There is no magic bullet for drug abuse. While rehab alternatives may help in some cases, the odds of them working alone tend to be far lower than if they are used with traditional substance abuse treatment.

Drug Rehab

Traditional substance abuse treatment options are invaluable in the care of addiction. They can be the push you need to overcome your drug abuse.

Depending on the needs of a given person struggling with addiction, there are traditionally three broad options for care that you can shift through as your needs change: outpatient care, inpatient care, and partial hospitalization. These options work as follows:

  • Outpatient care is the least intensive. You visit the treatment center periodically, receive your treatment, and then continue your week as usual. There are different levels within this option, with intensive outpatient programs being the most rigorous.
  • Inpatient care is the most intensive. You stay at the treatment center 24/7. This is more expensive, but it allows you to be monitored to prevent relapse, and it ensures a full focus on recovery.
  • Partial hospitalization is basically a middle ground. It has a similar intensity to inpatient care but is not 24 hours. You will still live at home, although the program will take up a great deal of your time.

As discussed by Mayo Clinic, regardless of the format, your treatment will come in a number of forms, often through a mix of the following:

  • Individual therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Medication-assisted treatment (MAT)

Alternatives to Traditional Rehab

Traditional substance abuse treatment is not easy. It is often a challenging process. It is time-consuming and can test clients as they expand into new areas of growth. It can also be expensive, especially with limited insurance.

This leads many to look for alternatives in the hopes of an easier solution. Overcoming addiction has no magic bullet.

Alternatives to traditional rehab shouldn’t replace evidence-based treatment. The alaternatives may be able to supplement traditional rehab.

Medical professionals are not in the business of hiding effective treatments. The reason traditional rehab generally works is because of evidence-based medicine. For example, the drugs involved in MAT have hard data proving their effectiveness.

Alternative substance abuse treatments do not necessarily have the scientific rigor and evidence behind them that traditional methods do. Unfortunately, these methods can also be marketed with (willfully or unintentionally) false claims.

This does not mean these alternatives are useless. You must be careful in what you choose to enhance your recovery program. Talk to a professional without a financial stake in these options before engaging in one.

Detoxing at Home

The common method people probably choose that could still qualify as an alternative to traditionally recommended treatment is when a person decides to go through withdrawal without visiting a treatment center.

Home-based withdrawal is not easy. For some drugs, like heroin, it is essentially impossible. However, with a strong support system and, ideally, doctor-prescribed medications to manage the process, mild to moderate withdrawal is admittedly possible for many people to go through at home.

While detoxing at home, you must do everything in your power to avoid drug use. As withdrawal hits, you will begin to feel ill and miserable. Your body will crave the drug you are addicted to. This is why you need a strong support system.

People who abuse drugs cannot be allowed around. Instead, you need sober loved ones around to monitor your symptoms. These people can help you avoid relapse, and they can call for help if something goes wrong.

If you wish to detox at home, discuss this with a healthcare professional. They can tell you if the option is right for you and how best to proceed.

More Research Needed

While detoxing from home is a medically accepted alternative, even if it is generally not recommended except in specific cases, there are also options that are being researched or that are anecdotally claimed to be effective in fighting addiction.

A few more promising options include:

  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS)
  • Controlled use of psychedelic drugs and/or marijuana
  • Memory reconsolidation

None of these options, regardless of claims, are researched enough for their use to be fully recommended. Trials and studies are still being conducted, and the final results of those studies have yet to be determined.

  • rTMS involves the use of magnets to stimulate parts of the brain involved in addiction and essentially rewire them, non-invasively, to slowly help the brain normalize and grow less dependent on drugs. A study into this paints the current state as promising for supplemental therapy but certainly not a cure that can  heal addiction without any traditional methods.
  • Psychedelic drugs (and marijuana) have had some promising evidence that they could be used to treat a variety of conditions for a while; however, research into this potential is often stymied by tight government regulations. Without a major change to regulations, such research will be slow.Never self-medicate to try and heal an addiction. Only use clinically proven methods after a clear discussion of your desires and intent with a healthcare professional.
  • Memory reconsolidation is a type of therapy that is a long way off but yielding promising results in lab rats. Through a combination of techniques that are not yet fully understood, it should theoretically be possible to take troubled and distorted memories and alter them to be less stressful to an individual. This can help to greatly reduce the potency of potential triggers for someone who is addicted to drugs.

Memory reconsolidation, to be clear, is unlikely to ever look like sci-fi “false memory implantation” and the like. More likely, it will involve having a person recall difficult or stressful memories and then stimulating their brain, helping to change the power and accuracy of the memory to be less damaging.

Exercise and Positive Thinking

Some websites may tout that positive life changes are all you need to overcome addiction. To be clear, positive life changes are effective in helping someone avoid drug abuse. A great deal of abuse is driven by having no positive outlets, and things like exercise and positive social relationships can help.

However, the evidence is consistently clear that such changes alone are not generally enough to treat addiction. Overcoming addiction without professional guidance is very hard. There are doctors who study for years to help people cope with addiction, and no online resource and positive affirmations will completely replace this.

Are genuinely healthy lifestyle changes better than no change at all in fighting addiction? Of course, they just do not compare to traditional treatment. If you are going to try an alternative “natural” or “no medicine” treatment option, make sure it is at least based on some evidence.

Not Mutually Exclusive

Any option proven to be effective probably has a place if used in conjunction with traditional methods. This is referred to as a supplemental treatment.

In essence, it makes sense to use the most evidence-based, professionally recommended treatment option to treat your addiction. This is just logical.

You can supplement that treatment option with less traditional methods after consulting with your healthcare professional. As stated earlier, do not just consult a healthcare professional with a stake in choosing an alternative method. Find someone knowledgeable in addiction whose goal is to help you get better.

In very few cases, for instance, would a doctor not heartily endorse positive changes to your lifestyle. A happier and healthier life is one that is generally less prone to addiction. This sentiment is mirrored in many traditional treatments, where identifying problems in your life and learning to cope or fix them is often a big part of the process.


The important thing is to ignore pseudoscience, even if it offers hope you don’t feel you have right now.

Substance abuse treatment is not easy. You might have relapses, but keep going. If you feel your treatment approach is truly failing you, it might not be right for you. Find another, but make sure it is an evidence-based, credentialed treatment center.

Don’t be afraid to talk to a professional about alternative options that interest you or may be good complements to your recovery program. A genuinely good facility will not willfully restrict options from you that may help.

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