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  • Writer's pictureAlina Halonen

Holistic Treatment Approach for Addiction vs Traditional Treatment Programs

Updated: May 16

By Alina P. Halonen, LPCC, CCTP

May 11, 2023



addiction

Addiction is a complex issue that affects millions of individuals worldwide, leading to significant health, social, and economic consequences. According to Gabor Maté, a renowned physician and addiction expert, addiction is not a choice or a moral failing but rather a response to trauma and other underlying emotional issues. In this blog, we will explore Gabor Maté's perspective on addiction and the holistic approach to addiction treatment.

Maté argues that addiction is a coping mechanism used by individuals to escape from emotional pain caused by unresolved trauma, abuse, or neglect. He notes that individuals who experience trauma in childhood or adolescence are more likely to develop an addiction later in life as a way to cope with emotional distress and other mental health issues. In his book, "In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts," Maté states that "Addiction is not a problem; addiction is a desperate attempt to solve a problem."

Maté's perspective on addiction is supported by research on the impact of trauma on the brain. Studies have shown that trauma can cause changes in the brain's reward system, leading to an increased risk of addiction and other mental health issues. For example, a study published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine found that individuals who experienced childhood trauma were more likely to engage in substance abuse later in life.

Maté also highlights the importance of addressing the underlying emotional issues that lead to addiction, rather than simply treating the symptoms of addiction. He argues that traditional addiction treatment programs, such as 12-step programs and behavioral therapy, often fail to address the underlying emotional issues that lead to addiction, leading to high relapse rates. Instead, Maté suggests a holistic approach to addiction treatment that addresses the root causes of addiction, including trauma and other emotional issues. This approach involves therapy that focuses on building a strong therapeutic relationship and addressing the underlying emotional issues that contribute to addiction.


The following are some of the key components of the holistic approach to addiction treatment:

Addressing Trauma: The first step in the holistic approach to addiction treatment is addressing trauma. This involves therapy that helps individuals process and heal from past trauma, which can be a significant contributing factor to addiction.


Mind-Body Techniques: The holistic approach to addiction treatment also involves mind-body techniques, such as mindfulness meditation, yoga, and breathing exercises. These techniques can help individuals manage stress, reduce anxiety, and improve overall well-being.


Nutrition and Exercise: A healthy diet and regular exercise can also play a critical role in addiction recovery. A balanced diet can help individuals manage cravings and improve overall health, while exercise can help reduce stress and improve mood.


Social Support: Finally, social support is a crucial component of the holistic approach to addiction treatment. This can include family, friends, support groups, and other individuals who can provide emotional support and encouragement during the recovery process.


Research supports the effectiveness of a holistic approach to addiction treatment. A study published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs found that incorporating complementary therapies such as yoga and meditation into addiction treatment programs can reduce stress and anxiety, improve sleep, and enhance overall well-being. Another study published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment found that a holistic approach to addiction treatment, which included evidence-based therapies and complementary therapies such as acupuncture and massage, was associated with greater reductions in substance use and improvements in quality of life compared to traditional addiction treatment programs.


In conclusion, addiction is a complex issue that is often rooted in trauma and other underlying emotional issues. Maté's perspective on addiction highlights the importance of addressing the root causes of addiction, rather than simply treating the symptoms. By addressing trauma and other underlying emotional issues, individuals can break the cycle of addiction and achieve lasting recovery. It is essential to seek professional help for addiction and related mental health issues.

References:

Maté, G. (2010). In the realm of hungry ghosts: Close encounters with addiction. Vintage Canada.

Dube, S. R., Felitti, V. J., Dong, M., Chapman, D. P., Giles, W. H., & Anda, R. F. (2003). Childhood abuse, neglect, and household dysfunction and the risk of illicit drug use: the adverse childhood experiences study. Pediatrics, 111(3), 564-572.


Grob, S., Milrod, C., & DeSilva, P. (2014). Complementary therapies in addiction treatment: yoga and meditation. Journal of psychoactive drugs, 46(3), 212-228.


Svikis, D. S., Keyser-Marcus, L., Stitzer, M., Rieckmann, T., Safford, L., Loeb, P., & Allen, T. (2017). Randomized multi-site trial of the Job Seekers’ Workshop in patients with substance use disorders. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 74, 48-54.

© Alina P. Halonen, LPCC, CCTP 2023. All Rights Reserved.

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