Using the Body to Heal the Mind in Addiction Treatment: A Case for Chiropractic Care

Substance and behavior abuse have reached epidemic proportions in our country. This, coupled with the emotional repression and stress associated with living in our outside-in, consumer culture has produced America’s number-one health challenge: addiction.

The cost of treatment and the repercussions on society and our family structures are devastating, not to mention the high number of ancillary deaths that are directly associated with the disease of addiction – from auto accidents to heart failure.

It is a well-known statistic that only 25% of those who seek addiction treatment have successful results. In other words, 75%, or three out of four of the individuals who do seek treatment for addiction fail and fall back into the seemingly endless revolving door of relapse-remission-relapse from this destructive brain disorder. The strongest implication is that the culture that fosters addiction begets addiction.

In lieu of reinventing our culture but in the spirit of re-visioning addiction treatment, it is time to try different approaches and combinations of approaches when it comes to addiction recovery.

Addiction is a mind-body-spirit disorder as spelled out by the mainstream, American Medical Association’s American Society of Addiction Medicine ( It stands to reason that its treatment should include mind, body, and spiritual modalities as an integrated, comprehensive approach.

The “target organ” for addiction is the brain (just as the pancreas is the target organ for diabetes), and specifically the meso-limbic or mid-brain. Historically, addiction treatment has focused upon healing the mind with brain treatment modalities such as psychotherapy and drug therapy. And since 1935, Alcoholics Anonymous has been the mainstay for the “spiritual” piece in the equation, though there are other models.

But in keeping with a more comprehensive approach, what about an integral modality that focuses attention on the physical body – mind-body-spirit? – equally, and as important as the mind and the spirit? Can the body contribute to healing the mind and the spirit?

After all, the body is truly an extension of the mind – an actual projected map of the brain – with remarkable knowledge, wisdom and inherent healing, and recuperative capabilities from head to toe. Our bodies are veritable learning domains. Ever had a “gut feeling?” In fact, most of the receptor sites for many neurotransmitters – the wellbeing brain chemicals – are in the gut and not in the brain proper.

No wonder, and who has not felt remarkably inspired and well after exercising the body and it is releasing all of these inherent, feel-good chemicals? A never-ending feedback loop from the brain to the body, and vice-versa, inform every fiber of our beings every moment we live.

Intervening at the level of the body through techniques that deliberately remove interference from this pristine system is unfortunately, just what the present-day, addiction doctor is not ordering. Chiropractic care is just such an indicated and effective approach and often a missing link in the addiction treatment community. Chiropractic helps ensure that a clear, uninterrupted signal is getting from the brain to all of the body parts and back to the brain again. And people who undergo chiropractic care are taught that without good lifestyle habits including flexibility, strength, and cardiovascular exercise, good nutrition and a psychological/spiritual practice – chiropractic care is incomplete and will be less effective.

Similarly, the same “missing-piece” dynamic holds true for what’s missing in addiction treatment, and chiropractic care addresses the body piece of the mind-body-spirit equation effectively and seamlessly. Chiropractic is not a panacea but a time- and cost-efficient, conservative, minimally invasive way to bridge this gap in addiction treatment.

The idea of wedding mind and body approaches to healing is not a new one. For centuries, long before the first traces of modern science, healing-arts practitioners from the mainstream to the esoteric alike have acknowledged that the way people felt in their minds could influence the way they responded in their bodies – and vice versa.

There is no separation of body and mind and we are just coming to understand how profoundly and inextricably entwined these two parts of our being, along with spirit, interact in communion for our wellbeing.

Including chiropractic care in a comprehensive addiction treatment protocol – especially in the first 90 days of treatment – is important for the following reasons:

  • Providing human touch/compassion fosters neuroplasticity to help “rewrite” dysfunctional brain circuitry
  • Removes interference from normal nerve function
  • Reduces anxiety and depression
  • Better sleep patterns
  • Decreases use of chemical pain relievers and psychiatric drugs
  • Greater sense of wellbeing
  • Increases energy levels
  • Decreases stress levels
  • Decreases joint and muscle pain

A mind-body-spirit approach to addiction is synergistic in action, in other words, the sum total is greater than its parts. As our health systems and institutions move from the compartmentalized, mechanistic approach of yesterday to the integrated and holistic framework of today, let the mind-body-spirit approach of addiction medicine and treatment help blaze this new trail by incorporating in this endeavor, the largest, drugless, hands-on healing profession in the world: chiropractic.

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