Addiction (Madatya in Ayurvedic terminology) is a horrible disorder that can create so much separation in one’s life. A person engulfed in addiction is mesmerized by the material world. They have trained themselves to derive their happiness from substance.
A person experiencing addiction rides the waves of highs and the waves of lows, but has difficulty being without a substance. They tend to be mediocre or blasé while not on the drug. For brief moments their mind may be drawn to higher-order thoughts and actions, but then they will inevitably drive downward into feeling empty again.
It is a sad, sad state of affairs. Addiction separates people from people. It separates family members from who they really love. It almost always moves people into an ego state, unable to feel true grounded love.
The goal of Ayurveda is to return people into balance with nature, and since taking substances into a point of intoxication is unnatural, it disrupts one from settling into earth’s natural rhythms. Ayurvedic healing is about getting to the core of each condition, so that it can be cured completely from the inside out, instead of simple treating the outward manifestation (the symptoms).
In order to cure the problem of addiction an individual must get to the root of what makes them want to change their mental and physical state to begin with. There are a variety of potential causes, so I will list the primary reasons, and keep in mind it could also be combinations of these.
a.) Lack of Self-Love – Ultimately, the ultimate cure, the solution is to re-build self-love. With self-love comes self-respect, and the valuing of one’s body. It is the adult’s way of overcoming poor upbringing.
b.) Lack of Fatherly Love – We can see from statistical analysis that individuals who grow up in an absent or abusive father home are more likely to experience drug problems.
2.) Vitiation of Doshas: Every living thing, including humans, are ruled by the 3 Doshas: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. To simplify, Vata represents Air, Pitta-Fire, and Kapha-Water. Addiction may be an impulse of a person to want to balance (or unknowingly perpetuate) one or more of these doshas.
a.) Vata Vitiation – In this instance, a person feels ungrounded, their mind races, they feel unsettled. This is a mania type of condition where an individual may use substance to try to settle themselves. They do this typically through smoking, taking opioids, muscle relaxers, alcohol, benzodiazepines and more.
b.) Pitta Vitiation – In this instance, a person feels to need to push, rush, work excessively, compete excessively, obsess, and have the inability to “step off the gas”. A person with this condition is likely to be drawn to over-eating, gambling, alcohol, and even cocaine in some instances. There is an inherent need to “keep going”, and whatever facilitates this is fair game.
c.) Kapha Vitiation – In this instance, a person feels down and dreary. They may even feel sad or depressed. There is typically a lack of interest in life in general. The substance of choice is typically what they look forward to at the end of the day a present to themselves. They are particularly drawn to marijuana, sugary foods, and or fatty foods. They have a tendency to ruminate in the past and justify their addiction through past grievances.
So, what does one do to correct the problem of addiction?
Because the psychological aspects of a person dictate their actions and behavior, it is necessary to address these first. If the problem is centered in the love department, then this should be the primary focus before the more peripheral, physical aspects are addressed.
A lack of self-love, or parental love can be fulfilled from two places: 1.) One’s Self 2.) God “The Almighty”. Self-love emerges from a change in one’s self image, and the types of thoughts running through one’s mind. As one shifts the basic notion “I am not enough” to “I am enough”, or “I’m unworthy” to “I’m worthy” right away a shift takes place.
Because one cannot force love from a parent, it is pointless to try to expect it or devise ways in an attempt to extract what isn’t there. Therefore, it is in one’s best interest to
1.) forgive the parent for their lack of love and proper attention and
2.) attune one’s self to be in communion with the higher power. This can be achieved through prayer, meditation, and reading spiritual scriptures.
Now, let’s address solutions from the Ayurvedic etiologies. NOTE: During addiction a person may disrupt multiple doshas and therefore the problem can become more complex than at first glance. So, it’s important to have a full Ayurvedic assessment and consultation from a qualified Practitioner to treat serious problems or risks.
We will start with treating a simple Vata-vitiation problem.
In this instance, an individual should focus on settling themselves. Vata-vitiation is characterized by excessive movement and feelings of unsettledness. Therefore, the practice of slowing down can be beneficial. The Vata-vitiated person, however, may feel fearful of slowing down, or stopping.
Fear, in general, is a Vata issue. These individuals must be trained to slow down, and breathe deeply as a habitual practice. This may take some time, especially if they are unwilling. Interestingly, as with the other doshas, individuals have a tendency to do what exactly what perpetuates the vitiation of the dosha eg. Vata individuals may seek stimulation, Pitta individuals may seek heat & competition, Kapha may seek comfort and rest. It therefore becomes a vicious cycle.
Limiting over-stimulation, such as too much electronics (EMFs), television, traveling, large crowds, and too many decisions can be good for Vata vitiation. As Vata is calmed, peace ensues, and capacity for greater self-control will emerge.
Consumption-wise, a Vata-vitiated person should avoid dry foods, and activities such as smoking, as these increase Vata. They should favor easily digestible spicy softer foods such as soups, and well-cooked vegetables. Caffeine and stimulants should be avoided.
Herbs suggested for this condition are Valerian, Shankhapushpi, Kava Kava, Chamomile, CBD, and/or Ashwagandha.
The goal of this person should be to love silence, to love stillness, to appreciate peace.
Next let’s tackle the Pitta-vitiated individual.
These people are typically angry underneath, so a person helping them should be tactful, but firm. They have a tendency to “blow up”, and misinterpret advice as slights against themselves.
The source of this anger could very well be in the lack of love department, as mentioned above, but be further perpetuated by Pitta-vitiation. Since fire as at the heart of the issue, the focus here should be on cooling down.
A great way for this person to rebalance is through nature walks. Nature has a rhythm to it that is unlike the chaotic human created world. It is settling, and helps a person relax.
The Pitta dosha, in general, is increased by hot spices, and alcohol. So, these should be avoided. Hot sun should be avoided or at least lessened. Competitive activities like sports and politics should be lessened or avoided until the problem is corrected.
Fruits, cool drinks, mineral water, grains, bland food, oatmeal and wheat may be favored.
Instead a Pitta-vitiated individual would benefit from soothing music, a massage, swimming, and learning how to surrender to the moment. Pitta-vitiated individuals love to be in control, and so learning how to surrender can be good for them. This may be to a spiritual leader, a higher power or simply a teacher on an interesting subject.
Herbs suggested for this condition are: Guduchi, Amalaki, Gotu Kola, Brahmi (Bacopa), Shankhapushpi and/or Licorice.
And Finally, let’s tackle the Kapha-vitiated condition.
Sometimes hope itself, and even the will-to-live is at stake. The basic approach here is to invigorate and motivate.
The person should see that there is more to life than the substance. A “break” in the mundane reality helps this person see that there are so many possibilities available other than the drug of choice.
These individuals are the ones who need constant encouragement to “get up and do this”. They are prone to falling into the everyday habitual inertia that holds them in a routine that is not serving them.
In this case, spices should be favored. This helps stimulate the mind and body. They encourage blood circulation and remove stagnation.
Herbs suggested are Jatamansi, Ginger, Turmeric, Calamus, Korean Ginseng, Garlic, and/or Bibhitaki.
Bland, cold, milk, heavy foods, sugary foods and baked goods should be avoided or greatly lessened.
Frequent exercise can greatly benefit these individuals. Dedicated personal trainers can be a great adjunct to help keep them motivated.
Ultimately, one will have to shift the habit themselves, but this may take time. Desire and firm commitment is a necessity to make it happen.
Once addiction has been conquered the veil is lifted and life becomes peaceful, clear, fun, happy and enjoyable. True love can take place. Appreciation for all things is possible. The ability to be present with those you care about emerges. It is well-worth the change.