The United States is in the midst of an opioid overdose epidemic. More people died from drug overdoses in 2014 than in any year on record, with more than 60% involving an opioid substance. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 78 Americans die everyday from opioid overdose and the rate of overdose deaths involving opioids nearly quadrupled since 1995.
Despite much research, there have been minimal advances in success rates of conventional treatment with a relapse rate typically greater than 70%. Pharmacological, genetic, mental, emotional, nutritional, social, and spiritual factors all play a role in influencing the abuse behaviors related with opioid use disorder (OUD). A growing body of evidence supports application of naturopathic modalities as a complimentary way of treating opioid addiction and dependence.
The evidence includes promising applications of nutritional medicine, mindfulness practices, neurobiofeedback, physical exercise, botanical medicine, and acupuncture for treatment of opioid-based addictions. OUD is a multi-factorial disease, affecting individuals’ mind, body and spirit. Effective treatment for OUD will require a combined biological, physiological, and psychological approach which is offered by naturopathic medicine.
The development of effective treatments for OUD is of immense value given the devastating consequences of the disease. As percentages of the population suffering from OUD continue to rise, naturopathic medicine serves as a holistic and comprehensive approach in the treatment of OUD, unparalleled by conventional medicine.
Naturopathic medicine serves as the unique practice of medicine, which provides holistic, comprehensive care, addressing the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual dynamics of an individual. It is for this reason that naturopathy can provide much needed care for patients enduring the multi-factorial, opioid use disorder. Successful treatment plans would involve a multifaceted approach involving various naturopathic modalities.
The biological and genetic vulnerability, social influences, environmental exposures, and individual behaviors that contribute to the neurological dysfunction and compulsive tendencies of opioid addiction make it one of the most complex disorders to study and treat. In addition, the drug properties of opioids dispose individuals to the extreme addictiveness of these substances.
In regards to researched based methods, effective modalities to include would be the application of nutritional medicine, counseling, mindfulness and breathing techniques, botanical medicine and acupuncture. In addition, implementation of group-based therapies would be beneficial. Furthermore, lifestyle modifications would embrace the practice of movement activities by means of physical exercise plans, yoga, qigong, or drumming.