Substance Abuse (Drug and Alcohol Addiction)
Substance abuse is a dependency—whether psychological, physical, or both—on drugs (including on prescription medications and alcohol). No one knows why some people develop such a dependency while others don’t, but evidence indicates that genetics, environment, and individual psychology all have roles to play in the illness.
Drugs and alcohol can cause severe damage to almost every system in the body. Both of them have a toxic effect on the liver, an organ whose functioning is crucial to many bodily systems. Obviously, brain damage is always a concern. Aside from the very real possibility of a fatal overdose—the likelihood of which increases if drugs and alcohol are mixed—abusing drugs can create several life-threatening conditions.
The free radicals in these substances are carcinogenic, and addicts experience a high rate of breast, mouth, esophageal, and liver cancers. Cocaine and heroin can severely damage the heart. Shared needles can lead to AIDS and hepatitis transmission. Drugs can also cause mental disorders, such as anxiety, panic, and depression; kid- ney failure from excessive urine production (this is especially a problem for alco- holics); stroke and impotence, as a result of a depressed central nervous system; and a host of other disorders that result from a suppressed immune system. Substance abuse is the leading cause of trafﬁc fatalities and plays a signiﬁcant role in homicides, suicides, spousal and child abuse, and other violent acts.
Effective treatment begins when an addict makes the decision to give up drugs or alcohol. The process, however, rarely ends there. Many people suffer from withdrawal symptoms, which include heart problems, sweats, tremors, dehydration, seizures, and hallucinations. It is often a good idea to have medical supervision during this period. In addition, most serious users will need to address the psychological components of their addiction and may beneﬁt from therapy or from a support group such as Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous. Spiritual support is also strongly advised.
Biochemical imbalances can predispose one to drug dependency. For example, peo- ple who are prone to biochemical depression may use alcohol or drugs as a crutch. People with alcoholism often have a blood-sugar imbalance and candidiasis (see the Candidiasis section for more information), which increase their alcohol cravings. Other nutrient deﬁciencies may worsen their susceptibility to becoming addicted.
Complementary therapies for drug dependency and withdrawal focus on balanc- ing the body’s systems and address underlying emotional, mental, and spiritual dis- orders. Detoxiﬁcation using natural therapies improves the person’s vitality.
SYMPTOMS: HOW DO YOU KNOW IF IT’S A PROBLEM?
If you’re trying to determine whether you or someone you know has a problem with drugs, it’s important to realize that addiction can take many forms and that there is no one pattern of abuse. Usually, an addiction develops over time, as occasional social drinking or drug use progresses into heavy use and then to total dependency, but some people ﬁnd themselves addicted from their ﬁrst drink, puff, or hit. Some alcoholics drink only wine, beer, or certain kinds of hard liquor; others will drink anything that contains a trace of alcohol, including mouthwash and perfume. The frequency of use also varies. Some addicts will use small amounts of substances throughout the day (alcoholics may spike coffee, juice, tea, or other beverages with liquor), while oth- ers may stay sober for long periods in-between binges. The personalities of people who abuse substances also comprise a wide range, from the stereotypical violent, angry, sloppy addict to one who maintains a composed and polished front. Substance abuse can occur at any age and in either sex. (One general rule does seem to apply: If you require drugs or alcohol not just to release tension but to feel “normal,” then you are in a late stage of addiction and need to seek help as soon as possible.)
It’s unclear why some people are more prone to addiction than others are. Following are some of the leading possibilities.
• A genetic tendency toward addic- tion
• Psychological problems, including depression
• Environmental factors, such as the general availability of drugs and social pressure
• Nutritional deﬁciencies
• A blood-sugar imbalance (alcoholism)
The following tests help assess possible reasons for substance abuse tendencies:
Vitamin and mineral analysis (especially magnesium, B vitamins, chromium)—blood
Digestive function and microbe/parasite/candida testing—stool analysis Food and environmental allergies/sensitivities—blood, electrodermal Blood-sugar balance—blood Amino acid balance—blood or urine
You need to rebuild your damaged body systems. Start by eating well-rounded meals of natural foods. A variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, and lean animal protein will help you feel balanced and energetic again.
If you haven’t been eating much as a result of your addiction, you may ﬁnd it dif- ﬁcult to sit down to three large meals a day. Instead, plan several smaller snacks. This strategy will also keep your blood-sugar levels even and help you avoid cravings.
Drink a glass of clean water every two waking hours. You’ll be surprised at how much better you feel when you’re properly hydrated, and you’ll be less tempted to ﬁll up on junk food. Water also helps ﬂush the accumulated toxins out of your system.
You may experience some trouble sleeping without the aid of drugs or alcohol. If that’s the case, try eating a snack of turkey or chicken on whole-grain crackers before you go to bed. These foods are all good sources of tryptophan, a chemical that acti- vates the sleep-inducing neurotransmitter serotonin. For additional suggestions, see Insomnia.
Food to Avoid
As you’re trying to kick the habit, you may instinctively reach for sugary treats or caf- feinated beverages. Avoid this temptation, as caffeine and reﬁned sugar will only increase your cravings for drugs.
Obviously, alcohol use is out of the question, even if you haven’t formerly had a problem with alcohol.
Complete abstention from solid food is not recommended if you are going through withdrawal, as balanced nutrition will help curb your cravings. Once you’ve been sober for a while, however, you should go on supervised detoxiﬁcation protocols to eliminate all the poisons you’ve consumed via drugs or alcohol. You can (and should) drink plenty of juices, herbal teas, and broths while detoxifying. It will take at least four months of good eating and monthly fasts to fully detoxify your body.
If you haven’t been eating lots of ﬁber—and few substance abusers do—you may be severely constipated. Following the previously described eating plan will help, but it’s also important to get the toxic matter out of your bowels. If you are having prob- lems, see the Constipation section.
Super Seven Prescriptions—Substance Abuse
Super Prescription #1 High-potency multivitamin
Take as directed on the container. It supplies a combination of vitamins and min- erals that assists detoxiﬁcation and improves your mood.
Super Prescription #2 Milk thistle (Silybum marianum)
Take 250 mg three times daily of a product standardized to 80 to 85 percent sily- marin extract. Milk thistle supports liver detoxiﬁcation and has been shown to reduce elevated liver enzymes.
Super Prescription #3 B-complex
Take 50 mg twice daily. Many of the B vitamins are required for detoxiﬁcation, as well as for mood and energy support.
Super Prescription #4 Homeopathic Nux Vomica
Take a 30C potency twice daily for up to two weeks. It reduces withdrawal symp- toms of irritability, nausea, constipation, and fatigue.
Super Prescription #5 Chromium
Take 200 mcg two to three times daily. It reduces sugar (and possibly alcohol)
Super Prescription #6 L-glutamine
Take 500 mg three times daily on an empty stomach. It improves mood and energy levels.
Super Prescription #7 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP)
Take 100 mg three times daily on an empty stomach. It reduces the depression and the anxiety that come on during withdrawal symptoms. Taken before bedtime, it also promotes restful sleep. Note: Do not take this if you are on a pharmaceutical antidepressant or antianxiety medication.
DL-phenylalanine helps ﬁght depression and low energy. Take 500 mg three times daily on an empty stomach.
If you suffer from mild or moderate depression, take Saint-John’s-wort (Hypericum perforatum). It will lift your mood and help you face your daily challenges. It will also bolster your weakened immune system. Use 300 mg three times daily of a 0.3 per- cent hypericin extract. Do not take Saint-John’s-wort if you are already on medica- tion for depression or anxiety.
Super green food supplements, such as spirulina, chlorella, or a blend of greens, promote healthful detoxiﬁcation. Take as directed on the container.
If you need some help getting to sleep, drink a cup of valerian (Valeriana ofﬁci- nalis) tea before going to bed.
Many people who are trying to kick a drug or alcohol habit feel nervous and anx- ious. Passionﬂower (Passiﬂora incarnata) is a gentle yet effective herb to use. Take
3 ml of the tincture form or 500 mg of the capsule version three times daily. Hops (Humulus lupulus), kava (Piper methysticum), oatstraw (Avena sativa), and valerian (Valeriana ofﬁcinalis) are other good herbal options. (See the Anxiety section.)
Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) extract improves liver and immune system function. It also helps with concentration and focus. Take 800 mg twice daily.
Calcium and magnesium relax the nervous system; they are especially good if you experience twitches and cramps. Take 500 mg of calcium and 250 mg of magnesium twice daily.
People with alcoholism may beneﬁt from supplementing niacin. Take 500 mg twice daily of the ﬂush-free version.
N-acetylcysteine increases levels of glutathione, an important antioxidant. Take 300 mg three times daily.
Vitamin C is important for detoxiﬁcation, and it increases glutathione levels. Take
1,000 mg three times daily.
Vitamin B1 (thiamine) is particularly important for people with alcoholism, to pre- vent cognitive dysfunction, memory impairment, and visual changes. Take up to 200 mg daily. For severe deﬁciencies, intravenous or injection forms given by a doctor are required.
Eleutherococcus/Siberian ginseng works to help the body adapt to mental and phys- ical stress by improving adrenal gland function. Take 600 to 900 mg of a standard- ized product daily.
Pick the remedy that best matches your symptoms in this section. Take a 6x, 12x, 6C,
12C, or 30C potency twice daily for two weeks to see if there are any positive results.
study was completed that included 507 people with alcoholism, who were treated with 3 grams or more of niacin daily for ﬁve years. Results sug- gested that a majority beneﬁted from sup- plementation, by experiencing symp- tom reduction and less relapses.
After you notice improvement, stop taking the remedy, unless symptoms return. Con- sultation with a homeopathic practitioner is advised.
Arsenicum Album is indicated when one feels tremendous restlessness, fatigue, and anxiety. There may be burning pains that feel better from warmth. Symptoms are worse between midnight and 2 A.M.
Ignatia Amara is for hysteria and emotional breakdown. The person has constantly changing mood and symptoms, cries but wants to be left alone, has a sensation of a lump in the throat, is anxious, and has twitches and spasms.
Lachesis is for people with addictions who get violent. They have intense feelings of jealousy, paranoia, and suspiciousness. They tend to be warm and feel worse from heat. There is an intolerance of anything touching the throat.
Lycopodium (Lycopodium clavatum) is indicated for people with an alcohol or drug addiction. They are irritable and have low self-esteem. They are chilly and feel bet- ter from warmth. They usually have a strong craving for sweets and often have diges- tive problems, such as gas and bloating.
Nux Vomica is good for emotional withdrawal symptoms that include irritability and anger, as well as physical symptoms of nausea, constipation, chilliness, and fatigue. There is great sensitivity to sound, light, odors, and touch.
Sulphur is a good remedy for people who crave alcohol and go on binges. They tend to feel warm and feel better from cool air and cold drinks. There is a craving for spicy foods. Skin rashes are common.
• Stomach 36 improves your ability to absorb nutrients and gives you an overall sense of well-being.
• Spleen 10 will speed up the detoxiﬁcation process.
• For anxiety or depression, work Lung 1.
• If you are fatigued, use Gallbladder 20.
A lymphatic massage will break down toxins that have been stored in fatty deposits.
To encourage the release of toxins, give extra attention to the liver and the kidneys.
Constitutional hydrotherapy supports detoxiﬁcation. See pages 676–677 for directions.
Other Bodywork Recommendations
Acupuncture has a strong history of successfully treating addictions of all kinds. Con- sult a licensed practitioner who has experience in treating this problem.
Juniper breaks up poisons and speeds their exit from the body. Mix some with a car- rier oil and use it in a lymphatic massage, or add a few drops to a hot bath.
Lavender, bergamot, and chamomile are antidepressants. Use them in any way you like to lift a case of the blues.
If you f ind that you’re hungry all the time, inhale bergamot to suppress the appetite and reduce stress.
General Stress-Reduction Therapies
Substance abuse is often an unproductive way of coping with stress or emotional pain. If you are to remain sober, then you must ﬁnd another, more healthful way to manage stress. Read about various techniques in the Exercise and Stress Reduction chapter and experiment until you ﬁnd one or two that you like enough to use regularly.
Bach Flower Remedies
Consult the chart on pages 648–650 to determine the best remedy for your particu- lar needs. Once you’ve chosen a remedy, place 10 drops of the liquid under your tongue. Hold the drops in place for thirty seconds and swallow. Use as often as needed.
If you are plagued by vague fears that you can’t name, take Aspen. Cherry Plum will help if you have violent thoughts or impulses.
If you are ashamed of your illness, take Crab Apple.
People who hide their insecurity behind a mask of hostility will beneﬁt from Holly. Mustard is for people who suffer from severe depression that comes and goes without warning.
Star of Bethlehem will help people who need help coping with a shock or a cri- sis, even if the event occurred years ago.
• If you have problems with alcohol, be aware that some everyday products con- tain small amounts that may throw your good intentions off track. Avoid mouthwash, and read the labels on cold and ﬂu medicines.
• Many people who abuse stimulants are actually trying to jump-start an under- active thyroid. For more information about testing yourself for this problem, see Hypothyroidism.
• If you’ve been abusing heroin, barbiturates, tranquilizers, or other depressants, you should be under medical supervision during your withdrawal period,
which may last anywhere from a few weeks to a couple of months. It’s too dan- gerous for you to quit cold turkey; instead, you should check yourself into a respected program that allows you to gradually and safely reduce your depend- ence on the drug.
• People who have been taking hallucinogens also need help as they pass through the acute stage of withdrawal. A health-care professional should be present to help them handle the uncontrollable, frightening, and sometimes violent thoughts that can occur during this time.