The term addiction, in Ayurveda, ¡s very vividly mentioned. Addiction is not just limited to the abuse of cigarettes, alcohol or narcotics but even to certain kinds of foods like sweets, chocolates, coffee and spicy foods. The concept goes to the extent that any food or any eatable item should never be allowed to get ‘used to’ the body.
The theory suggests that any similar kinds of food, if consumed for the duration of more than 15 days in a single stretch, becomes used to the system and the response of the system becomes sub-optimal. In other words, the body develops resistance against that particular food item. Ayurveda uses the word ‘Saatmya’ to suggest this ‘habit formation.’ Anything turning to be ‘Saatmya’ to the body will result in altered metabolism and end up in ill health. That is also one of the reasons why science insists on fasting once in 15 days. This abstinence from food makes the body respond better to foods in its metabolic functions.
With regards to the use of cigarettes, alcohol, narcotics or any other substance, they are used as a performance-enhancing device. These, beyond a point, become less effective and the body develops a craving for them, needing them in a much higher dosage. And in turn, the ability of the body to perform depends purely on this support system and not naturally.
According to Ayurveda, the use of these causes an imbalance and aggravation of vata and pita energies in the body. In an addict, consistently elevated Vata and pitawill start to cause tissues damage. In the long run, the impaired vata and pita function becomes the order of the day and any effort to alter that, results in withdrawal symptoms.
Ayurveda suggests that any habit, introduced to or withdrawn from an individual, should be done in a very systematic and methodical way. This ¡s important to avoid any withdrawal or overdose symptoms. Therefore, any treatment for de-addiction should primarily focus on management of Vata and pita. A slow and sustained management protocol will help normalize the activity of these two energies.
De-addiction therapies include external therapies like abhyanga, thailadhara, thakradhara etc. as well as internal medications and detoxification procedures like Panchakarma. In chronic addicts, the treatments lasts for months together and might be a necessity owing to their vulnerability of the system and inability to withstand the strain of the treatment. In a nut shell, the duration and intensity of treatment depends on the chronicity of the problem and general health condition of the body.
The commonly used herbal medicines are guduch aswagandha, chandana, dashamoolaetc. which have the ability to cool the system or reduce the Vata and pita activity in the body.