addiction
by the Editors of Consumer Guide

Browse the article Alternative Medicines for Alcoholism & Drug Addiction Alternative Medicines for Alcoholism & Drug Addiction

Addiction to alcohol or other drugs (from barbiturates to cocaine) is a physical and emotional dependence on that substance and the effects it produces. It involves a loss of control, often causing devastating effects on all aspects of the individual's life, including work, family, and health.

Many alternative therapists assert that conventional medicine's treatment program for addiction fails to support the body adequately as it withdraws from the once-steady presence of alcohol or other drugs. The following therapies attempt to offer that support. They are often used in combination with counseling and other support programs that address any underlying psychological causes of addiction.

Nutritional Therapy for Alcoholism & Drug Addition

People with alcohol or drug addiction are usually malnourished and have suffered some damage to the body, such as liver damage. Nutritional therapy attempts to correct any nutritional shortcomings and to help the body eliminate toxins.

Several supplements can aid in the detoxification process, including zinc and vitamin C. People with alcohol addiction are often deficient in these nutrients anyway, as alcoholism can severely affect a person's judgment about diet and can limit the body's ability to absorb certain nutrients.

Alcohol and drug use may increase the body's load of free radicals, compounds that can damage tissues. Antioxidants are, therefore, recommended for their ability to neutralize free radicals. Nutrients that are antioxidants include:

•vitamins C and E

Alcoholics are almost always deficient in the B vitamins, particularly vitamin B1 (thiamine). In fact, this deficiency is responsible for many of the behaviors exhibited by severe alcoholics. Thiamine levels need to be restored during rehabilitation, which often requires injections of the vitamin at least initially.

Other helpful supplements are quite numerous, including calcium and magnesium.

The majority of people with alcohol addiction have a state of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). Unanswered is which came first: Did the addiction and resulting malnutrition bring on hypoglycemia, or did a previous state of hypoglycemia set up a type of craving for alcohol? Either way, to remedy low blood sugar:

•Significantly increase the intake of unrefined complex carbohydrates, including whole grains and fresh vegetables and fruits.
•Avoid all sugars, from corn syrup to fruit juices.
•Reduce the intake of refined carbohydrates, such as white bread.

As these dietary changes are made, many practitioners of nutritional therapy recommend adding more protein and supplementing with the B complex, chromium, and vitamin C.

Herbal Medicine for Alcoholism & Drug Addiction

Herbs can ease some alcohol or drug withdrawal symptoms (from anxiety to insomnia) and help detoxify the body. They also may be used to reduce the addicted person's craving for alcohol and other drugs.

Especially helpful are herbs that influence the nervous system, gently encouraging a relaxed and sedated state. These include catnip, chamomile, peppermint, and skullcap, which can be used together as a tea. To replace mild depression with a state of calmness, St. John's wort is often prescribed.

For detoxification, several herbs contribute to cleansing the blood, including burdock root and echinacea (purple coneflower). Others such as milk thistle, which contains silymarin, support the liver -- the main toxin-filtering organ -- and may help prevent drug-induced damage to this organ.

Kudzu root, often prescribed as a bitter tea, has long been used by traditional Chinese doctors to reduce the appetite for alcohol. Recent animal research suggests that alcohol-free kudzu root extract can cut the consumption of alcohol in half. (The patients in this study, however, were a breed of hamsters.)

Acupuncture for Alcoholism & Drug Addiction

The ancient Chinese science of acupuncture has earned widespread regard in America as an effective treatment for alcohol and drug addiction. Success rates can be as high as 50 percent of patients treated.

Acupuncture looks at addiction as an imbalance in the flow of the body's vital life energy, or qi, particularly on the kidney, liver, or nervous system meridians (channels). Using tiny needles inserted in particular acupuncture points on the body, this therapy works to correct the qi imbalances. Not only does this ease or eliminate withdrawal symptoms, but the patient's mind is then prepared to tackle some of the factors that led to the addiction.

Auriculotherapy, a form of acupuncture that treats the entire body through points on the ears, is particularly recommended for addiction treatment. Treatment usually consists of several months of acupuncture sessions coupled with counseling and lifestyle modifications.

One clinical study done in Minneapolis tested acupuncture therapy on the ear of people with severe alcoholism. Patients who received fake acupuncture therapy had more than twice the number of relapses into drinking than those who received real acupuncture therapy.

Acupuncturists, traditional Chinese physicians, some naturopathic and osteopathic physicians, and even a few medical doctors are trained to give acupuncture treatments.

The Benefits of Working Out

Adopting a regular exercise program is an important part of addiction treatment. Not only does it improve overall health, but exercising also can cut down stress and anxiety, which may have provoked the addiction in the first place. Exercise also stimulates the production of endorphins -- the body's own natural opiates.

Guided Imagery and Creative Visualization for Alcoholism & Drug Addiction

Many people who are addicted to alcohol or other drugs started using these substances as a way to relax, ease tension, or improve self-esteem and confidence. Guided imagery and creative visualization can teach people to reach these ideals without the assistance of harmful toxins.

For example, a treatment session can consist of a patient picturing the positive results of a drug-free state (from the concrete, such as clear, shiny, pink, breathing airways, to the abstract, such as beams of light radiating from the lungs), as well as the negative aspects of a drug-induced state.

Breathing exercises and other relaxation techniques are used to clear the mind as a way to maximize these imagery exercises. The mental exercises can also give the mind negative suggestions about the particular alcohol or drug so that the next time the substance is consumed the body produces unpleasant effects. (This is similar to conventional medicine's drugs that produce unwanted side effects whenever alcohol is consumed.)

Progressive muscle relaxation is often performed before a guided imagery exercise as a way of "warming up." It involves letting go of tension in small, isolated steps until you are relaxed.

After you're relaxed, imagine and revel in the positive aspects of sobriety -- healthy liver, clear mind, proud loved ones -- and picture the degrading, unhealthy aspects of addiction. These exercises, which can be scripted more precisely by a practitioner, can reinforce the will to sobriety.

Other Alcoholism & Drug Addiction Therapies

•Biofeedback Training for Alcoholism & Drug Addiction -- The training, together with relaxation techniques, can help bring relaxation and reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
•Chiropractic Therapy for Alcoholism & Drug Addiction -- Adjustments and manipulations can correct any disturbances that may be contributing to physical withdrawal symptoms.
•Homeopathy for Alcoholism & Drug Addiction -- There are several common remedies for different addictions and different types of addicts.
•Hypnotherapy for Alcoholism & Drug Addiction -- Hypnotic trances can give the subconscious mind suggestions of new ways to behave -- important in maintaining abstinence.
•Meditation for Alcoholism & Drug Addiction -- Regular meditation can encourage relaxation and lessen some withdrawal symptoms.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. This information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.


Natural Tips I found to hopefully help....
Heal your body from drug addiction or dependancy.


Diet makes a great deal of difference. For our health, and especially for healing addictions. When we eat foods that are not appropriate for our own constitutional needs, we lose power. The most common problem with diet is sugar and processed foods. Sugar comes in many forms--fruit, fruit juices, sucrose, fructose, honey, corn syrup and maltodextrin, among others. First of all, it is important to identify where the sugar is in our life. It is hidden in so many foods, that it is easy to overlook. When we eat many foods with sugar, especially in a cool or cold climate, or during the winter, we can weaken ourselves in a number of ways. I can speak form experience--when working with addiction, it is important to be conscious about sugar in every form, and eliminate as much as possible of it from the diet. Instead, focus on strengthening foods that will create longer-lasting and steadier energy and warmth, such as grains, beans, lightly cooked vegetables, a few nuts (whole and unroasted) and seeds (especially fermented), and some dairy and meat, where appropriate.

This kind of diet will lead to a steadiness that helps create a space for us to be in that will be of invaluable help in healing addiction.


Herbal remedies

Herbs are increasingly coming back into vogue. In many ways, they have never left our consciousness, and have always been with us as mutual allys. Let us not forget we share the planet with our green companions so that we can offer them respect and allow ourselves to be in a healing space with them.

There are a number of ways that herbs can help us heal addiction. Herbalists will differentiate the therapeutic categories to help clarify what herbs will be the most effective, and how they should be used. See the sidebar, "Herbal Programs for Addiction"


One of the most important herbal treatments for addictions are cleansers that can help remove residues of the drug substances, or other irritants from the blood system and tissues. I have found from experience that the faster one can remove these substances from the body, the better chances of success.

Sweating is one of the best forms of cleansing, if it is done properly, because it is a passive form of cleansing, and does not place an extra strain on the kidneys and liver. Try the following tea blend to help initiate sweating and enhance the effectiveness of the cleansing process.

Yarrow, elder flowers and peppermint leaf, one part each. Infuse the herbs in a pot of water (1 part of the herbs to 10 parts water, weight to volume) and let them steep for 15 minutes. Drink 2 cups during the sauna, and follow with a cup or two of water.

It is also a good idea to clean out the lymph system with red root and echinacea, either in tincture or tea form. Take these herbs for 4 or 5 days and then enjoy a lymphatic massage. This cleansing massage is performed with the aid of lots of oil. I recommend the addition of 20 drops of rosemary oil (to 1 ounce of oil) to stimulate circulation. Start at the back of the head, move down the neck with repeated strokes, then around the collarbone, under the armpits (if you're not ticklish!) and down along the ribs, around the breast area, down to the abdomen and move in a circular motion, clockwise to stimulate bowel elimination. Then start from the feet (especially on top between the bones), stroke towards the ankles, then around the ankles, up the inside of the leg (just below the bone), up to groin, along the inguinal groove, and another circular motion around the abdomen. This massage does wonders for eliminating drugs and toxic wastes.

It is also good to combine this massage with a liver flush--the other special method for removing toxins from the body efficiently and quickly.

The Liver Flush
Liver flushes are used to stimulate elimination of wastes from the body, to open and cool the liver, to increase bile flow, and to improve overall liver functioning. They also help purify the blood and the lymph. I have taken liver flushes for many years now and can heartily recommend them. And if you make the herbal formula right, it can be quite tasty. Here are the instructions:.

1. Mix any fresh-squeezed citrus juices together to make 1 cup of liquid. Orange and grapefruit juices are good, but always mix in some lemon or lime. The final mix should have a sour taste--the more sour, the more cleansing and activating. This mixture can be watered down to taste with spring or distilled water.

2. Add 1-2 cloves of fresh-squeezed garlic, plus a small amount of fresh ginger juice, which you can obtain by grating ginger on a cheese or vegetable grater and then pressing the resulting fibers in a garlic press. (Note: Both garlic and ginger have shown amazing liver-protective qualities in recent studies (Hikino, 1986). Garlic contains strong antioxidant principles, and also provides important sulfur compounds that the liver uses to build certain enzymes.)

3. Mix in 1 tablespoon of high-quality olive oil, blend (or shake well in a glass container), and drink.

4. Follow the liver flush with two cups of cleansing herbal tea. I like "Polari-Tea", which consists of the herbs below. I make plenty of this tea and keep it in a quart canning jar, so it is always available.

Fennel (1 part)
Fenugreek (1 part)
Flax (1 part)
Licorice (1/4 part)
Burdock (1/4 part)
Peppermint (1 part)

Directions: Simmer the herbs for 20 minutes, then add 1 part peppermint and let the tea steep for an additional 10 minutes. For extra soothing properties, try adding 1/2 part marshmallow root (cut and sifted) to the initial tea blend.

5. Drink the liver flush in the morning (preferably after some stretching and breathing exercises), then do not eat any other food for one hour. This liver flush can be taken in cycles of 10 days on and 3 days off, as needed.

There are also several good commercial formulas for liver-cleansing available in natural food stores everywhere, both in bulk and in tea-bag form. One product I can recommend is a blend called "Puri-Tea" from herbalist Brigitte Mars. It contains peppermint, red clover, fennel, licorice, cleavers, dandelion, Oregon grape, burdock root, butternut bark, chickweed, parsley root, and nettles.

Reducing withdrawal effects
Some supportive nutrients can be very helpful during drug elimination. Water is most essential to help clear our cells, tissues, organs, and body. "Dilution is the solution to pollution" is still one of my favorite cleansing statements, along with "Elimination equals Illumination," by Bethany Arg Isle. Extra fiber can also aid colon function and pull more toxins from the body.
A general increase in nutritional supplements is usually helpful in detoxification from drugs, with or without a change in diet, though better with, of course. Vitamin C and the other antioxidants-A and zinc, E and selenium, L-cysteine and other amino acids are all useful, in addition to the basic vitamins and minerals. Glutathione, which is formed from L-cysteine in the body, helps to decrease the toxicity of most drugs and chemicals through its function in detoxification enzymes.
An orthomolecular approach to drug detoxification includes the B vitamins, minerals, a high amount of vitamin C, antioxidants, and L- amino acids. These work better with a food diet than with fasting, so the alkaline, fruit-and vegetable-based diet is best used with a high nutrient intake. With a more liquid diet, minimizing supplements is suggested, maybe using just vitamin C, some minerals, and an antioxidant formula, along with some herbs and chlorophyll.
Many people find the use of herbs beneficial in drug detoxification. Goldenseal root powder is probably the most important here. Its alkaloids help clear toxicity, and it stimulates the liver to better perform its detox function. One large or two small capsules three times daily before meals for one or two weeks can be helpful. Herbs that work as laxatives, diuretics, and blood or lymph cleansers can also be used in specific formulas. Valerian root and other tranquilizing herbs may also be very useful during excitatory withdrawal symptoms, such as anxiety or insomnia. Chlorophyll, taken as tablets or liquid, has a mild purifying and rejuvenating quality.

The following program is a general one for drug detoxification and for suppport during drug use. The ranges of many nutrients allow varying amounts to be used depending upon needs. During withdrawal, the higher levels may be used, with mid-range levels used during the three to six weeks of detox after the initial withdrawal. Lower ranges may provide basic support during general drug usage.

Drug Detoxification Nutrient Program

Water 2­3½ qt.

Fiber 20­40 g.

Vitamin A 10,000 IUs Iron10­20 mg.
Beta-carotene 20,000­40,000 IUs Magnesium 400­800 mg.+
Vitamin D 200­400 IUs Manganese 5­10 mg.
Vitamin E 200­800 IUs Molybdenum 150­300 mcg.
Vitamin K 300 mcg. Potassium 100­500 mg.
Thiamine (B1) 25­100 mg. Selenium 200­300 mcg.
Riboflavin (B2) 25­100 mg. Silicon 50­150 mg.
Niacinamide (B3) 50­100 mg. Vanadium 200­400 mcg.
Niacin (B3) 50­1,000 mg.* Zinc 30­60 mg.
Pantothenic acid (B5) 250­1,000 mg.
Pyridoxine (B6) 25­100 mg.
Pyridoxal-5-phosphate 25­50 mg. L-amino acids 1,500 mg.
Cobalamin (B12) 100­250 mcg. L-cysteine 250­500 mg.
Folic acid 800 mcg. L-glutamine 250­1,000 mg.
Biotin 300 mcg. Essential fatty acids, 2­4 capsules
Choline 500­1,000 mg. or Flaxseed oil 2­4 teaspoons
Inositol 500­1,000 mg. Goldenseal root 3­6 capsules
Vitamin C 2­10 g.
Bioflavonoids 250­500 mg.

Calcium 650­1,200 mg.+
Chromium 200­500 mcg.
Copper 2­3 mg.
Iodine 150 mcg.

*Increase dosage slowly.
+Higher amounts are needed for hyperactive withdrawal states, aches, or cravings.