We’ve come a long way in 100 years, and no I’m not just talking about the invention of the internet. It is easy to see this progress when one looks at the ways in which we treat addiction and alcoholism. A century ago it was seen as nearly incurable. Men and women who could not stop drinking were deemed to have a moral failing. Nobody ever thought of a spiritual or psychological solution. There were no group therapies or alternative treatments. Perhaps their families would send them to a hospital at first, in a brief attempt at a detox. Yet in the end many of them were simply thrown into insane asylums along with “chronic masturbators” and women diagnosed with “hysteria.” As I’ve said—we’ve come a long way in 100 years.
These days, with a myriad of different inpatient and outpatient treatment centers available, along with scientific recognition of alcoholism as a diagnosable and treatable disease, the ways in which we treat addiction are becoming more and more successful. And thanks to current research in the field, the alternative forms of addiction therapy are also becoming more diverse.
Among these newer methods are things like art therapy, pet therapy, neurofeedback, yoga and exercise, as well as new and evolving pharmacological options for dual diagnosis patients. Among this list, one treatment that may stand out is neurofeedback. Just a few years ago it was viewed as an experimental addition to traditional forms of psychotherapy and group counseling. And after several years it is quickly becoming a standard form of therapy at treatment centers all over the country. The science behind this treatment is actually quite simple. The patients are asked to participate in neurological stimulation exercises, basically computer games, while their brainwaves are closely monitored. Under the guidance of a neurofeedback specialist, the patient can exercise ways in which they actually alter the brainwave patterns, which can help alleviate everything from cravings to anxiety. While this is still not a stand-alone cure for addiction, many patients have attested to the therapeutic benefits of neurofeedback when used in conjunction with other forms of therapy.
In addition to this alternative treatment, many inpatient and outpatient centers are also using the basic tenants of fostering a healthy mind/body relationship. Most addicts, after years of drug or alcohol abuse, homelessness, and incarceration suffer from poor nutrition, even an accompanying eating disorder and have not exercised in years—in short they are completely out of shape. Many studies have shown that the introduction of a healthy nutrition plan and basic daily exercise such as yoga or team sports can be a key ingredient to long term recovery. Taking basic care of your body can also help alleviate symptoms of early recovery such as insomnia, anxiety, or depression.
The truth is that most alternative treatments are not experimental methods hoping to become the new “cure” for addiction. All of these treatments are done in conjunction with tradition therapies and usually accompany some sort of 12-step program. But as most addicts will tell you, addiction can be both cunning and baffling. So it never hurts to have as many tools for treatment as possible.