The relationship between humans and alcohol is long and colorful. People have used fermented grains, fruit juices and honey to produce alcoholic beverages for thousands of years.
At the same time, alcohol is the number-one drug used around the world. An estimated one in two people has been negatively affected by alcohol, whether through personal use or as a result of alcohol use by others. In the United States, approximately one in eight Americans is an alcoholic, and between 50 and 80 percent of alcoholics have a close family member who also has an alcohol problem.1
Although the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) classifies alcoholism and alcohol dependency syndrome as psychiatric disorders, alcoholism also has a high rate of physical complications. Alcohol damages almost every organ in the body, including the brain. Long-term alcohol abuse can produce changes in the brain’s structure and chemistry, including tolerance and physical dependency.
HOMEOPATHY’S CURE RATE
Homeopathy has a long history of use in the treatment of alcoholism. Not only do we have clinical evidence dating back nearly two hundred years, but there is actual research—both from the past and the present—demonstrating the effectiveness of homeopathy in the treatment of alcoholism.
I first learned about this interesting topic back in the early 1990s. I was taking advanced homeopathic training with Dr. Andre Saine, ND, who told us about Dr. Jean-Pierre Gallavardin (1825–1897). Dr. Gallavardin, a French physician, described the cases and treatment of over two thousand alcoholics in his book The Homeopathic Treatment of Alcoholism, published in 1890.2
After many years of treating those financially able to afford homeopathic care for alcoholism, the good doctor decided to open a free dispensary for the poor to give them the benefit of the same treatment. Dr. Gallavardin stated, “From twelve to thirty-six persons are to be seen there every Tuesday, seeking for some member of the families this moralizing treatment, as yet unknown to academics and scientific societies.” He later described his work in the first three years after establishing the dispensary, which offered treatment not just to “drunkards” but also to other types of sufferers: “During the first thirty-four months of the establishment of this dispensary I gave 2,155 consultations—1,431 for drunkards and 725 for libertines and persons suffering from jealousy, envy, irascibility, avarice, laziness, etc.”
Gallavardin’s clinic had family members administer the homeopathic remedies to the alcoholics, mostly without the alcoholic’s knowledge. Gallavardin recorded a cure rate of about 50 percent, in spite of (or perhaps due to) the recipients not realizing they were receiving treatment. In addition, Gallavardin used homeopathic remedies to address the effects of drunkenness, including acute alcohol poisoning. He would give the remedy every few minutes in water and relieve the drunken state in short order. Gallavardin also treated children of alcoholics to nip the tendency to this vice in the bud—it was as well known then as today that there is a heritable tendency to alcoholism.
Dr. Gallavardin’s book mentions a list of the top fourteen homeopathic remedies for alcoholism, which include such well-known standbys as Nux vomica, Lachesis and Sulphur. I once accidentally relieved a woman of an “addiction to Southern Comfort” (her words) using the Sulphur remedy. This happened many years ago, and I can’t remember what brought her into the office—but it was not the drinking. Southern Comfort was her favorite and only alcoholic beverage, and she consumed it daily and liberally. A month after our initial appointment she returned and asked: “What did you do to me? I feel much better, but I have completely lost my interest in Southern Comfort! In fact, I can’t even look at the bottle without gagging!” I saw her a few more times over the next six months, and her aversion to Southern Comfort remained.
It may be tempting to think that there are only fourteen remedies needed to help alcoholics. However, as always with homeopathy, each case needs to be treated with the remedy that most closely matches the totality of the physical and mental symptoms exhibited by the patient. There are thousands of remedies in homeopathy.
COMPELLING RESEARCH RESULTS
You might think, “Oh, this is all well and good, but what about homeopathy for alcoholism in modern times? Is there any scientific research on this?” The answer is yes. Although we definitely need more studies on the effectiveness of homeopathy for the treatment of alcoholism, the ones that have been published show that homeopathy can, in fact, be helpful. Pour yourself a stiff one and read on!
In 1993, a researcher from the Hahnemann College of Homeopathy in Albany, California, conducted a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial that applied homeopathy to both chemical and alcohol dependency.3 The study divided seven hundred three drug and alcohol patients into three groups, with participants receiving either placebo, homeopathic remedies or conventional detox treatment. The study lasted for eighteen months. Patients given homeopathic care had the lowest relapse rate—32 percent—compared to a relapse rate of 68 percent in the placebo group and 72 percent in the conventional detox group.
In 2014, researchers published an interesting study in India describing the use of homeopathic remedies for acute alcohol withdrawal (AAW) symptoms.4 Alcohol is not easy to quit once an addiction has set in, and acute withdrawal symptoms can include anxiety, headaches, nausea, vomiting, insomnia and even hallucination and delirium tremens (confusion and disorientation). Treatment of alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be an important first step in the patient’s recovery from the addiction.
The researchers enrolled a total of one hundred twenty-five patients, and one hundred twelve completed the program. They found that treatment with individualized homeopathic remedies was effective at managing acute withdrawal symptoms. The authors noted, “In the present study homeopathic intervention was able to manage patients with AAW. The therapy was able to annihilate withdrawal symptoms and improve quality of life.”
Another study conducted in India (no date given) was a pilot study that examined the effect of homeopathic treatment for alcoholism in seventy-four male patients.5 Participants either enrolled voluntarily or—if the alcoholic was in denial about his condition—were enrolled via “bystanders” (usually family members). The study showed results comparable to those achieved by Gallavardin, documenting a significant cure rate of 67 percent even when patients were treated without their knowledge. According to the authors, the study revealed three major findings:
- It is possible to treat alcoholism with homeopathic medicines without the consent and knowledge of the patient.
- Homeopathic medicines were found to be up to 67.5% effective in relieving alcoholism within 180 days.
- The study found Nux vomica 1 M twice daily was found to be highly effective in the management of alcoholism.
KEEP HOMEOPATHY IN MIND
So there you have it. Homeopathy might represent a good arrow in the quiver against the hazards of alcoholism, whether the problem is acute intoxication, management of withdrawal symptoms, potential cure of the addiction or even prevention of an inherited tendency toward alcoholism in offspring. We hope that homeopathy will increasingly take its rightful place in the treatment of alcoholism, preventing much suffering as well as lessening costs for family members and society at large.
- Grant BF, Chou SP, Saha TD, et al. Prevalence of 12-month alcohol use, high-risk drinking, and DSM-IV Alcohol Use Disorder in the United States, 2001-2002 to 2012-2013: results from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions. JAMA Psychiatry 2017;74(9):911-23.
- Gallavardin JP. The Homoeopathic Treatment of Alcoholism. Philadelphia, PA: Hahnemann Publishing House, 1890.
- Garcia-Swain S. A double-blind, placebo-controlled trial applying homeopathy to chemical dependency. Albany, CA: Hahnemann College of Homeopathy, 1993.
- Nayak D, Arora S, Singh U, et al. Managing acute alcohol withdrawal with homoeopathy: a prospective, observational, multicentre exploratory study. Indian Journal of Research in Homoeopathy 2014;8(4):224-30.
- Bimimol S, Biju SG. A pilot study of effectiveness of homeoeopathic treatment in management of alcoholism, conducted at The Homoeopathic Multi Specialty Hospital and Research Centre, Changanacherry, Kerala, India (n.d.). https://www.homeobook.com/pdf/alcohol-homeopathy.pdf.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Winter 2019