Spiritual Causes and Treatment of Addiction
Spiritual Causes and Treatment of Addiction
Addiction is often described by its biological elements. People who are addicted to substances experience physical pain, intense cravings, and withdrawal symptoms. The most successful rehabilitation approaches address these issues through medication, healthy diet, and exercise.
The emotional and mental health side of addiction is usually managed through therapy and stress management techniques. However, many addiction specialists are acknowledging the spiritual component of addiction and advocating for alternative treatments.
The Link Between Addiction and Trauma
Going through a terrible event like the loss of a loved one, a violent assault, or ongoing childhood abuse leaves a deep mark in an individual’s psyche. Studies have shown that people who have experienced a traumatic event are more likely to develop an alcohol or substance dependency.
One theory for the relationship between addiction and trauma is the lack of healthy coping skills. Trauma can trigger multiple mental health issues, including anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and depression.
People begin to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol to deal with these conditions. After prolonged use, they become physically and emotionally dependent on the substance, leading to long-term problems. Further, substance use in itself can also deteriorate an individual’s mental health.
For example, alcohol overuse inhibits brain function and triggers the condition, wet brain. Wet brain symptoms include personality changes, intense irritation, and anger. These side effects make it even more difficult for people with addictions to achieve the inner peace needed to fight addiction.
Spirituality as Addiction Treatment
Unlike religion, being spiritual doesn’t require any adherence to a specific set of beliefs. Instead, spirituality encourages individuals to consider that there is a realm of existence beyond the physical and material world.
Getting in touch with this timeless, all-encompassing energy can bring a sense of peace and comfort. Spiritual practices can give people the insight and perspective to acknowledge and process their traumas without drugs or alcohol.
Incorporating spirituality in addiction treatment is not new. The sobriety program Alcoholics Anonymous has used spiritual practices within its treatment model for nearly a century. Likewise, shamanistic rituals that involve potent hallucinogens have existed for millennia.
However, these approaches have only recently caught the attention of the scientific community. Now, research and data are revealing the effectiveness of a spiritual approach to addiction treatment.
Research and Alternative Therapies
Numerous studies have investigated alternative practices from Eastern medicine in addiction treatment.
In Chinese medicine, addiction is caused by a build up in yin or yang energy. As the body prefers to be in balance, Chinese medicine practitioners advise restoring equilibrium through treatments like acupuncture and herbs. Contemporary research has noted a link between acupuncture treatment and neurotransmitter function, which may reduce cravings and physical withdrawal symptoms.
Energy healing, also known as Reiki, follows a similar logic found in traditional Chinese medicine. According to the principles of the Japanese practice, addiction is the result of stagnant energy. The negative energy during a traumatic experience can become stuck in the body and block energy flow.
During a reiki session, an experienced practitioner channels healing energy into the recipient. This breaks up the stagnation and encourages energy flow. Immediately after, recipients report milder withdrawal symptoms and a deeper sense of relaxation.
A study published in the Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that Reiki’s positive impact cannot be attributed to the placebo effect.
There is some anecdotal evidence of the healing power of hallucinogens, like ayahuasca from South America and ibogaine from Gabon. However, these drugs are very powerful and can cause serious side effects. Still, their potential applications for addiction treatment are promising enough to initiate several government-sponsored studies.
Buddhist philosophy views addiction as a consequence of karma, or actions performed in a past life. Without practiced awareness, people repeat patterns of addiction lifetime over lifetime and never get to the root of their sadness.
Practices like meditation and mindfulness help people detach from their thoughts, emotions, and impulsive behaviors and eventually find a more sustainable source of peace.
MRI scans of novice meditators revealed that meditation actually restructures the brain. Within two months of meditation training, practitioners show a notable reduction in amygdala activity, a brain region associated with processing fear and triggering the fight or flight response.
More experienced meditators have more profound changes, including less activity in the default mode network, the part of the brain responsible for rumination and mindless thoughts.