What Is Natural Recovery and Can You Do It?

Posted on December 29th, 2015

Natural recovery refers to recovering from smoking, drinking or drug use without the assistance of professionals or a formal addiction treatment program. Some people do actually quit successfully in this way, but it isn’t easy and it doesn’t work for everyone. Who can go through natural recovery and who will fail and require professional help? Could you quit through natural recovery?

What Is Natural Recovery?

Natural recovery is any type of recovery from an addictive behavior that does not involve professional treatment. This could be someone with a compulsive shopping problem who finally decides to cut her credit cards in half and quits shopping cold turkey. It could be someone who decides to wean himself off cigarettes and copes with it by relying on friends and family to support him. Someone who realizes her binge drinking is getting out of control and makes a conscious decision to cut back is using the process of natural recovery.

How Common Is Natural Recovery?

Research into natural recovery is limited, which means it is hard to say how many people go through it, either successfully or not. There are documented and anecdotal cases of people who were able to quit smoking, give up drinking or even overcome a drug addiction without the help of professionals, but they are unusual, at least in the U.S. Some research has suggested that in other countries, it is more common for people to quit through natural recovery.

One study of compulsive gamblers found that a significant proportion surveyed did stop gambling without professional help. However, the study did not indicate whether these people stopped gambling before or after devastating consequences. For instance, some gamblers may not quit until they have lost all of their money and run up huge amounts of debt. At that point, it is only natural to stop gambling.

Does Natural Recovery Work?

This is a hard question to answer with the dearth of research on the subject. Most importantly, there has been little research into whether someone with a serious and persistent chemical addiction can recover naturally. The likelihood is that it is not possible in those situations. Alcohol and drugs cause chemical and physical changes to the brain and body that make it almost impossible to stop using, even with professional interventions.

Where natural recovery could be more useful is with people struggling with substance abuse, but without full-blown addictions. For instance, if you are not an alcoholic but you feel like you drink too much and could be headed down that path, you could decide to stop or cut back now. It is possible for heavy drinkers to cut back, or moderate, without professional assistance.

Should You Try a Natural Recovery

If you are addicted to prescription drugs or illicit drugs, it is not recommended that you attempt a natural recovery. You should seek professional help. How do you know if you’re addicted? Only a professional can tell you for sure, but there are some important signs. You are probably addicted if you can’t control your use; you try to stop or cut back, but can’t. Another sign is that your drug use or drinking interferes with the rest of your life.

Natural recovery is risky. If you have any doubts about whether you can do it, skip the go-it-alone method and find a professional therapist or rehab program to help you. If you do try natural recovery, you should notice right away whether it’s working. If you can’t stop, get help right away.

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