Getting into treatment is one of the first steps in the right direction for a recovery survivor, but when a relapse (or multiple relapses) occur and the traditional 12-step program isn’t cutting it on its own, it may be time to incorporate alternative treatment methods into an otherwise traditional agenda. Obviously, this would be a move that should be discussed with a doctor, as there may be specific underlying health issues that need to be taken into consideration.

For the most part, many individuals are able to maintain sobriety when infusing one or more secondary techniques into their routines. While yoga and meditation are among the most commonly discussed options because of their stress-busting benefits, there are other methods worth discussing, too.


This ancient Asian practice involves inserting thin needles into specific trigger points to help detoxify and reduce withdrawal symptoms and muscle aches while controlling cravings. As this technique is non-verbal, it can be particularly helpful for resistant patients. It also helps ease anxiety and irritability while helping recovery survivors find inner peace as they’re forced to lay still and focus during treatment. Ear acupuncture (National Acupuncture Detoxification Association — NADA — protocol) is among one of the most common methods. Treatments are traditionally given in a large group where everyone sits quietly for about 45 minutes. The good news is that it’s both safe and inexpensive while being widely available.


Medical hypnosis has been proven to eliminate or control one’s insatiable desire for drugs and alcohol while boosting self-esteem at the same time. A hypnotherapist works with each patient to dig deep into their subconscious mind to try to determine the root of their addiction. Changing the way the brain reacts to painful memories associated with pain, fear, or hopelessness can help reduce cravings.


Several studies have indicated the success rate of using biofeedback (also called neurofeedback) as an alternative treatment method. With the aid of a machine, the patient’s brain waves are altered, which can help promote feelings of relaxation and reduce stress. By normalizing the alpha and theta brain waves that were damaged through long-term substance abuse, there’s a greater chance of preventing a future relapse.

Herbal Therapy

 While nutrition is one thing, herbal supplements can help heal organs that were compromised through abuse. For example, hawthorn berries help strengthen the heart, milk thistle promotes healing in the liver, and burdock root purifies the kidneys and liver while calming inflammation.

Diet and Nutritional Therapy

A healthy diet is a key component for any recovery survivor, as it can help restore the body of depleted nutrients while squashing cravings. It’s important to establish a routine early on, as it’s not uncommon for feelings of depression to kick in after ceasing drug or alcohol use. Along with not being nutritionally sound, it’s best to avoid sugar, as it can cause a spike in blood pressure,  thus prompting cravings. Opt for easily digestible foods like oatmeal, rice, bananas, high-fiber fruits, and vegetables. Lean meat and healthy fats (avocado and olive oil) are essential for rebuilding muscle tissue while reducing irritability and a yearning for illicit substances.

When diet isn’t enough, it may be time to consider intravenous targeted nutritional therapy to quickly infuse your cells with the raw materials found in vitamins, minerals, amino acids, EFAs, and enzymes — all of which help the body detoxify. This effective, yet gentle treatment also has a reputation for minimizing withdrawal symptoms.

Sometimes, even alternative treatments don’t prevent a relapse. If you or someone you know thinks there’s a setback on the horizon, consider the warning signs: loss of judgment and/or control, limiting or reducing treatment options, social breakdown, behavioral changes, and loss of structure — all of which are accompanied by anxiety, depression, and acute withdrawal symptoms. It’s important to know that relapse is preventable, so try to be in tune with your body and mind if you feel one is on the way. If it does happen, just look at it as an opportunity to reprogram yourself and tweak your path to recovery.


Kimberly Hayes enjoys writing about health and wellness and created to help keep the public informed about the latest developments in popular health issues and concerns. In addition to studying to become a crisis intervention counselor, Kimberly is hard at work on her new book, which discusses the ins and outs of alternative addiction treatments.