Functional Medicine in Addiction Treatment

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Functional Medicine in Addiction Treatment

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What is Functional Medicine?

Functional medicine is a holistic treatment option. It is an effective form of specialized care. Overall, functional medicine is a patient-centric option to be used when traditional methods have been tried and are ineffective.

Functional Medicine Model

A functional medicine model is a holistic approach that recognizes the patient as part of the diagnostic team. Functional medicine uses the effectiveness of an individualized treatment option. This option includes the patient’s personal history, medical history, and cultural background to build a patient-centric treatment.1 Functional medicine requires a functional doctor. In this context, a functional doctor is one that practices and understands functional medicine.

Functional medicine doctors and treatment options are available in most communities. Because functional medicine is as much health psychology as it is biomedicine, it can be quite effective in treating trauma or uncovering root causes.

Functional Medicine Takes Time and Requires Engagement

Functional medicine requires a high level of rapport and trustworthiness between the doctor and patient. This process takes time. Functional medicine is most effective in cases that require long-term care. This includes chronic illnesses, substance dependency, trauma, etc.

Additionally, because functional medicine doctors need patient interaction, it’s most effective with patients seeking to engage and understand their illness. Anti-social patients or cases of communication barriers may be less receptive to a functional medicine approach.

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History of Functional Medicine

Dr. Jeffrey Bland is widely considered the father of functional medicine. In 1991, he and his wife started the non-profit Institute for Functional Medicine. The primary goal of this institution is to educate healthcare providers about holistic treatment options.

Dr. Bland created functional medicine as a response to variations of the biomedical model prevalent in the ’60s-’70s and before. Dr. Bland and Mrs. Bland funded the non-profit for the first decade of its existence. Even when the Bland’s sold the business they used to fund the non-profit, they still insisted that the non-profit exist as its entity. In this regard, it was ensured that all functional medicine discoveries at the non-profit legally belong to the non-profit.
Between 1999-2013, the non-profit organization or NPO developed a matrix that links all parts of the human system for treatment. This devolvement helped shape functional medicine as we know it today.2

Around this time period, the NPO developed a 6-part course complete with a certificate for students. This advanced course is designed to fully train a professional in the ways of functional medicine.

While Dr. Bland retired from the board in 2007, he has since returned in an advisory role.

Support for the Effectiveness of Functional Medicine

Functional medicine aims to treat the reason behind the condition. Because of this, the treatment is effective in preventing further long-term complications. Functional medicine also increases patient satisfaction. Studies have shown that between two sets of patients following either a functional medicine and non-functional medicine approach, those who underwent a functional medicine method showed improved and more consistent results 6-12 months later than their counterparts.

Functional medicine also opens the door for the patient to share sensitive information that is vital to their treatment. This is due to established trustworthiness and rapport. Lastly, functional medicine and similar holistic methods are becoming more widely accepted and practiced creating an overall perceptive shift of functional doctor/patient relationships.

Functional Medicine in Addiction Treatment

Functional medicine is often utilized for addiction treatment. One of the keys to substance recovery is changing the individual’s self-image and instilling a healthy confidence level. The open communication and validating nature of functional medicine can improve the overall mental state of those in recovery from substance dependency.

Functional medicine works to treat the following factors in addiction treatment.

Low Dopamine: How it Makes Addiction Worse

Low dopamine is mostly responsible for suicidal ideation, self-harm, unhealthy sleep patterns, and the effectiveness of long-term psychological care.

Low dopamine not only contributes to the intensity of several mental illnesses, but it also affects energy levels, decision making, interpersonal relationships, and can directly lead to relapse or general substance abuse. The comorbidity of severe depression and substance use disorders is a testimony to the inter-connective nature of mental illness and addiction.

Diet and Nutrition: Why it’s Important?

Diet and nutrition are crucial to building the mind and body needed in recovery. Healthy diets provide higher energy, improved self-image, better decision making, and improved physical appearance. All of these are factors towards the mental state of a patient and the psychological and physical capacity for change. Diet and nutrition are also needed to prevent several further medical complications.

Diet and nutrition are mostly responsible for energy levels, physical appearance, and immune system strength.

Gut Bacteria and Neural Transmitters: Why it’s Important?

Studies have shown that there is a connection between gut bacteria and mental health. Gut bacteria produce building blocks for dopamine processing, amino acids, and essential bodily function. Healthy gut bacteria have been shown to improve neural transmitters such as dopamine and histamine. Furthermore, gut bacteria’s connection to dopamine, which itself is essential to the reward center of the brain, suggests a deeper connection between gut bacteria and addiction treatment than is currently being studied.

Reduce Stress: Why it’s Important?

Stress inhibits the brain’s production of happy chemicals such as dopamine or serotonin. Stress can also impact sleep, lower the immune system, agitate mental illnesses, and reduce energy levels and decision making. These factors can reduce treatment effectiveness, complicate treatment, and lead to further abuse or relapse.

Get Sleep: Why it’s Important?

Adequate sleep allows the body and mind to heal. Sleep has also been shown to improve several vital functions’ overall efficiency, including mental and organ function. Sleep is a healthy habit that is often not possible when living with a substance use dependency. Many substances disrupt healthy sleep patterns. Adhering to a healthy sleep schedule is essential to the functional medicine approach.

Practicing Gratitude: How it Improves Mood and Helps Recovery

Empirical data reveals that practicing gratitude instills healthy coping mechanics, improves mood, self-image, and interpersonal relationships long-term. Variations of practicing gratitude are often used in substance abuse programs
like alcoholics anonymous or trauma-based treatment care. Practicing gratitude takes time to form a habit.

Learning Healthy Habits: Does Learning Healthy Habits Help in Recovery?

Substance use changes the way the brain works. Specifically, it changes neural pathways to prioritize a substance. Unlearning these behaviors in favor of healthy routines is the underlying goal of all addiction treatment programs. Learning healthy habits in recovery provides psychosocial tools to overcome addiction, cope with emotional trauma, and better understand how addiction affects an individual.

Amino Acids to Balance the Brain: Why it’s Vital to Recovery?

Amino acids are vital to building new neural pathways. Essentially, amino acids are the fuel the brain needs to learn, change, and grow. Amino acids are mainly obtained through diet. Amino acids are also needed to maintain a healthy, stable mood. However, living with substance use often results in a poor unbalanced diet.

Functional Medicine vs. Integrative Medicine

What is the Difference?

To understand the difference, one must first ask, what is integrative medicine? Integrative medicine employs a holistic, system-based viewpoint, not unlike functional medicine. However, functional medicine doctors prefer non-medicinal forms of treatment. I.E., a therapeutic massage instead of a muscle relaxer. Functional medicine is often used when conventional methods have proven ineffective.

Functional Medicine vs Integrative Medicine can be boiled down to the fact that integrative care has higher importance on the patient as an overall unit, whereas integrative medicine goes a step further and focuses on the spiritual ailments as well. Functional Medicine vs. Integrative Medicine in terms of effectiveness is dependent on a case by case application.3

Strengths and Weaknesses of Each Model

The strengths of both functional medicine and integrative medicine are their patient-centric viewpoint. Both practices drastically improve patient satisfaction. In many cases, these approaches lead to reduced intensity of symptoms and higher effectiveness for treatment. Additionally, both approaches widen the diagnostic scope, making illness or treatments less likely to be overlooked.

The weaknesses differ between the two models. Any doctor can practice integrative medicine. Integrative medicine is more of a viewpoint for care. Conversely, functional medicine requires a functional doctor and limits treatment to spiritual, psychological, and cultural rather than medicinal. A functional medicine doctor aims to heal the spirit above all else. This can lead to a variety of proven treatment options being overlooked in favor of more experimental treatment.

In conclusion, functional medicine is a noteworthy tool for any physician or patient. But it does have drawbacks when compared to conventional methods. However, functional medicine doctors are licensed and educated medical professionals. At its core, functional medicine employs and analyzes medical practices and aims to improve patient care in the long-term.

Resources

  1. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5312741/
  2. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6380987/
  3. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4712869/

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