Alternative Medicine

By Mitchell E. Wallick PhD CAP CAGC

ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE can often play an extremely useful role in the treatment of compulsive gamblers. The alternative treatments available enhance the traditional modalities that are used in treatment to form a synergy which helps address many of the symptoms of the compulsive gambler.

Those providing gambling treatment recognize that most compulsive gamblers entering treatment require a period of decompression. Withdrawal from gambling often leaves the patient jittery, unfocused and “ready to climb out of their skin.” This is a crucial time for the compulsive gambler in treatment because the uncomfortable feelings in early treatment frequently lead to the client leaving treatment.

Through a combination of acupuncture and aromatherapy can do much to relieve these feelings and diminish the likelihood of the client leaving treatment. We also know that many clients enter treatment in full blown denial. The five needle protocol developed by the National Association of Detox Acupuncturists, often creates an initial bonding with the program; helping even if the patient is in denial. This nonverbal approach used in either a group or individual setting helps reduce depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, restlessness and irritability that is frequently present in initial abstinence. In addition to helping the compulsive gambler participate more fully in groups and individual therapy, it provides immediate reinforcement for the client’s ability to heal and get better. As the client progresses, more specific individual problems such as anxiety, ADD, depression etc. are focused on.

A second holistic treatment is the use of aromatherapy. This treatment is literally the use of smell to treat symptoms and conditions. Aroma therapy has been shown, in some cases, to actually be more effective than traditional Western medications.

Diffusing specific combinations of oils, combined with controlled environments such as quiet meditation rooms, soothing music etc. combine with the Western approaches to enhance positive outcomes.

Meditation also improves the mental state, quieting the mind of the compulsive gambler, and allows them to face their problems with less discomfort.

Other innovative alternative methodologies such as yoga, Qi gong, and physical activities have also been found to be useful in treatment.

Mitchell E. Wallick PhD CAP CAGC is Executive Director of C.A.R.E. Addiction Recovery.