Aromatherapy in Addiction Treatment for Term Paper

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S ome aromas even affect us physiologically" (p. 38). Researchers exploring human olfaction have determined that:

faint trace of lemon significantly increases people's perception of their own health.

Lavender incense contributes to a pleasant mood -- but it lowers volunteers' mathematical abilities.

A whiff of lavender and eucalyptus increases people's respiratory rate and alertness.

The scent of phenethyl alcohol (a constituent of rose oil) reduces blood pressure.

These findings have contributed to the explosive growth in the aromatherapy industry; according to Furlow (1996), "Aromatherapists point to scientific findings that smell can dramatically affect our moods as evidence that therapy with aromatic oils can help buyers manage their emotional lives" (p. 38). According to Ornstein and Sobel, one recent experiment to determine the effect, if any, of fragrances on mind/body involved subjects being wired to physiological monitoring equipment, and then being interrogated with stress-provoking questions, such as "What kind of person makes you angry?" The subjects had their moods measured while changes in their blood pressure, heart rate, respiration, and brain waves were monitored (Ornstein & Sobel, 1989, p. 69). In some cases, before the stressful questioning, a subject sniffed a fragrance. The smell of spiced apple, for example, appeared to modify the stress response: subjects were found to have lower blood pressure, slower breathing, more relaxed muscles, and a slower heart rate. Furthermore, the fragrance-inspired subjects also reported feeling happier, less anxious, and being more relaxed (Ornstein & Sobel, 1989).

In other studies cited by Ornstein and Sobel, the spiced apple fragrance was found to be more effective than eucalyptus or lavender in increasing the brain wave pattern associated with a relaxed but alert state. According to Ornstein and Sobel, "Fragrances inspire us. While savoring a pleasant fragrance we take slow deep breaths and become relaxed. A strong aroma focuses awareness, distracting us from less pleasant thoughts. Pleasant smells may also evoke positive memories or emotions with their associated beneficial physiological effects (Ornstein & Sobel, 1989, p. 69).

Therapeutic Uses of Essential Oils. According to Price et al. (1999), "Essential oils are used extensively by aromatherapists and aromatologists to improve or uplift a patient's state of mind. The effect of the attitude of mind on a person's health is being recognized more and more and essential oils can play an important part here" (p. 4). The vast majority of essential oil use takes place outside the formal medical profession; in fact, some people rely on instructions from one of the numerous texts on essential oils and aromatherapy that are intended for the general public for this purpose. Indeed, these compounds are simple to use and Price et al. suggest that, "It should come as a relief to practitioners that minor everyday ailments such as a sore throat or a winter cold, and even some more serious problems like bronchitis, sinusitis and rheumatism, can be treated in the home easily and successfully, leaving the doctor's time free for the cases requiring expert knowledge" (Price et al., 1999, p. 5). Although this approach to aromatherapy may provide users with all of the desired benefits they seek, more complicated problems and conditions may call for professional assistance from a veteran aromatherapist to achieve the full range of benefits that might be possible. In France, though, from where aromatherapy was introduced to Britain, physicians continue to prescribe essential oils for internal use in capsules or in drops diluted in alcohol (or even in suppositories and pessaries) (Price et al., 1999). These preparations are also used externally in dressings, fumigations, inhalations, ointments and in foot, hand or complete baths. The original concept of aromatherapy in the UK, as promulgated by Mme. Maury, was to use the essential oils in massage only in preparations that had been appropriately diluted in a fixed vegetable oil; unfortunately, this concept led to the belief that this is all there really is to aromatherapy. Price and his colleagues report that they are actively working to correct this erroneous image; however, they also suggest that a complete understanding of what is involved cannot be accomplished until the medical profession takes a more active interest and applies its professional skills to incorporate these valuable techniques to their fullest capabilities in order to bring the benefits of aromatherapy to the healthcare community of the world in the 21st century (Price et al., 1999).


Definitions and Background. People can become addicted to virtually anything that brings them pleasure (Bohanan, 1991); however, for the purposes of this study, the term "addiction" will employ the diagnostic criteria provided by DSM-IV for substance dependence. According to DSM-IV, substance dependence is "a maladaptive pattern of substance use, leading to clinically significant impairment or distress, as manifested by three (or more) of the following, occurring at any time in the same 12-month period:

1) Tolerance, as defined by either of the following:

a. A need for markedly increased amounts of the substance to achieve intoxication or desired effect.

b. Markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of the substance.

2) Withdrawal, as manifested by either of the following:

a. The characteristic withdrawal syndrome for the substance b. The same (or a closely related) substance is taken to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms.

3) The substance is often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended (loss of control).

4) There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control substance use (loss of control).

5) A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain the substance, use the substance, or recover from its effects (preoccupation).

6) Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of substance use (continuation despite adverse consequences).

7) The substance use is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by the substance (adverse consequences).

Addiction-Related Depression, Anxiety, Mood Disorders (Co-Existing Disorders - PTSD, Smoking, PMS, Insomnia, HIV, Hepatitis C). According to Ba (2003), pain management has recently become a favored topic among aromatherapists, as many are now working in areas other than relaxation massage and are finding that client health needs revolve around quality of life, which for some is based upon pain management. Aromatherapy massage is particularly suited to the treatment of pain due to its soothing and calming qualities. Massage and the application of oils via this method can be localized to concentrate on the area of pain or to achieve general relaxation. While traditionally oils such as wintergreen, rosemary and lavender have been used to help mediate pain, there are also newly discovered and commercially released oils available. One example of these is the previously little known Australian Kunzea (Kunzea ambigua) essential oil. This oil is showing promising effects in relieving the pain of arthritis and muscular sprains and strains (Ba, 2003).

In their book, Healthy Pleasures (1989), Ornstein and Sobel report that patients with insomnia, anxiety, panic attacks, back pain, migraine, and food cravings are now being treated with modern aromatherapy. "For example," they say, "some patients with chronic pain are instructed in deep muscle relaxation while inhaling peach fragrance. Later, the patients simply take a whiff of peach, and the relaxed state is quickly induced" (p. 69). One company now offers a strawberry scented surgical mask to help calm patients under anesthesia. Another corporation has applied for a new patent for fragrances designed to reduce reactivity to stress. Meanwhile, Japanese researchers are studying the effects of aromatherapy on dizziness, nausea, anxiety, and other disorders. And at least one psychoanalyst in France uses the evocative power of vanilla to help patients recall early childhood memories (Ornstein & Sobel, 1989). Aromatherapy is particularly appropriate to ease the discomfort of respiratory illnesses. Colds, flu, sinus infections and bronchitis respond to the anti-inflammatory, decongestant and antimicrobial qualities of certain oils. The inhalation method and aromatic bathing methods are both suitable for the treatment of conditions of the respiratory tract. Thyme and Eucalyptus oils are often employed in treatment of respiratory illnesses but there is a wide range of essential oils that can be used and blended to alleviate symptoms in such conditions (Ba, 2003, p. 127).

Human Behavior Considerations and Uses of Alternative Methods in Treating Additions. A growing number of mental health service providers are incorporating nontraditional techniques for the treatment of addictions within their practices today (Burns, Valadez, Rodriguez & Valadez, 2002). For example, Burns et al. report that studies demonstrating the efficacy of holistic therapies such as yoga, massage therapy, and aromatherapy are beginning to appear in peer-reviewed journals and scholarly reviews. These authors note that, "Other nontraditional or alternative therapies -- meditation, energy healing, diet therapy, herbal therapy, and Rolfing -- have received much trade press attention and research. In light of these trends, it appears a substantial faction…[continue]

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