As described in Part II of this text, complementary and alternative medicines and therapies are widespread. They have certainly been applied to the treatment of conditions related to alcohol misuse. While they may be popular in the treatment of these disorders, there is little hard evidence for their effectiveness. Part of the lack of evidence has to do with the methodological issues related to treatments such as acupuncture, biofeedback, and meditation. For example, it is difficult to create true ‘blind’ or ‘placebo’ conditions, given the nature of these interventions. There may be, however, some effectiveness for these treatments, particularly in helping the individual assume greater control over their behavior and teach the individual that they may be able to alter difficult affective and psychological states by learning strategies for better managing one's body and lifestyle.
This chapter reviews the existing evidence of the effectiveness of a range of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) treatment modalities for alcoholism that have been investigated, focusing in particular on acupuncture, biofeedback, and meditation. To date, rigorous empirical evidence of their effectiveness in treating alcohol problems is lacking. While many CAM approaches are used and have been advocated, support for their use has primarily been case studies, anecdotes, or conceptual arguments.
The National Health Interview Survey (NHIS; Barnes et al., 2004) of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) classifies CAM modalities into four basic types: (a) alternative medical systems, (b) mind–body therapies, (c) biologically-based therapies, and (d) manipulative body-based therapies.