The modern medical classification does not use Drug Abuse and Alcohol Abuse as diagnostic labels. The DSM-IV classification uses blanket terms – Substance Dependence, Substance Abuse and Substance Use Disorders.
When an individual persists in use of alcohol or other drugs despite problems related to use of the substance, substance dependence may be diagnosed. Compulsive and repetitive use may result in tolerance to the effect of the drug and withdrawal symptoms when use is reduced or stopped. This, along with Substance Abuse are considered Substance Use Disorders.
When repeated use of alcohol or other drugs leads to problems but does not include compulsive use or addiction, and stopping the drug does not lead to significant withdrawal symptoms the term substance abuse applies.
Substance Use Disorders
This term encompasses both dependence on and abuse of drugs usually taken voluntarily for the purpose of their effect on the central nervous system (usually referred to as intoxication or “high”) or to prevent or reduce withdrawal symptoms. These mental disorders form a subcategory of the substance-related disorders.
The Scale of The Problem
According to WHO, psychoactive substance use poses a significant threat to health, and the social and economic fabric of families, communities and nations. The extent of worldwide psychoactive substance use is estimated at 2 billion alcohol users, 1.3 billion smokers and 185 million drug users.
World extent of psychoactive substance use
In an initial estimate of factors responsible for the global burden of disease, tobacco, alcohol and illicit drugs contributed together 12.4% of all deaths worldwide in the year 2000. Looking at the percentage of total years of life lost due to these substances, it has been estimated that they account for 8.9%.
The global burden of these three psychoactive substance categories varies across the WHO Regions. The disease burden in Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) is significantly higher in Europe and the Western Pacific than in Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean. Also the share of the burden for the different substances varies, tobacco is the largest burden in Europe and South-East Asia, while alcohol poses the largest burden in Africa, the Americas, and the Western Pacific.
The level of economic development in countries also plays an important role. The burden from psychoactive substance use is higher in the developed countries than in the high mortality developing countries. The sex ratio for the attributable deaths of psychoactive substance use varies from 80% male for tobacco and illicit drug use and 90% for alcohol.
One of the differences between these three categories of psychoactive substances is the fact that they inflict their disease burden on different age groups. Illicit drug use inflicts its mortality burden earliest in life, alcohol also mainly (65%) before the age of 60, while 70% of the tobacco deaths occur after the age of 60. For more data on the global burden of psychoactive substance use and other risk factors please see the homepage of the World Health Report 2002.
Homeopathy for Substance Abuse
Homeopathy has been used to help the patients of alcohol and drug abuse since the last 200 years. The remedies can be used in three ways:
- Tautopathic application of the abused substance
- Remedies applied for presenting symptoms
- Remedies applied according to the constitutional simillimum
The Complete Repertory mentions over a hundred homeopathic remedies for drug and alcohol abuse:[Complete ] [Mind]Alcoholism, dipsomania: Total Drugs :137 [Complete ] [Mind]Morphinism, drug addiction: Total Drugs :34
Conventional medicine has little to offer in terms of pharmacotherapy to help the patients of substance abuse. The only help available is in the form of counseling and social support. Homeopathy on the other hand has remedies that can help the patients of alcohol and drug abuse at various levels – helping in de-addiction, management of withdrawal and improving the physical and mental constitution of the patients.
There have been some research studies that have indicated that homeopathic remedies can be successfully used for patients with substance abuse. The research studies done so far are outlined below:
1990: The govt. of India conducted a double-blind study on 60 heroin addicts, of whom 30 were given individualized homeopathic medicines and 30 were given placebo. The number and intensity of the symptoms during withdrawal were significantly less in patients given an individualized homeopathic medicine than those given a placebo. The number of days for the resolution of complaints was also less in the homeopathically treated group. There was a difference in the adherence too – 35% of patients on the placebo left the study prior to its completion due to lack of therapeutic benefit, while only 5% of those taking the homeopathic medicine left the study.
1993: A double blind, placebo-controlled trial  applying homeopathy to chemical dependency was done by the Hahnemann College of Homeopathy, Albany, California. The results showed decreased relapse rate of recovering alcoholics and drug addicts undergoing homeopathic treatment.
1994: A study was carried out by Central Council for Research in Homoeopathy (CCRH) at its Clinical Research Unit, Varanasi, India . Out of 261 drug dependent patients referred from a Drug De-addiction centre at Varanasi, 20 cases dropped out whereas 241 were followed up from September 1988 to March 1994. All the cases were in the age group of 12-52 years and all, except one, were male. The medicines were administered usually 8-12 hours after abstinence of drug substance abuse, where withdrawal symptoms became obvious. Prescription was made on the basis of totality of symptoms of the individual case.
Out of 241 cases followed up regularly, 209 cases showed improvement in withdrawal symptoms whereas 32 cases did not improve. Rhus toxicodendron (n=85) was found to be the most effective medicine. Other medicines found effective were Avena sativa (n=43), Nux vomica (n=34), Arsenicum album (n=26), Bryonia alba (n=8) and Chamomilla (n=7).
The outcome of the study shows that homeopathic medicines are efficacious in the management of withdrawal symptoms of drug dependents and can check the menace of the chemical dependency. The results have prompted CCRH to take up this study in collaboration with the Society for Promotion of Youth and Masses (SPYM) from April 2008.
The research evidence, though limited, strongly corroborates the clinical experience gathered by homeopaths over the past 200 years. A few large scale multi-centric trials are required to confirm the existing research evidence and if found in favour of homeopathy, it will help establish homeopathy as the treatment modality of choice for all substance abuse patients.
 DZM-IV Classification [online] Available at http://www.behavenet.com/capsules/disorders/d4class.htm Last accessed 15 Nov. 2009
 WHO (2002) Management of Substance Abuse. [online] Available at http://www.who.int/substance_abuse/facts/global_burden/en/index.html last accessed 15 Nov 2009
 Bakshi, JPS. (1990) Homoeopathy – A New Approach to Detoxification. Proceedings of the National Congress on Homoeopathy and Drug Abuse, p-20-28. New Delhi, India.
 Garcia-Swain S, (1993) A Double-Blind, Placebo- Controlled Trial Applying Homeopathy to Chemical Dependency. Hahnemann College of Homeopathy, Albany, California.
 CCRH. (1994) Clinical evaluation of homoeopathic medicines in the management of withdrawal symptoms of drug dependents. [online] Available at http://www.ccrhindia.org/abstracts/cr/drugdependents.htm. (accessed 27 May 2009)