How to Use Holistic Therapy During Drug Rehabilitation

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How to Use Holistic Therapy During Drug Rehabilitation

Holistic Treatment Benefits

Many withdrawal symptoms come as a result of the body attempting to normalize after having relied on a drug for an extended time. As the brain and body attempt to restore normal function, the mood-stabilizing chemicals may fluctuate causing symptoms like anxiety, depression and fatigue. This is where holistic therapies can be quite effective.

There are many benefits of holistic treatment, including improvements to overall health, relief of pain and help for the person to achieve a well-balanced lifestyle.

Treatments like herbs and aromatherapy can help reduce stress and stimulate the body. For example, peppermint essential oils are known to open the airways and increase blood circulation. Massage may also help reduce stress or anxiety and increase in circulation. Yoga and stretching can help alleviate tension and anxiety. Natural treatments such as these help patients work through withdrawal symptoms without medication.

The following are common holistic treatments used in recovery.

Massage TherapyMassage

Stress is possibly one of the biggest enemies of recovery. Patients who feel stress and anxiety are more likely to be tempted to use again in an attempt to quell those feelings.

A 1989 Norwegian study showed that massage results in a 16% rise in beta-endorphins. Endorphins are in a class of feel-good chemicals that help us feel pleasure. With even just a short massage of under an hour, patients reported feeling less agitated and more positive. These results are attributed solely to the use of massage as no substances were used. Anyone who has made it through recovery or worked with patients going through recovery knows that a positive attitude can mean the difference between success and failure of any program.

Anyone who suffered from anxiety before addiction is more prone to anxiety in the post-acute withdrawal syndrome phase.


Aromatherapy alone cannot cure addiction, but it still can have great value as an adjunct to comprehensive therapy. A few benefits of aromatherapy for addiction include:

AromatherapyEnhanced relaxation – Early recovery can seem overwhelming for virtually anyone going through the process. Certain essential oils, such as lavender, rose and frankincense, have been shown to have a calming effect.

Increased clarity – Cognitive impairment is a fairly common symptom of withdrawal, and it can occur in the acute or post-acute withdrawal stage. Essential oils like lemon, peppermint and lavender are known to help knock out some brain fog and increase mental clarity.

Improved sleep – Sleep disturbances are common in the post-acute stage of recovery. Essential oils like Bergamot, lemon and jasmine are believed to help improve sleep. Try using these essential oils in a diffuser or diluted pillow mist right before bedtime.

Yoga and Stretching

Stress, anxiety and are common side effects in both stages of drug withdrawal, and yoga may help improve the severity of symptoms.

The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine reported on a study that showed an increase in gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) levels of those who practice yoga. Gamma-aminobutyric acid is a chemical messenger that works like a tranquilizer to reduce the activity of the neurons to which it binds. This can help manage anxiety and stress. The higher your GABA levels are, the less anxious and stressed you are likely to feel.  

This may be why yoga is so commonly used in substance abuse treatment programs throughout recovery to help reduce withdrawal symptoms and prevent relapse.


Acupuncture treatments are used to decrease withdrawal symptoms by increasing the release of dopamine in the brain, which can improve mood and alleviate withdrawal symptoms like dysphoria and stress.

Auricular or ear acupuncture is often used to help with withdrawal. With auricular acupuncture, the practitioner will insert a thin needle at various points on the skin of the external ear.

Plenty of sunshine!

Orange County is no stranger to sunshine. In fact, sunshine and good weather may well be the areas greatest gifts. The near perfect backdrop of beaches and bright skies make Orange County a very appealing location for recovery.

We all feel better when the temperature is pleasant and the skies are blue, but there’s more to the equation than that. The body makes vitamin D from the sun’s rays, and this helps boost serotonin, which helps the body fight off one of the most common symptoms of withdrawal: depression. Sunshine also helps to reduce melatonin, which will energize you during the day and help your body get on a natural sleep schedule. Insomnia and sleep disturbances are also common symptoms of withdrawal and a daily dose of sunshine can help to get your body into a natural sleep rhythm.

When a person become reliant on a substance like drugs or alcohol for an extended period of time, the body becomes accustomed to the effect of the substance. During withdrawal, the brain and body must readjust, and this causes many symptoms of withdrawal. A comprehensive treatment plan will include a blend of traditional and holistic treatment options to help the patient manage symptoms.

There are also animal therapies that have been shown to be beneficial. Equine therapy is perhaps the most popular, but there are also forms of dog and wolf therapy. Chicken therapy is another one that is showing up in some places. As The Hen’s Egg points out, there are some really friendly chickens out there you can work with!

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