My daughter spent one week in Ireland helping out at the holistic treatment centre. Below are her comments:
In my work in community gardens in North Edinburgh, Scotland an issue I often come across is addiction. Many people who attend our gardens struggle with different forms of addiction. Joining the community gardening has offered an enormous therapeutic benefit to them. I strongly feel that herbal medicine can play a big role in supporting the treatment of addictions.
Holistic Addiction Treatment Centre in Ireland
I recently spent some time at Sankalpa, a holistic addiction treatment centre based in Finglas, North Inner City Dublin, Ireland. Sankalpa’s approach is to incorporate herbal medicine, Tai Chi, Reiki, Meditation, Acupuncture and Community Gardening together with recovery groups, as a community reinforcement approach, to behavioural change. They work with locals from communities of North Dublin to become drug free, but also use community and adult education to facilitate their participants having more choice and control over their lives.
Addiction is not necessarily a ‘disease’ or ‘defection in a person’
The people at Sankalpa use a person centred approach, totally grounded in and led by the autonomy of the clients. Critical of the medical model, and its subsequent medicalization of addiction services, Sankalpa understand addiction in a more individualised, and complex way. They see addiction to be part of a set of individual social and cultural forces, and not as a 'disease' or 'defection' in a person. The medical model, however, through its conceptualisation of addiction as a 'disease', effectively removes recovery from the picture, and instead only offers to ‘manage’ diseased ‘addicts’, for this they prescribe the 'Methadone Management Treatment". The participants at Sankalpa are very aware of the social and economic problems rife in their community, where they felt that people’s choices were constrained by their upbringing and the culture of guns, violence and drugs that is absolutely endemic in Finglas. In no way did they see themselves as ‘defective’ or unable to recover, though many struggled on a daily basis with using drugs.
Herbs help facilitate the body’s healing
The experience reinforced something for me - that herbs are fundamentally used as 'guides' or 'partners' to help facilitate the body's own healing. We form a relationship with them, personally, emotionally and on a chemical, cellular level too. But in the end we heal ourselves. There is no other way to approach physical or emotional pain, but to understand that to overcome it, you have to heal yourself. This applies directly to using herbs in the treatment of addiction. I was somehow naively labouring under the conclusion before I went to Sankalpa that there would be some 'special herbs' or formulas that were specific to addiction that I would have the privilege of learning about. In fact, the mixes that are used are exactly the same herbs and combinations that you would use to support anyone at all. It is a crucial point really because addiction to opioids is on an emotional level fundamentally connected to avoidance of pain. Though of course every addict does make a choice to use drugs, that choice is made (consciously or not) within a set of personal, social, economic, cultural and familial circumstances that very often involve deprivation, dissatisfaction, boredom, abuse, neglect, lack of meaningful activities, perceived lack of choice control over their lives and more often than not, a great deal of pain. A huge part of the recovery process (or perhaps the entirety of the recovery process) is about taking full responsibility for your own life, accepting the choices and decisions you have already made, and taking control over the choices you will now make.
There is of course a serious physical addiction and tolerance that goes with this, but it cannot be separated from the underlying psychosocial issues involved. Without addressing your own avoidance of pain, no amount of physical detoxification programmes will lead to the end of the continuum of recovery. To relate this back to herbal treatment then, herbs cannot 'cure' addiction. There is no miracle drug, or miracle herb that can fix a person. Herbs can play an excellent role in supporting someone who wants to make significant changes in their lives to detoxify their body and nourish their nerves and spirit to give them courage to address their choices in life. This approach then reinforces a person's autonomy, choice and control, which I think is an extremely powerful healing tool.
by Ally Hurcikova, Grassroots Remedies (www.grassrootsremedies.co.uk)
A Practical Handbook