Alternative Drug Rehab

Are you looking at what is available and thinking of an alternative drug rehab centre? If you have read my blog at all you will probably note that I am somewhat critical of non-evidence based drug and alcohol rehab, and generally this does include alternative drug rehab centres.

What is an Alternative Drug Rehab Centre?

Well as the name stated it is alternative or away from the mainstream, hopefully they are just using the phrase as a marketing ploy and if that is the case, it is fine and I have no problem with the. However if it is truly an alternative and is not bothering with evidence based treatment approaches, then the alternative part of their programme basically means, unproven and not backed up by any research or scientific fact.

I see allot of the centres offering acupuncture, yoga, meditation, rikki, NLP, Tai Chi and a whole host of alternative drug rehab "treatments" and that is fine. As I have said on this site many times, the main thing you need to do when you have a client in rehab is to keep them busy. You can't possibly do psychological counselling 16 hours a day without everybody going completely nuts, counselling and therapy is generally broken into shorter sessions with periods of time in-between for you to absorb and reflect on the session.

Realistically a alternative drug rehab or any other kind for that matter can only do a couple hours of counselling and therapy a day, the rest of the day needs to be filled up and if you like playing with horses, getting massages, exercising and stretching, great. Keeps you busy and gets your mind off your withdrawal symptoms or the worries you have. It gives you time to digest the important aspects of your treatment which happens in the 1 to 1 and group therapy sessions. All the rest is just fluff, the exercising is probably the most beneficial of all of it since loosing weight and getting in shape will increase your self confidence and give you healthy activities to do once you leave the programme.

I will say again, everything else is just filler. One centre I use to run we offered scuba diving. Why not? We were on a beautiful tropical island with great dive sites and the last thing someone is thinking of doing when 40 feet under water is drinking or shooting up. Was it therapy? Of course not, it was just to keep everyone busy and tire them out so they slept at night.

I have no problem with all the extra activities, providing the core is evidence based treatment with facts and research to back it up. There was a center I recall offering "Elephant Assisted Treatment" they stated that

there is antidotal evidence that the ultra sounds that elephants produced helped in detoxification....

Absolute BS, if people like elephants and want to go to an elephant camp while in residential treatment, then go, but call it what it is, an excursion or a day playing with elephants.

There is an Australian musician and comedian named Tim Minchin who wrote and preformed a beat poem called Storm in which he makes a statement about alternative medicine that is very hard to argue with:

Alternative medicine, by definition

Has either not been proved to work

Or been proved not to work

Do you know what they call alternative medicine thats been proved to work?


So when looking at an alternative centre please do yourself a favor, don't look at the "alternative" aspect of it, look at the evidence based aspect of it. Look at the qualifications of the staff, where did they train? Do they have degrees, if they have degrees are they in drug and alcohol treatment or behavioral science? Does it list their schools and what they studied? Do you see specific drug and alcohol related certification and training? If the rehab center does not list their staff and their staffs qualification, be extremely cautious of them.

Also if a rehab focuses more on the 'fun' and 'alternative' aspects of their program and not the tried and tested evidence based counselling, therapy and medical staff that may be needed, ask yourself, are you trying to change your life or have a nice vacation?

Alternative Drug Rehab vs Evidence Based and Proven

If you need a hip replacement are you going to go to an Orthopedic surgeon or someone that has had a hip replacement so knows what it's like? While I am on this topic something else I would like to address. I hear many people, professionals in the industry and clients alike that say a person needs to be a recovering addict to be able to treat a person suffering from drug addiction. My response to this is that it is not true at all. I have met some recovering addicts that are great therapists and I have met some that are lousy. Just like I always say, I live in a country that needs allot of English teachers, just because I speak English does not make me a good teacher.

Same as if we go back to our surgeon, does he need to have had a hip replacement to be able to treat people that need that procedure? Some people in recovery make great therapists, and some people that have never been in recovery do as well. The reverse of that is true also. I have learned as much about addiction as most people that don't have a PhD in the subject over the years and I know I would make a terrible counsellor, I don't have the mindset for it. I am much better at talking to people for the short term, not the long term. I am not good with emotions, mine or yours.

Back to the Alternative drug rehab centres though, if that is what you are looking at be sure to look at the quality of the people that will be treating your drug addiction not just the extra circular activities involved and remember, everything with the exception of your medical detox, therapy and counselling sessions is all just there to keep you happy and busy.

Extreme Example of Alternative Drug Rehab

An extreme example of alternative drug rehab is the recent stories in Thailand of the young man Brodie Noel Smith who went to an Ibogaine centre on Koh Phangan. There is conflicting reports about what happened but the one thing we know for sure, the man is dead. I have had some emails from people giving me grief that I am being unfair and I need to look at all the evidence for how well the alternative drug rehab therapy ibogaine works and all I can say to that is I have looked at it. There isn't any real properly done scientific studies and evidence that says it is safe and works. Or that says the risk is worth the potential harm, all pharmaceuticals can be harmful and part of the certification process is proving that they will help drastically more people then they will harm even knowing some people will have adverse reactions and even possibly die from the "cure". Ibogaine has not had the proper trials and studies to say it is safe or even effective for that matter.

In conclusion, if you are looking at alternative drug rehab for the recreational offerings they have, great, there is no reason that rehab shouldn't be enjoyable. Just make sure that there are people there with proper industry standard qualifications and not just alternative unproven treatments.