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5 Unexpected Ways People Are Fighting Drug Addiction

Can these outside-of-the-box forms of treatment offer a glimmer of hope in the struggle against addiction?

In 2015, an estimated 20.8 million Americans — that's more than 7% of the population — met the criteria for alcohol and illicit drug use disorder, while a mere 2.2 million people received treatment.

1. Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide (NAD, NADH, or NAD+)

This critical co-enzyme occurs naturally in all living cells, where it plays an important role in energy generation. In supplement form, it has been used to treat Alzheimer’s disease, chronic fatigue, high blood pressure, depression, jet lag, high cholesterol, and a number of other conditions, with mixed results. Recently, however, American medical professionals have been turning to mega-doses of NAD to treat a wide variety of addictions.

Typically administered intravenously over a six to 10-day period, NAD has been used to treat addiction to alcohol, opiates, marijuana, cocaine, stimulants, prescription drugs, and other substances. Ann Rodgers, the Director of Brain Restoration Therapy in San Diego, claims that it reduces withdrawal symptoms by up to 80% — all without using replacement drugs. Other clinic operators have said that NAD is not a cure, but a way to maintain a drug-free lifestyle.

Unfortunately, long-term scientific studies confirming the effectiveness of this treatment have never been published in the United States. For now, NAD might be an effective and largely side effect-free form of treatment. But given the challenges of recovering from substance dependence, many patients feel they have little to lose.

2. Virtual Reality Therapy (VRT)

One of the most exciting forms of alternative therapy combines virtual reality, or immersive multimedia, and exposure therapy. VRT has already been used to train patients with anxiety disorders and phobias, and especially those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Now, this technology is being used to help addicts face their triggers.

The concept is similar to exposure therapy, in which addicts under supervision are deliberately exposed to people, places, or objects that make them want to use. But virtual reality therapy features an added safety net — since the recreated world is only virtual, there’s less danger involved.

3. Hallucinogens

Decades after popular hallucinogens were outlawed, researchers are beginning to investigate their role in treating conditions such as PTSD among veterans, severe depression, fear of death among the terminally ill, and alcoholism. Substances such as LSD, magic mushrooms, MDMA, and ayahuasca are now believed to have the potential to help addicts battle drug dependency over the long-term. Though there is plenty of skepticism surrounding the idea, organizations such as the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) are working to fund research and education programs across the country.

4. Biochemical Restoration

Biochemical restoration is a multi-pronged treatment plan that targets the biochemical and nutritional imbalances contributing to substance dependence-related symptoms such as cravings, anxiety, mood swings, and depression — an often-overlooked part of the recovery process, according to some dietitians.

Biochemical restoration targets the brain’s neurotransmitters, as well as other damaging conditions such as nutritional deficiencies, hypoglycemia, oxidative stress, inflammation, adrenal fatigue, and amino acid imbalances. After an initial assessment, a personalized restoration plan is established. The plan may involve taking micronutrient supplements, relaxation techniques, and physical activity. It’s typically used alongside other types of addiction treatment, such as counseling.

5. Neurofeedback

Neurofeedback, a form of biofeedback, uses an electroencephalograph (EEG) to allow patients to see their own brainwaves in real-time. Following an assessment, patients are given a number of neurofeedback tools that they can use to improve brain function in specific areas. According to experts, neurofeedback can help to target drug addiction’s underlying neurological causes.

[Image via Shutterstock]

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