Please welcome Kimberly Hayes as a Guest Blogger for My Bipolar Mind. She has some really great information to share with us today.
Things to Consider Before Trying Alternative Treatments for Addiction
Alternative treatments are those that don’t have strong evidence showing that they work. This does not necessarily mean that they don’t work, but it does mean you have to be careful about which treatments you pursue. Some may be helpful, while others may be a waste of money or harmful to your overall health. Here’s how to decide whether you should seek an alternative treatment method.
Follow Mainstream Treatment Programs First
Your best shot at getting a good outcome is to follow a mainstream, evidence-based treatment method. This will usually involve pharmaceutical therapy, behavioral therapy, or a combination of the two. The National Institute on Drug Abuse has some examples of these treatments. You should only follow alternative treatments if you are already following a conventional treatment. This is the case even if that treatment doesn’t seem to be working — successful recovery involves changes in brain chemistry, and this can take time. However, if you are working through a treatment program as recommended by your doctor, you might find some benefit in seeking complementary treatments.
Think About the Cost
Alternative medicine is big business — 83 million Americans spend nearly $34 billion on complementary treatments each year. Spending significant sums of money on unproven treatments is not a decision to be taken lightly. In addition, while many practitioners are well-meaning, there are certainly those who prey on the desperate in order to make money. Furthermore, as US News explains, alternative medicine may not be covered by your insurance plan. Make sure you can afford the treatment you are undertaking, and be careful of practitioners with hidden costs to their treatments.
Make Sure an Alternative Treatment Is Safe
Most alternative therapy methods are safe, but some are not recommended for certain people. For example, acupuncture is generally a low-risk procedure, but as the New Scientist explains, people who have trouble with or are triggered by needles may experience dizziness or lightheadedness. If you are seeing a herbalist or a naturopath who recommends and additional herbal products, vitamins, or food supplements, make sure you discuss these products with your doctor before you start taking them. Some supplements can interfere with other medications, so check with your doctor if you aren’t sure a treatment is safe for you.
Do Some Research
By definition, alternative medicine does not have a strong research base — that’s why it’s alternative medicine and not just medicine. However, some treatments have more promise than others. It would be wise to find out how much evidence there is for a treatment you are considering, and your doctor can help you with this. However, while research is a good place to start, just because there is no strong evidence for a treatment does not mean it won’t work for you. Cost comes into play again here; if there is a cheap, safe alternative treatment that you think could help you, feel free to give it a try.
Start with Diet and Exercise
The best place to start — in addition to your conventional treatment — is exercise. Of all the alternative treatments for addiction, physical exercise shows the greatest promise at aiding recovery. Exercise can help weaken withdrawal symptoms and reduce stress, both of which are crucial in recovery. You can start with something simple like taking a 20-minute walk every day. If you decide to take up an exercise program, be sure to follow a healthy diet too. Exercise increases your nutrient needs, so make sure you eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, nuts, and protein. This will help you recover from your exercise sessions more quickly.
It’s great that you’re taking care of your own recovery by looking into other ways that you can help yourself. Even though the evidence is limited, some people swear by alternative treatments, so it can be hard to figure out what to try. Hopefully, you’ve got a good idea of how to find alternative treatments that might work for you.
Kimberly Hayes enjoys writing about health and wellness and created PublicHealthAlert.info to help keep the public informed about the latest developments in popular health issues and concerns. In addition to studying to become a crisis intervention counselor, Kimberly is hard at work on her new book, which discusses the ins and outs of alternative addiction treatments.
Samantha is the author of "My Bipolar Mind: You're not alone," she is also a freelance writer, blogger, and mental health advocate who runs and manages her own mental health blog MyBipolarMind.com.