What to Expect at Holistic Alcohol Detox

Published: 02/16/2022 | Author:

There are many different types of detox options, including holistic alcohol detox. Holistic detox takes a whole-person approach to detoxification services, offering complementary and alternative therapies and treatment methods to help manage alcohol withdrawal.

In this article:

What is Holistic Alcohol Detox?

Alcohol detox is the first step on the continuum of care for alcohol use disorder (AUD). AUD is a chronic condition that doctors diagnose when a patient has developed a pattern of compulsive drinking, despite negative consequences.1 The detox process involves treating alcohol withdrawal symptoms that emerge once you stop drinking.

Detox can occur on an inpatient or outpatient basis. During inpatient alcohol detox, a treatment team provides you with 24/7 monitoring and care to ensure your safety throughout. Different inpatient detox programs for alcohol withdrawal use various approaches to recovery, such as holistic.

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Common alcohol withdrawal symptoms you may experience during detox include:2

  • Mood changes including anxiety, depression, and irritability
  • Feeling fatigued or having difficulty sleeping
  • Jumpiness, shakiness, tremors of the hands or other body parts
  • Nightmares
  • Feeling confused or not thinking clearly
  • Sweating, clammy skin
  • Enlarged pupils
  • Headaches
  • Loss of appetite or nausea and vomiting
  • Increased heart rate

Some alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous or potentially life-threatening, such as seizures. Another severe form of alcohol withdrawal is known as delirium tremens or withdrawal delirium, which is characterized by hallucinations and delusions.2

Holistic Approach to Detox

A holistic approach to alcohol detox aims to treat your withdrawal symptoms differently than traditional treatment approaches. Holistic detox treats your whole person, including your body, mind, and spirit. All three of these facets influence the detox treatment plan for you. It also focuses more on your wellness than your illness.

Holistic detox often turns to remedies found in nature as alternatives to traditional medicines used in treatment centers. This approach also puts more emphasis on spiritual and emotional well-being than a traditional approach.

Holistic detox centers view prevention as the best intervention and often believe in principles like those of the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine, such as:3

  • Integration of various healing systems is more effective than just one approach.
  • Holistic treatment is relationship-centered care.
  • Treatment should be individualized based on each person’s needs.
  • Treatment providers teach patients by the example of their own behaviors.
  • Healing powers are innate in the human body and require little intervention.
  • All experiences are learning opportunities for growth.
  • Embrace the healing power of love.
  • Optimal health is always the primary goal of treatment.

The holistic approach also looks at the big picture and how each individual issue or symptom is connected to your whole story.

While a holistic alcohol detox program may seem appealing to you, especially if are already into holistic remedies like yoga, acupuncture, or meditation, it’s important to note that a holistic program may not offer medical care necessary to address severe alcohol withdrawal. It’s essential to receive an evaluation from your provider before entering a detox program so they can refer you to one that has appropriate care for you.

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What to Expect From Holistic Alcohol Detox

You can expect different things with any detox treatment you choose. Contrary to traditional treatment centers, holistic alcohol detox will not include prescribed medication in the process. As an alternative, they will engage all parts of your mind, body, and spirit through various techniques.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness refers to the state of being aware of yourself and your surroundings. This is a practice that can help you remain calm in the present moment and help alleviate feelings of anxiousness, nervousness, and restlessness. Some activities that help with mindfulness that a holistic detox center may provide include:

  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Sensory exercises
  • Spending time in nature
  • Deep breathing
  • Relaxation exercises

Physical Health

A holistic approach looks at your physical health during detox as more than just medicating your physical withdrawal symptoms. A holistic detox center will probably utilize some of the following to improve your overall physical health while you are in treatment:

  • Massage
  • Chiropractic care
  • Acupuncture
  • Nutrition training
  • Daily exercise

Herbal Remedies

One of the main differences between a traditional center and a holistic one is in the medicinal practices. A holistic practitioner prefers to use herbal remedies for treating alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Some of the commonly used herbs to help with nervous system support while detoxing include:

  • Catnip
  • Valerian
  • St. John’s Wort
  • Hops
  • Damania
  • Passionflower
  • Skullcap

There is some evidence to support the impact that the following herbs have on the body:4

  • Milk thistle was found effective in treating and preventing alcohol liver diseases.
  • Chamomile can help relieve feelings of nausea that come with alcohol withdrawal and may reduce alcohol cravings.
  • Hovenia dulcis was found to be effective in alleviating intoxication, anxiety, and seizures.
  • Aloe vera has been known to help to strengthen the liver and improve its functions.

Holistic vs. Traditional Treatment Centers

In contrast to holistic detox centers, more traditional centers will utilize a few different evidence-based treatment techniques throughout your withdrawal process. Most traditional centers will use medications to help with alcohol withdrawal symptoms in the detox stage.

Typically, the treatment team will administer a benzodiazepine, such as Klonopin, for the management of alcohol withdrawal. This is because benzodiazepines and alcohol have similar mechanisms of action so benzos relieve withdrawal symptoms and cravings. They also can prevent medical emergencies associated with alcohol withdrawal, such as seizures. Again, holistic alcohol detox centers don’t utilize medications or offer medical care, so they may need to transfer you to a hospital if you experience a medical issue.

Along with medication, many traditional detox centers will also provide you with behavioral treatments to change drinking behavior through counseling. Specifically, they may use motivational enhancement therapy or motivational interviewing to try to improve your motivation for change and to encourage you to transition into an alcohol addiction treatment program once detox is complete.

Who is a Candidate for Holistic Detox?

Several studies have shown that many different types of treatment settings report favorable outcomes for patients; however, many of these studies include patients that were referred specifically to the particular setting being studied.2 This suggests that having an assessment by a professional that can recommend a certain level of treatment may be helpful in finding the most success.

The detox process can have an impact on one’s mental health. Trying to detox without proper treatment can result in the following:5

  • Feelings of anxiety
  • Anger and irritability issues
  • Depression, hopelessness, and thoughts of self-harm
  • Delusional thinking and paranoia
  • Seeing or hearing things that are not really there

If you are thinking about choosing a holistic detox center, mental health concerns are something to consider. If your alcohol withdrawal symptoms become severe, holistic detox may not be the right treatment option for you.

However, choosing either route will be beneficial. Research shows that about one-third of people who are treated for alcohol misuse have no further symptoms a year later, and many others substantially reduce their drinking and report fewer alcohol-related problems.1

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What are the Risks and Benefits?

Holistic alcohol detox treatment has several risks and benefits, which are important to consider when deciding if this detox setting is right for you.

Risks

One of the major risks involved in choosing a holistic alcohol detox treatment is related to withdrawal symptoms. Alcohol withdrawal can range from mild and uncomfortable to a serious, life-threatening condition, and your symptoms can depend on the amount of organ damage you have and whether or not you can stop drinking altogether.2

Choosing a holistic treatment center will provide less intensive monitoring of your withdrawal symptoms, which increases the risk of serious side effects that may need medication and medical care to treat.

Benefits

Choosing a holistic detox center may provide you with several benefits. Most centers of this type have relaxing and comfortable environments that can be a pleasant alternative to the more clinical settings in hospitals or medical detox centers.

Holistic centers often provide individualized treatment specific to your desires for healing and growth. You will also avoid any adverse reactions to medications at a holistic center since they do not use traditional medicines in their detox treatments.

Whether you choose a holistic detox center or a traditional treatment center, research shows any detox treatment will produce positive outcomes. If you or someone you know has an alcohol addiction, please call 800-483-2193(Who Answers?) to speak to a rehab support specialist about what treatment option is best for you.

Resources

  1. National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2021). Treatment for Alcohol Problems: Finding and Getting Help
  2. National Library of Medicine. (2021). Alcohol withdrawal.
  3. Riley, D.S., Anderson, R., Blair, J.C., Crouch, S., Meeker, W., Shannon, S., Sudak, N., Thornton, L., Dog, T.L. (2016). The Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine and the Evolution of Integrative Medicine Practice, Education, and Fellowships. Integrative Medicine: a Clinician’s Journal, 15(1): 38-41.
  4. Chandurkar, Payal & Hedaoo, Sameer. (2019). HERBAL REMEDIES OF ALCOHOL ADDICTION. World Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, 8(6), 491-510.
  5. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2015). Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment.
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