Addiction to alcohol or tobacco is a stage where the affected person becomes physically and emotionally dependent upon alcohol or tobacco. Addiction to alcohol and tobacco have been discussed here together, since the Ayurvedic principles of treatment, and the medicines used, are similar for both addictions. Addiction to drugs is not being dealt with here, since this requires hospital admission and treatment.
Some people may have an alcohol addiction severe enough to warrant hospital admission, so that they can be treated for serious withdrawal problems like convulsions. This article is confined to the Ayurvedic Herbal treatment of those patients who can be managed on an out-patient basis, however, they still need to be under the supervision of a local physician to treat withdrawal symptoms and any other medical situation which may arise.
Alcohol addiction is called in Ayurveda as “Madatyaya.” There are different approaches to treating patients with addiction. Some use the “like cures like” approach, and give medicated drinks containing small amounts of alcohol, and medicated cigarettes for smoking. Some physicians use different medicines according to the root cause of the addiction. Local application of Shatadhout Ghruta and oral use of Nidrakar vati is made where addiction resulted from insomnia or inability to sleep. Where digestion problems are cited as the cause of addiction, medicines like Drakshasav, Draksharishta, Pippalyasav and ginger+ lime juice are used. People with a strong addiction, and an equally strong desire to get cured, are given lemon juice just prior to taking alcohol.
People addicted to tobacco because of dental problems are advised to use medicated, herbal dental creams and powders. Gandharva Haritaki is advised for those with chronic constipation. A decoction of Jatamansi (Nardostachys jatamansi) or Dhamasa (Fagonia cretica) is given for those with sleep problems.
Sitopaladi powder, Amalaki (Emblica officinalis), Ginger and Turmeric are periodically kept in the mouth and sucked, to defer the craving for alcohol or tobacco.
Herbal medicines like Sunthi (Zinziber officinalis), Chitrak (Plumbago zeylanica), Kutki (Picrorrhiza kurroa), Brahmi(Bacopa monnieri), Jatamansi, Shankhpushpi (Consecora decussata) are very useful in treating addiction to both alcohol and tobacco. Several herbal combinations are available, which, if used judiciously, not only reduce the craving, but control withdrawal symptoms, increase appetite, and create a sense of well-being. Depending upon the severity of addiction, treatment time ranges from 1 – 6 months. Some patients may require several, short term courses of medicines.
It is advisable to remain on a diet predominantly of milk, ghee, fruits and vegetables, to take regular professional counseling, to be in good company and to be busy and involved in fruitful and interesting work. Those with a strong motivation to get rid of their addiction get the best long-term results.