Innovative Lifestyles

A Practical Guide to Scaling Down Substance Use

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Photo by Caroline Hernandez

Battle, survival, demons; these are the words we use to describe addiction and the path to wellness; worst-case scenario words, that can be dangerously defeatist when improperly aimed. The majority of people looking to scale back would never lump themselves into the big scary stats:

  • 40 million Americans ages 12 and older—or more than 1 in 7 people—suffer from substance abuse disorder (dependence on nicotine, alcohol or other drugs). This is more than the number of Americans with heart conditions (27 million), diabetes (26 million) or cancer (19 million).

Maybe you suffer from mild substance abuse disorder or maybe you are simply aware of your own excesses. Either way, you’re looking to cutback or quit before you get anywhere near rock bottom. So, let’s focus on the one word that matters across all levels of addiction: CHANGE

There are no quick fixes. If you want to get better you have to make permanent changes. It’s easy to blame the addiction bogeyman but the truth is (especially if you’re catching it early on) the struggles of day-to-day life are probably to blame; work stress, anxiety, sleepless nights, strained relationships and the physical/emotional toll of poor diet and exercise.

The good news is, all of these root causes can be treated naturally and holistically. The methods outlined below are simple, cost-effective and will continue to be healthy and beneficial long after you’ve regained control.  

READ MORE: The Best Natural Supplements for Anxiety


5 Methods to Reduce Substance Abuse Naturally and Holistically


The benefits of a healthy diet are well documented but for the purposes of scaling down substance abuse let’s focus on the dietary choices that detoxify and reduce cravings.  

Vitamin B

Drug and alcohol abuse strips away Vitamin B which adversely affects the nervous system leading to tiredness, nervousness, irritability, depression and insomnia, any one of which will leave you reaching for your favorite vice. You could run to the pharmacy and load up on B1, B3, B6 and B12. Or you could just eat the right stuff. Foods high in Vitamin B include:

  • Whole grains (brown rice, barley, quinoa)

  • Fish and Poultry

  • Legumes

  • Seeds and nuts

  • Dark, leafy vegetables

  • Citrus fruits, avocados and bananas

Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne Pepper has been used medicinally for thousands of years. It increases appetite, counteracts nausea and reduces inflammation of the stomach caused by drug and alcohol abuse. Although effective for a variety of substance abuse disorders, it is most beneficial if you’re looking to quit drinking (or at least scale down). 


Ginger is an anti-inflammatory that removes toxins from the respiratory tract and is used to prevent both liver and lung cancer. If you’re looking to quit smoking it’s a dietary must.   

Green Tea

Green tea is a powerful antioxidant that provides protection against a variety of cancers and helps remove fluid and mucus from the lining of the lungs. If you’re looking to quit smoking weed or curb your nicotine dependence, green tea is a great place to start. Try not to exceed five cups per day, you don’t want the caffeine jitters.   


Your detoxifying organs need water the way your heart needs blood. It is a vital component to scaling down all forms of substance abuse. Get in the habit of drinking water throughout the day and avoid subbing in sugary alternatives. If you want to add flavor, squeeze fresh lime into your glass.

There is no need to be intimidated by dietary changes. Continue researching the healing properties of food and get creative in the kitchen. Before long, your recovery meals will be both beneficial and delicious.

Dinner #1: Cayenne dusted fish tacos, roasted garlic quinoa, spinach salad and a mug of green tea with ginger and lemon. Enjoy.


How to quit drinkingPhoto by rawpixel


If you want to quit, you have to move. The recovery benefits of exercise include:

  • Natural dopamine trigger (the same chemical alcohol artificially triggers)

  • Eases nicotine withdrawal symptoms  

  • Reduces cravings

  • Improves mood

  • Improves circadian rhythm (better sleep)

You don’t have to become a CrossFit warrior or a certified yogi to benefit from exercise. Any non-sedentary movement counts. See what’s available in your community. Sign up for a dance class. Join a hiking group. Play pick-up basketball or soccer. Find a physical activity that doesn’t feel like homework and do that.



Kava Root

Harvested in the South Pacific, Kava has been used medicinally and ceremonially for more than 3000 years. It helps reduce stress, anxiety, depression and sleeplessness. Kava acts as a natural Xanax and helps reduce common Xanax withdrawal symptoms. It is available in powders, capsules and specially formulated extracts. 

Japanese Arrowroot (Kudzu)

Japanese Arrowroot is traditionally used to treat stomach irritation and has proven useful in reducing the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal including, dizziness, nausea and irritability. It is widely available in capsule and liquid drop form.


Kratom is made from the leaves of a Southeast Asian plant that hails from the same family as coffee. It is most commonly used to counteract opioid addiction. Kratom is an opioid agonist which means that while structurally different than opioids it activates the same receptors. The use of Kratom is highly controversial due its psychotropic and potentially addictive effects.



Addiction and substance abuse are too often seen as a personal struggle. Both sides are guilty. Addicts question their will power and struggle to move past what they see as personal failings while their friends and family “respectfully” step-back to let them “work it out.”

Genetic factors only account for 50% of addiction tendencies, the other 50% is lifestyle and relationships. Recent studies have shown that emotional openness and a stable social structure can have a profound effect on recovery.




Scaling down substance abuse is not going to happen overnight. It takes time to unwind the damaging effects, even if you’re in the early stages of addiction. The methods outlined above are designed to provide lifelong holistic benefits. Eat well, exercise, reduce anxiety and withdrawal symptoms via herbal supplements like kava root and never feel like you have to do it alone. Long after you’ve moved past your substance abuse issues, you’ll find that the natural road to recovery is just a better way to live.


Know Yourself. Protect Yourself.

If you have a serious drug or alcohol addiction please seek professional help. The holistic approach works in perfect harmony with traditional medicine. Show this article to your doctor and follow his/her advice on how to best incorporate it into your recovery process.  

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About the Author

Michael Bartolomei

Michael Bartolomei

Writing has always been my way of navigating the world. My ability with words has earned me quick promotions in the corporate world, the praise of literary publishers and the gratitude of my freelance clients. It has given me the means to live and the freedom to live passionately. This is not a job for me. It is a joy.

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