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.
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:
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:
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. They 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.
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 health care professional. They can tell you if the option is right for you and how best to proceed.
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:
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.
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.
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 in some evidence.
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 health care professional. As stated earlier, do not just consult a health care 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.
National Helpline. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Retrieved March 2019 from https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline
(October 2017). Drug Addiction (Substance Use Disorder). Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). Retrieved March 2019 from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/drug-addiction/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20365113
(September 2014). Alternative Treatments For Addictions on The Rise; 7 Unconventional Alternatives To Rehab. Bustle. Retrieved March 2019 from https://www.bustle.com/articles/37845-alternative-treatments-for-addictions-on-the-rise-7-unconventional-alternatives-to-rehab
Memory Reconsolidation May Offer New Treatment Approaches for PTSD, Drug Addiction. AZO. Retrieved March 2019 from https://www.news-medical.net/news/20140813/Memory-reconsolidation-may-offer-new-treatment-approaches-for-PTSD-drug-addiction.aspx
(September 2014). Turn On, Tune In, Get Better: Psychedelic Drugs Hold Medical Promise. Scientific American. Retrieved March 2019 from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/turn-on-tune-in-get-better-psychedelic-drugs-hold-medical-promise/
(January 2014). rTMS in the Treatment of Drug Addiction: An Update about Human Studies. Behavioral Neurology. Retrieved March 2019 from https://www.hindawi.com/journals/bn/2014/815215/
(May 2018). Opiate and Opioid Withdrawal. MedlinePlus. Retrieved March 2019 from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000949.htm
(May 2015) How Effective is Medication-Assisted Treatment for Addiction? Here’s The Science. STAT. Retrieved March 2019 from https://www.statnews.com/2017/05/15/medication-assisted-treatment-what-we-know/
Home‐Based Withdrawal. Alcohol and Drug Foundation. Retrieved March 2019 from https://adf.org.au/alcohol-drug-use/supporting-a-loved-one/withdrawal/home-based-withdrawal/