Alternative Recovery Methods For Addiction.

Alternative Recovery Methods For Addiction.

A guest blog by Kimberly Hayes.

The most popular recovery method for addiction in the United States is, by far, the 12-step program. Designed by Alcoholics Anonymous, the 12 steps are highly religious in focus and involve accepting yourself as an addict for life. While this has worked well for many people, it can be ineffective for many others. According to NPR, the success rate of AA has been estimated to be just 10 percent – this leaves 90 percent of addicts still in need of treatment.

Most other recovery treatments are based on medical and psychological interventions. These aim to counter withdrawal symptoms with alternative substances (e.g.: methadone for opioid addiction) while solving emotional and psychological issues that may be underlying through counseling and therapy.

Alternative recovery methods are anything else that could have a beneficial effect on recovery, but that is not formally acknowledged as a medical form of treatment. This includes elements of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) such as yoga and meditation as well as other relaxing activities including exercise and certain manual hobbies.

How Do Alternative Recovery Methods Work?

Overall, most of these alternative methods work by reducing negative emotions that tend to trigger drug use. What most alternative methods have in common is that they are relaxing or meditative in nature, either by focusing on the breath and the movement of the body (yoga, swimming, meditation) or by keeping the mind occupied in a repetitive or creative task (art therapy, manual crafts).

According to Everyday Health a persistent negative mood and high rates of stress are significant risk factors for relapse. The majority of alternative recovery methods are effective in reducing stress and improving mood. Once incorporated as a regular habit into a daily routine, they become something an addiction survivor can rely on to feel better without having to reach for drugs or alcohol.

When To Use Alternative Recovery Methods

The main thing to remember when considering alternative options for treatment is that, by their very nature, alternative methods may not be extensively backed by science. You should learn to differentiate between those methods which have been shown to help and those with only anecdotal evidence to support them. If you cannot find any research on addiction specifically, look for research on the effectiveness of a practice in general – this should help you understand its value.

The most supported forms of alternative treatment are probably yoga and meditation. Both practices have a good amount of evidence them as effective tools for recovery addiction. Both focus on controlled breath – and in the case of yoga, physical movement – to calm the mind and body down and achieve a sense of peace and relaxation. For addicts dealing with stress, anxiety or depression, this can be a huge help. You could also apply this to other forms of meditative exercise such as swimming, or anything that helps you clear your mind.

Even then, you should not rely on alternative methods entirely. In fact, you should probably not rely on any one thing. Just like traditional recovery methods are a combination of therapy, group counseling, medicine and personal introspection, an alternative path to recovery still needs to involve several components.

Including yoga into your recovery could do wonders, but it is unlikely to help you overcome your addiction by itself. You may need the camaraderie of a recovery group, your own personal therapy, or the medical help of an alternative substance to stave off withdrawal. Different methods work for different people.

Many alternative methods can be effective in supporting recovery, particularly those which help you relax and put you in a positive state of mind. It may be a good idea to try out a few different options to see if there is anything you like or that makes you feel particularly good. Maybe you will feel great after acupuncture or a massage, or maybe yoga does the trick for you. Know that it’s OK to experiment and try different things and, if in doubt, ask the advice of a medical professional.


Kimberly Hayes enjoys writing about health and wellness and created 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.

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