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Understanding More About Complementary Therapies

Complementary therapies are non-mainstream treatment approaches that addiction treatment providers offer alongside more traditional treatments. They effectively support addiction recovery and long-term abstinence by focusing on full-body healing and reviving connections between the body, mind, and soul.

What Are Some Complementary Therapies?

Complementary therapies usually fall into two general categories – natural products and mind-body practices.

Natural products are vitamins, minerals, and other natural consumables that you eat or drink. They might include:

  • Herbs
  • Botanicals
  • Vitamin D
  • Citicoline
  • Theanine
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Mind-body practices are exercises or activities that help you maintain or improve specific functions, like stress relief or distress tolerance. They can target the underlying causes of addiction as well as relieve symptoms. Some mind-body practices include:

  • Meditation
  • Mindfulness
  • Massage therapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Relaxation techniques, like guided imagery, deep breathing, and progressive muscle relaxation (PMR)
  • Thai massage
  • Yoga
  • Creative arts
  • Music therapy

You can benefit from complementary therapies at any point during your recovery journey. They may help you to maintain a balanced mood or reduce cravings. Likewise, these therapies can give you the strength you need to overcome challenges and times of distress.

What Is the Difference Between Complementary Therapies and Alternative Therapies?

Some groups, including the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), use the terms complementary therapies and alternative therapies differently. 

Complementary therapies are non-mainstream treatments that you benefit from alongside traditional therapies like behavioral therapy and support groups. Alternative therapies are treatments that you participate in instead of these therapies.

Other institutions and groups, however, use the terms interchangeably. The term ‘‘complementary and alternative medicines (CAM)” may refer to either of the above concepts or both.

How Does Scientific Research Support Complementary Therapies?

There is a growing body of scientific research supporting the use of complementary therapies in addiction treatment. Studies show that therapies like yoga, meditation, and relaxation techniques can complement and strengthen an individual’s recovery journey.

Recovery With Yoga

Yoga is a practice where you move between a series of physical postures. It can help you to manage stress and pain. It also supports greater mental wellness.

Current scientific findings suggest that yoga is an effective complementary treatment for addiction recovery. As many people turn to drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism for negative thoughts, emotions, or underlying mental health issues, yoga can provide healthy ways to cope with these feelings.

Yoga affects our central nervous system and influences gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) levels in the brain. GABA is a chemical that our bodies release to slow down our nervous systems and make us feel calmer and more relaxed. Studies show that yoga can increase GABA levels, helping to relieve stress and decrease anxiety.

Mindfulness Practices

Mindfulness is the practice of focusing on the present moment and letting go of past and future concerns. Its roots lie in Buddhist philosophy that has been practiced for thousands of years.

You can use several exercises and techniques to help cultivate mindfulness, including deep breathing, body scans, and sensory awareness. These techniques help bring you into the present moment, relieving fear and anxiety.

Research suggests that mindfulness can support the recovery process. It may help you overcome addiction and maintain abstinence by:

  • Helping you to cope with negative feelings and thoughts in healthy ways
  • Increasing overall well-being and reducing feelings of shame
  • Reducing sensitivity to environmental triggers

Relaxation Techniques

Relaxation techniques are activities and exercises that can help calm you down. They include deep breathing, guided imagery, and progressive muscle relaxation (PMR).

A systematic review by BMC Psychiatry found that relaxation techniques may help reduce anxiety, one of the primary triggers of drug abuse. They may also help improve overall mood and decrease emotional distress, targeting some of the underlying causes of addiction.

A Field of Potential

Some complementary therapies are relatively new to the field of addiction recovery science. As a result, there has not yet been sufficient research to confirm their effectiveness through clinical studies. 

However, many addiction specialists and clients experience hugely positive effects from these treatments. As research into addiction and treatments continues, we hope to confirm the benefits of many more complementary therapies.

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    Marietta, GA 30066

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