If a member of your family is suffering from addiction you will know the pain and suffering that it causes. A feeling of helplessness, loss of control and ill health can be just some of the symptoms. More seriously the life and death of stars including Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix or Amy Winehouse show that addiction can often bring an unhappy and untimely end.
Whether it is drugs, alcohol or any one of a number of addictive conditions it can be difficult to understand how someone can become addicted. A lot of the blame for addiction can be placed on our own bodies, specifically our limbic system. The limbic system controls our brain’s pleasure response. For example, when someone uses a drug for the first time they will experience an increase in pleasure caused by a rush of dopamine released in the brain. Once this has happened the brain chemistry is changed, reflecting the new higher levels of dopamine. Therefore, someone can quickly require the addictive substance just to bring their dopamine levels up to normal again and require considerably more to get the increased level of dopamine that’s required to reach the pleasure high again. This cycle drives the individual to seek out the substance thus forming the addiction. The compulsion to keep taking the substance can cause severe issues with their life, soon leading to a point where a crossroads is reached where recovery and rehabilitation becomes a must.
Breaking The Cycle of Addiction
There are few people who can just stop taking an addictive substance, a process commonly known as ‘cold turkey’ where their abstain from the substance which they have been addicted to. There are numerous risks with suddenly stopping the intake of an addictive substance, especially if they have been taking it excessively for some time. Symptoms of sudden withdrawal can include anxiety, visual and auditory hallucinations, convulsions, whole body tremors, nausea, vomiting, insomnia, shakiness and convulsions as well as the risk of more serious conditions including heart failure.
Taking a cold turkey approach is also not very effective, with studies showing a high individuals relapse rate, specifically over 90% of heroin users and 84% cocaine users. A better approach is to engage in a combined detox and therapy program which addresses both the substance addiction and any potential mental illness or other concerns which may go alongside it.
Traditional Rehab Options
There are a number of options for rehabilitation, however, the basic program will encompass the following elements:
- Detox – to wean the individual from the addictive substance
- Counselling – to support a change in behavior
- Medication – particularly for alcohol, drugs or tobacco addiction
- Treatment – for any underlying mental illness
- Follow up – to prevent relapse
Most rehab programs take place in a clinical environment and are generally highly effective, however, there are some individuals who would rather undertake treatment in a different environment or use a more holistic rehab approach.
Beyond Clinical Rehab
A clinical or hospital style rehab program will not suit everyone; there are countless people who would rail against spending time in such environment and this could hold back their treatment or cause them to leave the program before their full treatment has been completed with obvious ramifications for their recovery.
There are, however, a number of rehab providers who can provide a non-clinical environment from ranches to beach side retreats. It provides more of an encouragement for the individual to persevere and remain committed to the program as well as the treatment generally being more effective.
Of course this is not an option open to everyone; those who can go through this route will find that there will be a higher clinician to patient ratio, a totally personalized treatment program and the benefit of surroundings that positively encourage rehab with small groups and beautiful locations allowing relaxation and distressing to play a key part of a successful rehabilitation.
Non-clinical rehab allows patients to engage in a wider range of activities to support their rehabilitation, acknowledging that every individual is different; they can find a methodology that gels with them directly beyond the clinical processes. It allows the patient to find new techniques and habits to support their life beyond rehab, and can overall create a better quality of life going forward.
What is Holistic Rehab?
Holistic rehab is a process of rehabilitation that blends a unique program of holistic techniques including yoga, art therapy and acupuncture. The flexibility allows a program to be developed with the individual and their needs in mind. There are a range of holistic treatments available. Some of the most often used techniques are as follows:
The word “yoga” is derived from the Sanskrit word “Yuj” meaning “ to unite or integrate”; it uses meditation and movement to promote the harmonious union of the three components of a human being that are the body, mind, and soul. Yoga is said to be the holistic way of life to make a prayerful discipline, creating unity between the body, mind, and soul.
Sat Bir Khalsa, director of the Kundalini Research Institute and an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School wrote a study on an Indian pilot program which featured yoga as the main intervention in a substance-abuse treatment. “When people take substances, they’re seeking a certain experience, whether it’s escapist or transcendental or just wanting a different psychological state, to get away from whatever is making them unhappy. Yoga is an alternative, a positive way to generate a change in consciousness that, instead of providing an escape, empowers people with the ability to access a peaceful, restorative inner state that integrates mind, body, and spirit.”
It has been found that yoga can increase immunity. A recent Norwegian study showed that yoga can have an effect at a cellular level. 
Also a Harvard study has found that yoga can counter insomnia and improve sleep quality.
This is alongside the marked improvements in flexibility, weight loss and reduction of stress which can be found in yoga and meditation programs.
Art therapy allows individuals to use their imagination and creativity to express themselves in a way which they may not vocalize. SAMHSA’s Substance Abuse Treatment Group Therapy guide states that “art therapy as a type of expressive group therapy that can help people express their thoughts and feelings that they may not be able to say with words. It expands the ways a person can convey ideas and emotions and provides an opportunity to explore, understand, and resolve issues in a person’s life that he may not feel comfortable talking about in a regular conversation.” 
Art therapy can encompass a wide range of artistic outlets such as drawing, painting and sculpture as well as music and dancing. It can provide an outlet for relaxation which does not depend on drink or drugs and can enhance the individual’s self esteem.
Allowing patients to work with horses is a powerful technique as gaining the trust of these large animals is a two way street and can allow individuals to develop relationships as well as reducing anxiety and stress and improve anger management. Horses do not judge and can sense an individual’s feelings very well, requiring the development of a relationship based mostly on nonverbal communication.
Additionally, a study by the University of Rostock in Germany shows that human-animal interactions increase levels of oxytocin which can trigger an increase in trust towards others as well as enhancing empathy and learning, and even improving pain management. This is all of particular importance to individuals who have been addicted to drugs or alcohol and may have low self-confidence or trust issues. 
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
EMDR was first developed by American clinical psychologist, Dr Francine Shapiro, in the 1980’s as a Senior Research Fellow at the Mental Research Institute. It is a psychotherapy technique said to heal people of symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing life experiences. Eye movements are used during one part of the session. After the clinician has determined which memory to target first, he asks the client to hold different aspects of that event or thought in mind and to use his/her eyes to track the therapist’s hand as it moves back and forth across the client’s field of vision. As this happens, internal associations arise and the clients begin to process the memory and disturbing feelings. In successful EMDR therapy, the meaning of painful events is transformed on an emotional level.
Brain Paint is a process that uses a machine to measure activity within the patient’s brain. A monitor is attached to their head which shows the brain-waves comprised of beta, sensory motor rhythm, as well as alpha and theta waves which are shown on the screen with short bursts of sounds.
Beta waves are associated with problem-solving and concentration; alpha waves, relaxation; theta waves, sleep; sensory motor rhythm waves link the functions of the body and brain. The patient undergoes meditation to enter a relaxed state and are instructed to keep their concentration on the color spectrum of continuous wavelike motions set against short, yet continual, bursts of sound. The idea is to allow the unconscious mind to learn new behaviors.
According to the BrainPaint System website, 77% of substance dependent subjects remaining sober one year after treatment as compared to 44% of control subjects.
These are just a few of the many treatments which can be used to support traditional 12-step programs and medical interventions ensuring the most effective and successful rehabilitation process for every individual.