Alternative and Often Controversial Addiction Treatment Methods
At one time, addiction was seen as a problem that afflicted the weak. It was thought that anyone could stop using drugs if he or she had enough willpower. More recently, doctors have learned that addiction is a complex disease changes the brain in ways that completely negate your willpower. Most people have no control over their addiction, and one type of treatment may not work for everyone. Still, some types of alternative addiction treatment for substance abuse disorders are so controversial that you might wonder whether they’re worth it.
Aversion Therapy for Addiction Treatment
Most drugs interact with the reward centers of the brain. When you do something that brings you pleasure, your brain wants more of the positive feelings that are associated with that behavior. This also happens when you chat with a good friend, go shopping or eat a delicious meal. The reward circuit tells you to do the activity again.
The more you do it, the more it gets solidified into your neural pathways. Even if substance abuse brings about negative side effects, the strong association with pleasure keeps you seeking it out.
Aversion therapy disassociates substance abuse and good feelings. It conditions you to associate negative consequences with taking drugs.
One type of aversion therapy involves administering a medication like Antabuse to people who use alcohol. Antabuse makes you feel sick if you drink while you’re taking it. Eventually, you might feel sick just thinking about alcohol.
This is what happens when many people get food poisoning, for example. If you throw up after eating your favorite food, you might never be able to eat it again.
Some critics say that it isn’t moral to intentionally make someone feel terrible. Aversion therapy doesn’t ease cravings or withdrawal symptoms. It doesn’t address the motivation behind the addiction. To be effective, aversion therapy should be combined with treatments that provide positive reinforcement.
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Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
According to the Mayo Clinic, transcranial magnetic stimulation was developed to treat depression. However, some doctors are using it to help people with addiction.
Addiction reorganizes your brain at a cellular level. New pathways and communication signals are created. Electrical activity in some areas of the brain, such as the regions that inhibit you from engaging in destructive behaviors, is diminished. Stimulating these areas of the brain can make you forget about your voracious desire to get high.
When performing transcranial magnetic stimulation, a medical professional holds a wand near the patient’s head. An electric current moves through a coil in the wand, creating a magnetic pulse. This changes the electrical activity in the brain. National Geographic tells the story of a cocaine user who stopped having cravings and abusing the substance after undergoing treatment.
This non-invasive procedure doesn’t require sedation and is generally considered safe. However, patients may experience side effects such as headaches, lightheadedness and spasms in their facial muscles.
Electroconvulsive therapy, or ECT, is one of the most controversial types of alternative addiction treatment. During this treatment, electrodes deliver a mild shock to a patient’s brain. The electricity causes a mild seizure.
The side effects of ECT can be intense. They include memory loss, confusion, emotional damage and cognitive decline, according to STAT. The long-term safety of ECT has not been established.
Although the treatment has come a long way in the past several decades, it is still controversial. For patients that are at a high risk of overdose or suicide and haven’t responded to any other treatments, ECT has been found to be effective.
Deep Brain Stimulation
Deep brain stimulation is one of the most invasive procedures. It involves surgery to place a small device in your brain. The device delivers electrical signals to interfere with the activity in that area.
Psych Central says that there is no proof that this treatment works. Moreover, there are no specific guidelines for doctors who want to use deep brain stimulation. Side effects include depression, hallucinations, infection and brain hemorrhage.
Studies that are more than three decades old found that giving a small dose of LSD to people who were being treated for alcohol abuse was effective for reducing alcohol consumption and preventing relapse, according to Scientific American. Experts were surprised that just one dose could be effective. They thought that the chemical might provide the clarity that patients needed to turn their lives around.
Many researchers agree that psychedelic drugs have undiscovered potential. However, the effects of these substances can be unpredictable. That’s why it’s best to use them only under the supervision of a medical professional. Dropping acid at home is not the answer to addiction.
It can be devastating to relapse after going through treatment for substance abuse. Addiction is a complex disease, and there is not one way to cure it. The best drug and alcohol rehab centers offer a variety of therapies and customize a treatment plan for each patient. Taking a multi-faceted approach that involves withdrawal management, psychotherapy, emotional support, life skills training and stress-reduction techniques is the most effective way to combat addiction.
Addiction Treatment that Lasts
For the best and strongest foundation in recovery, professionals agree that inpatient addiction treatment carries the highest success rates. By choosing inpatient treatment vs outpatient treatment, you are taking the first step towards a new life.
If you decide to commit to residential drug treatment, finding a safe, ethical and caring drug rehab is most important. Looking for certain qualities in a rehab will help to weed out other the options that may not have your best interests at hand. Quality and ethical addiction treatment will offer the following:
- CARF Certified Facility
- Medically Supervised Licensed Detox
- Dual Diagnosis Treatment
- Long-term Transitional Programs
- Multiple Therapy and Counseling Options
If you or a loved one are ready for addiction treatment, or if you’d like more information, contact an addiction counselor at Ocean Hills Recovery today for help.
About the author:
Nicole earned her doctoral degree in Psychology with an emphasis on marriage and family therapy at California School of Professional Psychology. Her doctoral thesis was a grounded theory study exploring the role of alienation and connectedness in the life course of addiction. She specializes in treating addiction and trauma. She is certified in DBT and EMDR, two of the most highly regarded evidence-based methods in psychotherapy. Dr. Doss is a strong LGBT advocate and provides open and affirming support to her LGBT clients.
Dr. Doss’s earlier education included graduating cum laude from the University of California, Irvine in June of 2007 with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. While there, she received honors recognition by Psi Chi and Golden Key honor societies.
Nicole has been working with alcoholics and addicts in our California drug and alcohol rehab center as an advisor and counselor for many years. She is passionate about providing quality counseling and care to her clients. Her main focus is on integrating the 12 Step and disease models of addiction with experiential therapeutic theory. She is married to Greg; they have two adorable sons together and an energetic yellow Labrador Retriever.