Natural Remedies for Alcoholism Addiction Treatment

A woman laying on a bed receiving acupuncture

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Alcoholism treatment and recovery are difficult processes that call for a great deal of steady support. While it's not advisable to rely solely on alternative therapies or remedies for that support, certain natural approaches may help enhance your well-being while undergoing alcoholism treatment.

When Is Alcoholism Treatment Necessary?

Alcoholism, the commonly used term for alcohol use disorder (AUD), is characterized by several features, including craving, loss of control, physical dependence (typically triggering symptoms like nausea and sweating upon withdrawal), and tolerance (a need to drink greater amounts of alcohol in order to experience the pleasurable effects of intoxication).

Because alcoholism can lead to a number of social and emotional problems—as well as serious health problems—it's crucial to seek treatment if you experience any symptoms of alcoholism (such as a compulsion to drink or an inability to limit the amount of alcohol you consume).

Certain natural substances and mind-body therapies show promise as a means of supporting your health while undergoing alcoholism treatment. If you're considering the use of any of these approaches, make sure to discuss its potential benefits and risks with the health care professionals involved in your alcohol use disorder treatment.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture (a needle-based therapy long used in traditional Chinese medicine) is often recommended to help reduce alcohol cravings, relieve withdrawal symptoms, and ease the anxiety and depression frequently experienced by alcoholics.

Research to determine whether acupuncture is effective is ongoing. A meta-analysis of studies that used sham acupuncture as a control (needles inserted into non-specific locations compared with needles in sites believed to target alcohol use disorder) found that acupuncture treatment had a stronger effect on reducing alcohol craving and withdrawal and alcohol-related behaviors. This was measured after the last posttreatment visit. However, the effect was weak in the long term.

Milk Thistle

Milk thistle (Silybum marianum), an herb rich in the antioxidant silymarin, is often touted as a means of restoring liver health and protecting against alcohol-induced liver damage. While preliminary research indicates that milk thistle may offer some benefit to those looking to treat alcohol-related liver disease, more studies are needed to draw any definitive conclusions about the herb's effectiveness in enhancing liver health.

Kudzu Extract

Kudzu extract has shown some promise in moderating binge drinking and reducing drinking in heavy drinkers who are not seeking alcohol use disorder treatment. It has several effects, including raising blood alcohol levels faster, so the effects of a drink are felt sooner. It is also thought to inhibit the clearing of acetaldehyde, a breakdown product of alcohol that has unpleasant effects, as does the approved drug Antabuse (disulfiram).

A study of binge drinkers provided either a kudzu extract or a placebo for a 90-minute session of drinking beer. The subjects who received a single dose of kudzu extract drank significantly less beer than their baseline measurement and that of those given a placebo. As well, they drank slower.

A study of heavy drinkers who did not want to enter a treatment program found that taking kudzu extract did not affect their alcohol craving. However, it reduced the number of drinks they consumed each week by one-third to one-half, decreased their number of heavy drinking days, and increased their abstinent days in both percentage and consecutive number.

Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is an herbal supplement from the Withania somnifera plant that has been traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine for alcohol withdrawal and cravings. Studies have been done on alcohol-addicted rodents which show it may relieve anxiety.

Meditation and Mindfulness-Based Programs

Mindfulness-based relapse prevention therapy has been used for alcohol use disorder and other substance abuse disorders. These programs are based on meditation practices. They train the participant to be aware of their thoughts, emotions, and cravings rather than simply reacting. Some studies report that the participants had better outcomes than participants who used only the typical 12-step program and other relapse prevention programs. However, this is not true of all studies. A 2017 systemic review and meta-analysis of studies did not find that this therapy was more beneficial than other forms of relapse prevention.

The Importance of Alcoholism Treatment

Without the help of alcoholism treatment, you may increase your risk of experiencing certain complications related to excessive drinking, including:

  • Alcoholic hepatitis (inflammation of the liver)
  • Cirrhosis (scarring of the liver)
  • Gastritis (inflammation of the lining of the stomach)
  • Pancreatitis
  • High blood pressure
  • Bone loss

In addition, alcoholism has been associated with an increased incidence of several cancers, including:

  • Colon cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, larynx, and liver

Options for Alcoholism Treatment

Given the major health risks associated with alcoholism, it's important to seek alcoholism treatment only from a qualified health care professional or facility.

Standard alcoholism treatment options may begin with detoxification, and possibly involve residential and outpatient programs that use a variety of social supports.

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Article Sources

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