7 Complementary Health Approaches For Addiction

Most treatment plans for drug addiction (substance use disorder) include a variety of strategies, such as psychotherapy, support groups, and relapse prevention training. These traditional treatment methods play an important role in long-term recovery.

However, many people also benefit from complementary and alternative therapies.

Also known as holistic treatments, these strategies treat the whole person on a mental, physical, and spiritual level. Here are some of the most effective alternative therapies to use alongside traditional treatments.

1. Mindfulness Meditation

When you experience drug cravings, it’s important to stay grounded in the present. You can then remind yourself why you gave up drugs and continue your recovery journey. One of the best ways to stay grounded is to practice mindfulness meditation.

To get started, sit or lie down, and focus on your breath. When your mind wanders, gently return your focus to your breath. This process helps you stay connected to the present moment so you don’t get carried away by your thoughts and urges.

If you’re new to meditating, you might want to try a guided meditation online. You may also find that you prefer to focus on something other than your breath, such as the sounds around you or a soothing mantra.

2. Movement Therapies

Moving your body boosts both your physical and mental well-being. The better you feel, the lower your risk of relapse. That’s why many addiction recovery plans include movement therapies.

One of the most popular movement therapies is yoga. In yoga, you perform specific postures and relaxation techniques to achieve a sense of calm. Other effective movement therapies include:

  • pilates, which uses controlled bodily movements to boost strength, flexibility, and body awareness
  • tai chi, which uses gentle, meditative movements to promote a sense of peace
  • qi gong, which uses smooth movements, deep breathing, and visualization techniques to improve balance, flexibility, and overall health

3. Acupuncture

During an acupuncture session, a practitioner inserts tiny, fine needles into your skin. This form of traditional Chinese medicine may support your recovery by helping you relax. It could also help ease the pain of certain drug withdrawal symptoms, such as headaches and muscle cramps.

According to practitioners, acupuncture can treat stress and pain by restoring the flow of energy in your body. While the practice is generally safe, possible side effects include soreness and minor bruising or bleeding at the needle injection sites.

4. Reiki

Like acupuncture, Reiki is a complementary therapy that aims to ease stress and pain by restoring your body’s flow of energy.

However, instead of using needles, Reiki practitioners lightly place their hands on or just above your body. They typically leave their hands on one area for up to 10 minutes before moving to another spot.

To promote positive energy, some practitioners also use crystals or chakra healing wands. Most Reiki sessions last between 45 and 90 minutes.

5. Massage Therapy

In massage therapy, a massage therapist kneads and rubs your body’s soft tissues, including connective tissue, skin, muscle, tendons, and ligaments. This practice can ease recovery-related stress as well as painful withdrawal symptoms.

Studies also suggest that massage therapy may decrease anxiety in people recovering from cocaine, opioid, or alcohol abuse.

In addition, because it’s so relaxing, it can promote restful sleep, which is essential to recovery. It may also help ease symptoms of co-occurring mental health conditions, such as depression, bipolar disorder, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

6. Art & Music Therapy

When recovering from substance abuse, you may experience a variety of overwhelming feelings. In art therapy, a therapist helps you express these feelings through drawing, painting, or other creative endeavors. This self-expression allows you to navigate your emotions more effectively.

Music therapy has similar benefits. In music therapy, a therapist helps you appreciate music through listening to it, dancing to it, or making it. Like art therapy, this process can help you express your feelings. It can also reduce your risk of relapse by boosting your mood.

7. Biofeedback

The stress of recovery can lead to increased heart rate, tense muscles, and other unpleasant sensations. Biofeedback can help you control these responses and feel more calm. It can also ease headaches and other forms of pain caused by drug withdrawal.

In addition, studies suggest that biofeedback might lessen drug cravings, anxiety, and depression in people with addiction.

In a biofeedback session, a therapist attaches sensors to your body to identify changes in your breathing, heart rate, and other bodily functions. These changes will prompt an image, sound, or flash of light to appear on a monitor.

Your therapist will then help you manage these changes through deep breathing, guided imagery, or other relaxation techniques.

To learn more about substance abuse and addiction treatment options, please reach out to Spring Hill Recovery Center. Our board-certified healthcare providers offer evidence-based, inpatient care to help you or your loved one build a fulfilling life.

  1. Department of Veterans Affairs — Substance Use Disorder Treatment: Complementary Approaches https://www.va.gov/WHOLEHEALTHLIBRARY/tools/substance-use-disorder-treatment-complementary-approaches.asp
  2. Frontiers in Psychology — Complementary and Alternative Medicine for Substance Use Disorders: A Scientometric Analysis and Visualization of Its Use Between 2001 and 2020 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8604152/
  3. Harvard Health Publishing — Biofeedback https://www.health.harvard.edu/medical-tests-and-procedures/biofeedback-a-to-z
  4. Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinics — Movement-Based Therapies in Rehabilitation https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7476461/

Written by Spring Hill Recovery Editorial Team

Published on: January 22, 2024

© 2024 Spring Hill Recovery | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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