Substance Abuse (Drug and Alcohol Addiction)

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 dont, 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 trafc 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 bodys systems and address underlying emotional, mental, and spiritual dis- orders. Detoxification using natural therapies improves the persons vitality.



SYMPTOMS: HOW DO YOU KNOW IF IT’S A PROBLEM?

 

If youre trying to determine whether you or someone you know has a problem with drugs, its 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.)

 

 

ROOT CAUSES

 

Its 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)

 
 

Testing Techniques

 

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

 

 

 

TREATMENT Diet

Recommended Food

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 havent 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. Youll be surprised at how much better you feel when youre properly hydrated, and youll 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 thats 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 youre 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 havent formerly had a problem with alcohol.

 

Detoxification

 

Complete abstention from solid food is not recommended if you are going through withdrawal, as balanced nutrition will help curb your cravings. Once youve been sober for a while, however, you should go on supervised detoxification protocols to eliminate all the poisons youve 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 havent been eating lots of fiber—and few substance abusers do—you may be severely constipated. Following the previously described eating plan will help, but its 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)

cravings.



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.

 

 



General Recommendations

 

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-Johns-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-Johns-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.

 

Homeopathy

 

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 ve 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.

 

 

Acupressure

 

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.

 

 

Bodywork

 

Massage

A lymphatic massage will break down toxins that have been stored in fatty deposits.

 

Reflexology

To encourage the release of toxins, give extra attention to the liver and the kidneys.

 

Hydrotherapy

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.

 

Aromatherapy

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 youre hungry all the time, inhale bergamot to suppress the appetite and reduce stress.

 

 

Stress-Reduction

 

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 youve 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 cant 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.

 

 

Other Recommendations

 

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 youve 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. Its 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.

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