Other Treatment Approaches

There are many other tools to help lessen withdrawal symptoms and cravings and prevent relapse. These can enhance medication-assisted treatment and other approaches to recovery. They help manage stress and anxiety, change attitudes and behaviors related to drug use, increase healthy coping skills, and if on medication, help you use it in the right way and long enough to be effective.

  1. SAMHSA’s National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices
    This website helps people learn more about addiction recovery approaches and programs that have been studied and shown to be effective. You can search a key word database or view all the programs.

  2. Nerve stimulator to lessen opioid withdrawal symptoms
    In 2017 the FDA approved the NSS-2 Bridge, a brain-stimulating device for patients with intense withdrawal symptoms caused by addiction to heroin and other opioids. The device can be worn behind the ear for as long as 5 days during early stages of withdrawal. Electrodes stimulate nerves in the brain and spinal cord to relieve symptoms such as sweating, tremors, stomach upset, joint pain and anxiety. A study of more than 70 patients showed a 30% decrease in symptoms within 30 minutes of using the device. Doctors have said the device helps patients avoid relapse before beginning a treatment regimen of monthly naltrexone shots.

  3. Acupuncture
    Addiction research on acupuncture shows it is most effective in treating opioid withdrawal symptoms. Ear acupuncture is the form commonly used for recovery treatment.

    Acupuncture reduces the surge of dopamine in the brain from an opioid, which lessens the “high” from using the drug. It also decreases the withdrawal symptoms that often make it hard for people to stop using opioids. Both these actions can help reduce cravings and relapse, lessen depression, anxiety and stress, and improve mood and sleep.

    The National Acupuncture Detoxification Association (NADA) was founded in 1985 and its detoxification protocols are being used in over 250 hospitals and 700 addiction treatment centers in the U.S. and U.K. In 1996, the World Health Organization accepted acupuncture as a therapy for drug treatment, followed by the National Institutes of Health in 1997.

    To find an acupuncture practitioner visit this page of our website.

  4. Well-being and addiction recovery
    • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
      CBT is a type of short-term therapy that can help people recognize their negative and harmful thought patterns that can underlie problems with addiction. How we think strongly shapes how we feel and what we do. CBT opens up new ways of thinking that are more positive, healthful and realistic. It helps people develop coping strategies to handle stressors and difficulties following addiction treatment.

    • Mindfulness and medication-assisted treatment
      Mindfulness and acceptance support opioid treatment by reducing the power of cravings triggered by stress. An 8-week outpatient aftercare program called Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention or MBRP combines life skills and mindfulness practices. The exercises help you avoid automatic and impulsive actions by shifting out of “autopilot”. Instead you learn to recognize the physical sensations, feelings and thoughts that arise in triggering situations and learn new responses to those triggers. Several practices specifically target the ability to accept difficult thoughts and feelings rather than using an addictive drug to avoid discomfort.

    • Guided Imagery
      Chronic stress can make you vulnerable to opioid addiction. Without a belief in your ability to cope, it is easy to use drugs as a way to escape emotional pain.

      Guided imagery is a tool that helps people lower their stress levels and build skills to manage anxious feelings, quiet cravings, increase self-control and practice self-love. It can be done on one’s own with a guided imagery audio or video or working with a counselor or therapist. Techniques such as simple visualization, positive imagery and coping imagery help change negative thoughts and behaviors and improve self-care and resilience.

      Here’s a free online guided imagery exercise to try (9 minutes):
      Dr. Emmet Miller: Changing your habits, addictions and behaviors

      Visit our web page on Guided Imagery for a good place to order recovery audiotapes.

Updated February 20, 2019