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Holistic Approach to Treatment

By on April 11, 2016
substance abuse treatment

Substance Abuse Issues Are Common. The abuse of substances by individuals to “self medicate” has reached epidemic proportions.

As recent as 2013, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) reported horrific health statistics related to substance abuse disorders, see below.

  •  66.9 million people are diagnosed with Tobacco Use Disorders;
  • 18 million people (Alcohol Use Disorders);
  • 4.2 million (Cannabis Use Disorders);
  • 1.8 million (Opioid Use Disorders);
  • 855,000 (Stimulant Use Disorders); and
  • 280,000 (Hallucinogen Disorders).

Substance abuse can have a major impact on individuals, families and society. The abuse of substances has been linked to public health issues, such as intimate partner abuse, child abuse, teen pregnancy, suicide and homicide. Often, substance abuse disorders are also linked to other mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety.

Treatment. The goal of treatment is to help the individual to abstain from using substances, reduce the effects of that drug abuse has had on their life and relationships, and to improve their overall quality of life.

Many mental health professionals who treat substance abuse issues advocate treating the disorders from a holistic perspective, focusing on the individual’s psychological, biological and other needs (e.g., employment services, nutritional therapy).

Holistic treatment is defined as a technique that focuses on mind, body and spirit to achieve wellness.


This treatment philosophy recognizes that people must be treated from a “whole person” approach, and includes meditation, exercise, massage and nutritional therapy. The goal is to create balance and “wholeness”, and to provide relief from some of the stressors associated with recovery from drug abuse.

These techniques are often used in addition to traditional psychotherapy, counseling or support groups (e.g., Alcoholics Anonymous).

  • Meditation. Teaching addicts to meditate can help to reduce anxiety and stress, and provide a new method of coping with life’s challenges. It can also help recovering addicts to control the negative thoughts that often contribute to drug abuse and prevent recovery.
  • Exercise and Massage. Physical activity can be a healthy coping technique. Exercise releases endorphins, which have been proven to elevate mood and decrease depression. Massage can help a recovering addict to relax more, reduce anxiety and lessen withdrawal symptoms.
  • Nutritional Therapy. Individuals who use drugs often suffer from poor diets. Their appetite is often effected by the use of the substance, and when in the throes of the addiction, they usually do not make healthy food choices. Teaching healthy eating habits, eliminating sugars and additives and adding herbal or nutritional supplements may help heal some of the effects of substance abuse, and assist in the recovery process.


For More Information:

National Institute on Drug Abuse

Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Minority Health


Treatment/Self Help Groups:

Alcoholics Anonymous

Cocaine Anonymous

Crystal Meth Anonymous

Marijuana Anonymous

Narcotics Anonymous


Canillas - Bio Photo 2-3


Gregory Canillas, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor in the Clinical PsyD program at the Los Angeles campus of The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Follow him on Twitter @DrGJCanillas and on Instagram at DrC9.