Ayurvedic treatment for Alcohol-Substance abuse

Alcohol-Substance abuse

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  • Causes
  • Symptoms
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Alcohol-Substance abuse Ayurvedic treatment


Alcohol or other toxic substances have potential to be overused or abused by a person. This phenomenon is called as addiction. Medically the term ‘addiction’ refers to dependence on an illegal drug or legal substances like alcohol and nicotine.1

Addiction causes people to use the substance even if it harms them. Addiction to alcohol or a drug causes severe craving that a person cannot fight against. Due to this, there are long term effects on personal health, mental problems and issues with relationships and social problems.1

As per Ayurveda, addiction to alcohol is described as ‘madatyata’ (Madya meaning alcohol, ati meaning excessive).2

Alcohol intake causes aggravation of one of more doshas (body constituents) like Vata, Pita and Kapha. In addiction vitiation of Vata causes cardinal symptoms like headache, sleeplessness, hallucinations, restlessness, anxiety, depression and constipation. Vitiated Pitta causes stomach upset, sweating, giddiness, temper etc and vitiation of Kapha cause excessive sleep, lethargy, heaviness in the body, nausea & vomiting. Vitiation of Tridoshas causes combination of the above clinical feature. In general Vata predominant Tridoshaj pathology will be found in physiological dependence & withdrawal. Rajas dosha amongst the Manasa (Mental) dosha will be responsible for psychological dependence.2


Alcohol-Substance abuse


There are several factors that contribute towards development of an addiction or dependence. These are1:

  1. A person’s beliefs and attitudes, exposure to a circle of friends that encourage use of drugs etc
  2. Certain genes are responsible for developing dependence after consuming some substances.


Alcohol-Substance abuse


Alcohol/drug addiction symptoms or behaviors include the following1:

  • Needing alcohol/alcohol/drug, regularly
  • Strong urges for alcohol/drugs
  • Ensuring a constant stock/supply of the alcohol/drug
  • Spending money for alcohol/drug in spite of not being able to afford them
  • Shying away from responsibilities and social behavior
  • Indulging in wrong activities such as stealing


While people of any age, sex or economic status can become addicted to alcohol/drugs; certain factors can affect the likelihood and speed of developing an addiction1:

  • Addiction in the family
  • Male gender.
  • Any co-morbid mental condition
  • Pressure from others.
  • Poor family support
  • Loneliness

Dependence on alcohol/drugs can create a number of dangerous and damaging complications in life such as poor performance at work, social issues, law and order problems and even cause infectious disease due to poor judgement and risky behavior.1


Alcohol-Substance abuse


Diagnosing addiction requires a thorough evaluation. This is provided by a psychiatrist, a psychologist, or a licensed alcohol and drug counselor.

Other lab tests for blood, urine may be used for monitoring treatment and recovery.1


Alcohol-Substance abuse


Ayurveda describes Padanshika Krama or gradually decreasing the dose of alcholol etc whichile increasing the dose of homologus substances. As per Acharya Charak, condition arising out of alcohol or drug abuse can be suppressed by taking the same alcohol/drug in medicinal doses. Ayurvedic alcoholic preparations - by virtue of having nutrients & prepared from health promoting foods - can be a good substitution to commercial alcohol, if given therapeutic doses. This principle of madya in madya will be applied during deaddiction of other addicted drugs by using the parallel therapeutic agent instead.

Intellect promoting or Medhya drugs such as Mandukaparni (Centella asiatica Linn.), Yastimadhu (Glycirrhiza glabra Linn.), Guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia (Wild) Miers) and Shankhapushpi (Convolvulus pleuricaulis Chois) are beneficial in these conditions.

Biopurificatory measures like Snehana-svedana, Vasti and nasya may be beneficial.  Satvajya (councelling), Daiva Vyapashraya Chikitsa (Meditation, worship, chanting etc) may be beneficial.

Diet Recommendations (Aahar)

Diet vastly affects the agni, tridoshas and the manas (mind). A wholesome healthy diet is essential for mental health and happiness.

Use of milk, ghee, sweet dish etc influences the Pravar Satva (Higher mental equilibrium). Madhur rasa and amla rasa strength the indriya & positively influences the satva (positive state of mind).

Lifestyle changes (Vihar)

Achar rasayan (Good behavior and lifestyle) influences the Pravar Satva (Higher mental equilibrium) and allows for better control over addiction.

Meditative exercises such as shavasana and dhyan are recommended.


Alcohol-Substance abuse
  1. Why is stress bad for my health?
    Stress symptoms can affect your body, your thoughts and feelings, and your behavior. If left unchecked, stress can contribute to many health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes. Some of the common effect that stress can cause but we may not realize are -
  • Headache,
  • Muscle tension or pain
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Change in sex drive
  • Stomach upset
  • Sleep problems etc.

Hence it is very important that stress should not be ignored as a condition and immediate medical support should be sought for it.

  1. What are the reasons for depression/How does depression happen?

There are no specific reasons that can lead to depression. Every person responds to any situation in different ways.

Yet, depression can happen to anyone and at any age, but often begins in adulthood. Depression is now being diagnosed in children and adolescents too. There are no specific risk factors, but following things increase the chances of someone to have depression -

  • Personal or family history of depression
  • Major life changes, trauma, or stress
  • Certain physical illnesses and medications
  1. What is addiction? How does it affect someone?

Addiction refers to the dependence on a legal or illegal drug, alcohol or medication. When addicted, people are not able to control their use of the substance, and may continue using the drug despite the harm it causes. Alcohol/drug addiction can cause serious, long-term consequences, including problems with physical and mental health, relationships, employment, and the law.

  1. Why do I feel anxious without any apparent reason?

While the exact cause of generalized anxiety isn't fully understood, it's likely that a combination of several factors plays a role. Research has suggested that these may include over activity in areas of the brain involved in emotions and behavior or it may be genetic in origin. Often use of drugs, smoking or alcohol can be an underlying cause of anxiety.

However, many people develop anxiety for no apparent reason and it is therefore advisable to report it to the doctor and work towards managing the condition.

  1. Do children suffer from depression?

While depression is generally associated with adults or senior citizens, it is not uncommon for children to be diagnosed with both depression and an anxiety disorder, or depression and general anxiety.

Children whose parents have depression are at a greater risk of being depressed. Depression in children often presents with irritability, difficulty sleeping or concentrating, Change in school grades, getting into trouble at school, or refusing to go to school, change in eating habits etc. These symptoms should not be ignored and possibility of depression in such children may be considered.

  1. How is Bipolar disorder caused? Is it only genetic?

A lot of research in neuropsychology has shown that there is research has shown that there is no single cause responsible for BPD. Instead, it is likely that many factors contribute to the illness or increase risk. Genetics is just one of them.

While research suggests that people with certain genes are more likely to develop bipolar disorder than others, it is also seen that genes are not the only risk factor for bipolar disorder. Studies of identical twins have shown that even if one twin develops bipolar disorder, the other twin does not always develop the disorder, despite the fact that identical twins share all of the same genes.

  1. Are phobias serious to a personal health?

Generally speaking, a ‘phobia’ is an overwhelming and unreasonable fear of an object or situation that poses little real danger but provokes anxiety and avoidance in the sufferer. Although many feel that phobias are harmless, they can be destructive to those who have them, causing the following problems that affect many aspects of life - such as social isolation, depression, lead to substance abuse, and may be the reason behind suicide too.

  1. Are there any specific herbs that are specifically used to improve mental faculties?

Ayurvedic pharmacopoeia describes the various herbs and their qualities in details. Certain herbs belonging to the class of Medhya drugs such as Mandukaparni (Centella asiatica), Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri), Jatamansi (Nordostachys jatamansi) and Yastimadhu (Glycyrrhiza glabra) are considered amongst herbs that improve mental faculties and should be used often as a part of diet and lifestyle especially for children.

  1. What are the common symptoms of dementia? Is any memory loss called Dementia?

Dementia is a syndrome (a group of related symptoms) associated with an ongoing decline of the brain and its abilities. A common symptom is memory loss but it is not the only symptom. Other problems can be low thinking speed, diminished mental agility, problems with language, understanding and judgement.

People with dementia can become apathetic or uninterested in their usual activities, and have problems controlling their emotions. They may also find social situations challenging, lose interest in socializing, and aspects of their personality may change.

  1. I often forget things or important tasks. Do I have Alzheimer’s disease?

Occasional forgetfulness or missing things due to lack of concentration or time may not necessarily be a serious condition. But if you continuously forget things or tend to forget simple day to day tasks – this may be an indication of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

Any progressive memory loss should not be ignored and bought to medical attention, even if it seems negligible or not serious.

  1. I had a road rage incident today, I feel nervous and afraid to ride on the road again. Why is this so?

It is natural to feel afraid during and after a traumatic situation. Fear triggers many split-second changes in the body to help defend against danger or to avoid it. This “fight-or-flight” response is a typical reaction meant to protect a person from harm. Nearly everyone will experience a range of reactions after trauma, yet most people recover from initial symptoms naturally. Those who continue to experience problems may be diagnosed with PTSD. Anyone can develop PTSD at any age. This includes war veterans, children, and people who have been through a physical or sexual assault, abuse, accident, disaster, or many other serious events. This needs to be bought to medical attention and can be managed with counseling and therapy.

  1. What are the consequences of inattentiveness or weak memory of school children? Does this need to be cared for?

A weak memory leading to learning problems can have long term adverse social and economic outcomes. They include grade repetition, behavioral disorders, mood and self-esteem difficulties and school failure during the school years, and unemployment and poverty in adulthood. By using medhya rasayana, Ayurved promises improvement in working memory and improved grades ad performance among school children.

  1. What is post partum depression? Does every new mother go through it?

New mothers generally report ‘baby blues’ immediately after childbirth, which commonly include mood swings, crying spells, anxiety and difficulty sleeping. These symptoms typically begin within the first two to three days after delivery, and may last for up to two weeks. But some mothers experience a more severe, long-lasting form of depression known as postpartum depression (PPD). Uncommonly, an extreme mood disorder called postpartum psychosis also may develop after childbirth.


Alcohol-Substance abuse
  1. Mayo clinic. Drug Addiction. Available at http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/drug-addiction/basics/definition/con-20020970 accessed Aug 26th 2016. 2010 Jul;31(3):351-4. doi: 10.4103/0974-8520.77166. Comparative study of Upavasa and Upavasa with Pachana in the management of Agnisada. Rajani A1, Vyas MKVyas HA.
  2. Porte SM. Ayurvedic concept of addiction, withdrawal & its solution. Int J Pharmac Toxicol.2014;2(2):41-45
  3. Charak Samhita of Agnivesha. Vidhyotini Hindi Vyakhya- Sastry K & Chaturvedi G – Editors. Chaukhambha Bharati Academy, Varanasi 221001. Reprint 2011. Chapter 9.
  4. Charak Samhita of Agnivesha. Vidhyotini Hindi Vyakhya- Sastry K & Chaturvedi G – Editors. Chaukhambha Bharati Academy, Varanasi 221001. Reprint 2011. Chapter 1
  5. Dabur: Ayurvedic products and drugs. Available at http://www.daburmediclub.com/product.aspx accessed on Aug 19th 2016.

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