Substance Abuse Rehabilitation
and Alternative Medicine:
One might conclude that alternative medicine is not the predominant or prevalent
approach to addiction medicine, but the mainstream treatment approach to addiction
in the U.S. is “alternative,” based in a fundamental reliance upon Alcoholics Anonymous.
A paradoxical situation exists in the fundamental role of spirituality in Alcoholics
Anonymous (AA), and the acceptance of the AA approach by biomedicine. The only
program that the American Medical Association and boards of medical examiners recognize
as providing adequate therapy and support to meet its requirements for treatment of
physicians suffering from addictions is the AA. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), an
avowedly religious and spiritual approach to overcoming addictions, is the treatment
of choice for what medicine tells us is a physiological disease.
The apparent contradiction between the biomedical definition of addiction as a
biological process and the predominant treatment processes based upon a spiritual
healing has a resolution in understanding spirituality in neurological terms.
“Neurotheology” links spirituality with biologically based altered states
of consciousness (ASC) and the physiological dynamics of addiction. Research
on spiritual ASC illustrate that they produce physiological changes in brain responses
that are similar to the dynamics of addiction, enabling spirituality to affect the
biological dynamics of addiction.
The incorporation of non-drug practices to deliberately induce altered states of
consciousness is one of these areas in which cross-cultural perspectives can enhance
addiction medicine. Psychobiological perspectives on shamanistic healing and
other forms of natural ASC indicate that they are useful both as a prophylactic against
drug abuse, as well as a potential treatment for addiction. These ASC can provide
an alternative source of transcendence to the drugs of addiction, facilitating a smoother
transition to the path of recovery. Many of the forms of ASC--drumming groups,
shamanic circles, meditation centers, and others--also provide a social support group
and a set of activities to occupy the addict and their time and energies. All of
these aspects can facilitate recovery, easing the physical longing and mental anguish
of abstinence, providing productive and supportive activities to occupy the addict’s
time, and creating a social reference group to change affect and sense of self central
to the self-transformations underlying recovery.
Dr. Winkelman’s Publications on Drugs and the Therapeutic Properties of Psychointegrators
2005 Drugs and Modernization. A Companion to Psychological Anthropology: Modernity and Psychocultural Change, Conerly Casey and Robert Edgerton, eds. Blackwell In., (with Keith Bletzer). pp. 337-357
2005 Drug Tourism or Spiritual Healing? Ayahuasca Seekers in Amazonia J. Psychoactive Drugs 37(2):209-218
2004 Spirituality and the Healing of Addictions: A Shamanic Drumming Approach. In: Religion and Healing in America, Edited by Linda L. Barnes and Susan S. Sered. New York: Oxford University Press. Pp. 455-470
2003 Psychointegration: The Physiological Effects of Entheogens. Sidestreet Electronic Journal
2003 Complementary Therapy for Addiction: “Drumming Out Drugs” American Journal of Public Health 93(4): 647-651
2003 Psychointegration: The Physiological Effects of Entheogens. Entheos 2(1):51-61
2001 Psychointegrators: Multidisciplinary Perspectives on the Therapeutic Effects of Hallucinogens. Complementary Health Practice Review 6(3): 219-237,
2001 Alternative and Traditional Medicine Approaches for Substance Abuse Programs: a Shamanic Perspective. International Journal of Drug Policy 12:337-351
For Additional Resources on Shamanic Approaches to Addiction:
Alexander, C., P. Robinson, & M. Rainforth. 1994. Treating and Preventing Alcohol,
Nicotine, and Drug Abuse Through Transcendental Meditation: A Review and Statistical Meta-Analysis.
Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly. 11(1/2): 13-87. Reprinted in Self-Recovery:
Treating Addictions Using Transcendental Meditation and Maharishi Ayur-Veda. D. O’Connell
and C. Alexander, eds. New York: Haworth Press.
Booth, J. and J. E. Martin. 1998. Spiritual and Religious Factors in Substance
Use, Dependence, and Recovery. In Handbook of Religion and Mental Health. Harold
G. Koenig, ed. San Diego: Academic Press.
Eshowsky, M. 1993. Practicing Shamanism in a Community Health Center. Shamanism. 5(4): 4-9.
Eshowsky, M. 1998. Community Shamanism: Youth, Violence, and Healing. Shamanism. 11(1): 3-9.
Eshowsky, M. 1999. Behind These Walls Where Spirit Dwells. Shamanism. 12(1): 9-15.
Gelderloos, P., K. Walton, D. Orme-Johnson, and C. Alexander. 1991. Effectiveness
of the Transcendental Meditation Program in Preventing and Treating Substance Misuse:
A Review”. International Journal of the Addictions. 26: 293-325.
Green, L., M. Fullilove, & R. Fullilove. 1998. Stories of spiritual awakening the
nature of spirituality in recovery. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment.
Heggenhougen, C. 1997. Reaching New Highs: Alternative Therapies
for Drug Addicts. Northvale, N.J.: Jason Aronson.
Jilek, W. G. 1994. Traditional Healing in the Prevention and Treatment of
Alcohol and Drug Abuse. Transcultural Psychiatric Research Review, 31: 219-258.
Johnson, L. 1990. Creative Therapies in the Treatment of Addictions: The Art of
Transforming Shame. The Arts in Psychotherapy. 17: 299-308.
McPeake, J.D., B.P. Kennedy, and S. M. Gordon. 1991. Altered States of
Consciousness Therapy: A Missing Component in Alcohol and Drug Rehabilitation
Treatment. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment. 8: 75-82.
Metzner, R. 1994. Addiction and Transcendence as Altered States of Consciousness.
The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology. 26(1): 1-17.
Miller, W. R. 1998a. Researching the Spiritual Dimensions of Alcohol and Other Drug
Problems. Addiction. 93(7): 979-990.
O'Connell, D. 1991. The Use of Transcendental Meditation in Relapse Prevention
Counseling. Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly. 8(1): 53-69.
O'Connell D., and C. Alexander (eds.). 1994. Self-Recovery: Treating Addictions
Using Transcendental Meditation and Maharishi Ayur-Veda. New York: Hayworth Press.
Rioux, D. 1996. Shamanic Healing Techniques: Toward Holistic Addiction Counseling.
Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly. 14(1): 59-69
Singer, M. and M. Borrego. 1984. Indigenous Treatment for Alcoholism: The Case for
Puerto Rican Spiritism. Medical Anthropology. 8(4): 246-272.
Smith, D. 2000. Shamanism and Addiction. Spirit Talk. 11: 8-12.
Smith, E. 1999. Evolution, Substance Abuse, and Addiction. In Evolutionary
Medicine. W. Trevathan, E. Smith, and J. McKenna, eds. New York: Oxford, 375-405.
Walton, K., and D. Levitsky. 1994. A Neuroendocrine Mechanism for the Reduction
of Drug Use and Addictions by Transcendental Meditation. In Self-Recovery: Treating
Addictions Using Transcendental Meditation and Maharishi Ayur-Veda. D. O'Connell
and C. Alexander, eds. New York: Hayworth Press.
Wilshire, B. 1998. Wild Hunger. Lanham, Md: Rowman and Littelfield.
Winkelman, M. 2000. Shamanism: The Neural Ecology of Consciousness and Healing.
Westport, Conn.: Bergin and Garvey.
Page last updated: March 21, 2007