AOD Treatment; Complementary & Alternative Therapies



This essay briefly examines the nature of drug addiction in the light of one of the oldest living medical systems amongst human culture, the Chinese Elemental system.  Some aspects of this essay may appear contentious to the western mind, trained to relentlessly ask, is it?  May I suggest using the oriental frame of reference, if it works, then it is, and that’s been good enough for more than a third of the world’s population health needs for a very long time.  Summary explanations for key concepts are followed by an observational overview of a typical “gateway” drug cycle.  Finally a brief comparison of the allopathic versus complimentary medicinal approach to post-drug repair and recovery is given consideration.


Brief explanations of some important concepts.


  • Our bodies regulate their own internal environment; an unceasing process called homeostasis, the state of relative stability of the body’s internal environment.  It is the first principle of anatomy and physiology that we are set to seek homeostatic balance, and in a powerful sense we are naturally addicted to this balance.  All of us, no exceptions. 


  • Beneath our bodies lie the atomic world of positrons, electrons and neutrons.  Below this world of amazement is a world of pure energy, defined by quantum mechanics as the Universal Energy Field (UEF).  We are all working out of it.  No exceptions.  The first law of thermonuclear dynamics says that energy cannot be created or destroyed.  Further, energy always has been, always was and always will be, and further again energy moves into form through form and out of form.  The ancient Chinese who observed this natural phenomena gave it a name, Qi, (Chi). 


  • As a biological species we are carbon based, gelatinous sacks of salt water, generating electrical charge, all contained within an electro magnetic field, known as the Human Energy Field (HEF) (Brennan p3-5).  Supporting our perception of the reality of life are the organs of our bodies.  They nurture, assimilate and transform the Qi of food and air and water into the life giving properties that we take for granted.  They produce “control” from “chaos” and store the mysteries of our universe.  


  • Chinese medicine is paradoxically complex and simple.  Each of our bodies contains 12 meridians (in pairs), containing 365 acupuncture points.  Meridians may be conceptualised as energetic irrigation channels, each acupuncture point, a special point where energy is distributed, irrigating Qi into functional bodily systems.  Acupoints provide fresh chi to each of the organs, which in turn are responsible for reality as we comprehend it through our emotions, thoughts, attitudes, physiology and spirit; the experience of the body-mind.


  • Everything is relative with no absolutes, only complimentary pairs or opposites of polarity.  In Chinese thought this phenomenon is known as the principle of Yin/Yang.  Yin is conceptualised as the shady side of the mountain, feminine, dark, receptive, contracting, cold, left, “force of the earth”, inner.  Yang is conceptualised as the “sunny side of the mountain”, masculine, light, expanding, hot, active, right, “force of heaven”, outer.  Yin is non-active and going within, Yin is stillness.  Yang is active and expansive.  Yang is doing it.  Yin/Yang regulate flow of Qi, through the frequency of expansion and contraction.


  • The phases of energy between Yin/Yang of the Five Element system have been observed to be related to each other in an orderly, organised and predictable cycle of generation and control, known respectively as the Shen (generation/production/creation) and the Ko (control) cycles (Hammer p56). The following summary reflects the nature of the Law of the Five Elements with respect to bodily organ, emotional and psychological function:


Fire Heart & Pericardium

  • Houses the mind (Shen), governs the flow of blood
  • Joy, awareness, self-identity, harmony, sensitive, well integrated, joyful; Love
  • Shen Fire nutures Earth, the ash returns, summer to late summer
  • Ko Fire melts and warps the Metal, Depression and Anxiety


Earth Spleen/Pancreas & Stomach

  • Transforms & transports Qi, controls the blood 
  • Reflection, concentration, cognition, sympathy, attentive, thoughtful, supportive; Empathy
  • Shen The minerals of the Earth create Metal, late summer to autumn
  • Ko Earth contains the Water, Muddled brain, lack of clarity


Metal Lung & Large Intestines

  • Governs Qi & respiration, distributes Qi & bodily fluids
  • Boundaries, instinct, interaction, communication, vital, connected; Reverence
  • Shen Metal nutures Water, autumn to winter
  • Ko Metal cuts the Wood, Sadness and Grief

Water Kidneys & Bladder

  • Stores the genetic essence (Jing), control of water
  • Will power, stamina, ingenuity, determination, resourceful, wise; Wisdom
  • Shen Water nutures Wood, winter to spring
  • Ko Water puts out the Fire, Fear and Weakness


Wood Liver & Gallbladder

  • Ensures smooth flow of Qi and blood, stores the blood.
  • Purpose, foresight, adaptability, motivated, well organised, easy going, Compassion
  • Shen Wood stokes the Fire, spring to summer
  • Ko Wood covers the Earth,  Frustration and Anger


  • The Law of the Five Elements determines health all of life.  There is no need for pathology or psychology, only an appreciation for the art of living.  Nothing is by accident; all in our world has a reason, synchronicity.  There is no right or wrong, only a world of energetic adventurers.  From this perspective all drug taking action is correct action by the individual.  No exceptions.


Now back to the real world.  Free flow is the feeling of life in harmony with the elements.  When free flow meets the stress of resistance there is a disruption of the flow of Qi.  As these blocks and shocks become reinforced throughout life, these disruptions become organic blockages, memories held deep within the body-mind and by late teens it’s a slow, possibly sluggish experience of energy.  Now opens the door of potentiality to the typical “gateway” cycle for illicit substance use.


Cannabis (Yin/Yang, magnifier, subjective experience)


Corrects the imbalances instantly, by overriding the blockages of the meridian system.

Wood Liver; smooth flow of Qi in all directions, happiness, smooth and mellow

Fire Heart; spreading, feelings of joy and warmth

Earth Spleen; stimulates digestion brought on by the “munchies”

Metal Lung; cannabis resonates in the lung with the feeling of nowness and mindfulness

Water Kidney; heightened sex drive, easily its most addictive quality


Every action has a reaction, a functional Newtonian concept, as such cannabis induced free flow is a corrupt correction, which depletes “Liver Yang”, or movement action deficiency.  Eventual feelings of irritability, frustration and a general lethargy of bodily movement occur.  Further symptomatology reveals feelings of anxiety, the hallmark of the unsettled mind, insomnia.  Vagueness, cravings for sweets, potential psychosis, low affect of a generalised sadness, feeling “stuck”, the use of blaming behaviour, a strong tendency to live in the past as opposed to the “now”, feelings of loss, but may not know what it is that was lost.  Passive aggressive tendencies, due to a pronounced lack of individual will power and/or personal strength.  *


Amphetamine Type Substances (ATS) (Yang, speed, coke, ice)


The Law of Homeostasis says, “I want Liver Yang”, as the body-mind is programmed to correct imbalances.  Next drug of choice will very likely be ATS, which push through the obstructions and correct the imbalances immediately.

Earth Stimulates the spleen, giving immediate focus with mental clarity and fluid consistency of thought, decreases appetite. 

Metal Lungs, the spontaneous energy of living in the “now”, controlling destiny, Godlike.

Water Kidney, heroic quality, very high sex drive, personal strength and will power

Wood Liver, increased happiness, effortless action with patience.  

Fire Heart, joyful and excited about purpose


Every action has a reaction, ATS induced free flow is a corrupt correction which depletes Spleen, blood and Yin. A life giving and grounding deficiency, a very sad, difficult and tough experience.  Symptomatology includes scattered thought process’s, long periods of blankness, paranoia with a persistent feeling of someone watching/following you, neither earthed nor centred.  No destiny, no control and feelings of heavy sadness and grief.  Weakened willpower coupled with sexual dysfunction, (particularly with cocaine).  Extremely angry, possibly violent emotional outbursts with a rigid aching body.  The anxiety of a chronically unsettled mind, confusion and possibly extreme and life threatening depression.  *


Heroin (Yin, sedating, opiates)


Qi needs to flow simply because it’s the experience of life.  The more obstructed the meridian system, the more overwhelming the experience of the symptom. The Law of Homeostasis is now indicating the introduction of heroin, one of the world’s best painkillers, into the gateway cycle.

Water Kidney, Yin/Yang, rejuvenated blood, a feeling of inner wisdom and knowing

Wood Liver, passively contented, smooth

Fire Heart, settled in the mind resonating peace and warmth

Earth Spleen, intensive focus, concentration and clarity

Metal Lung, now, “rite” now, transfixed within the moment


Every action has a reaction, however heroin is a corrupt correction which depletes Jing and organ size.  Jing is derived from the pure Yin of the universe, the essence of pure potential and natural ability.  Essence refers to the material aspects of existence and spirit to the non-material.  The fusion of the spirit (Shen) with essence (Jing) is the ineluctable event that creates life, (Hammer, L. pg6).  Persons enduring this experience, have a “life force fuel” deficiency, oscillating between cycles of pain and heroin intoxication.  Symptomatology includes living in fear, with no willpower, tooth decay and a decline of interest in sex.  Scratching, fidgeting, angry outbursts, selfish behaviour, a sense of spiritual defeat, incidences of theft, no internal judgment, a will do “anything” context, kill, prostitution etc.  Vomiting, due to the inability to assimilate and digest food.  Bad skin, immunity problems and a lack of control over life events.  *


The Law of Homeostasis states that the body-mind looking for balance will seek Jing.  However no drug can give you Jing as it is endowed from birth, and such this cycle is now complete.  Only functional organs in conjunction with working spirit can yield the manifestation of Jing.


Post Drug Repair and Recovery


The Allopathic model of response uses drugs for effect and change, with combinations of tranquillisers, sleepers, SSRI’s to manage the difficulties created by the mental health distress of drug withdrawal in combination with substitution pharmacotherapies, the collective name for a group of drugs that are used as substitutes for other drugs.  These strategies have been effective in stabilising clients, protecting the community through reduced crime related activity and removing some aspects of drug culture off the streets.  Decreased levels of mortality, decreased morbidity, effective disease control, lower legal costs and increased access to health care services by the illicit drug using community are considered to be the prime benefits.  


However, using drugs to deal with drugs is at best, fuzzy logic and at worst, ineffectual.  The services described above require significant amounts of time and resource, involving long term commitments from both service providers and their clients.  As a consequence the burden to our community is one of considerable financial expense.  


Complimentary and alternative medicine (CAM) refers to a large number of therapies, systems and techniques that exist largely outside the institutions where conventional medicine is delivered (Mamtani & Cimino, p369).  Chinese Elemental medicine is amongst them and is suggestive of another approach; if you give the body-mind what it needs, it will repair itself.  Repair on all levels is always possible, no exceptions.  All illness is psychosomatic because we are mind-bodies, not just bodies.  That fact must influence therapeutic strategies in managing disease (Weill p57).  


Efficacious CAM strategies involve identifying and working with the physiological distress of a person in conjunction with their mindset and attitudes, or thoughts about themselves and others.  Actively engaging the spiritual dimension, by identifying a sense of purpose, value and connection to something greater than thou art.  Teaching how to connect and to appreciate the nature of the healing process as a whole (Wood, p26).  


From an Elemental perspective, this entails establishing rhythm and routine in life to generate a stable framework for development (Sauer. J, p167).  Engaging the services of bodywork professionals to shift accumulated blockages through the meridian system, relieving the musculoskeletal stress and facilitate the “letting go” of stored and repressed emotions.  Engaging a medicinal diet as prescribed by a nutrition expert, where food is perceived as medicine and poisons are avoided.


Transform negative emotionality by processing traumatic events and developing skills to face ones self with authenticity.  Engaging in exercise (weight and endurance training), pursuing the study of yoga, Qi gung or martial arts to develop and harness internal energy.  Developing creative skills such painting, poetry, dancing sculpture, craft and music to harness the passion of the heart.  There are no secrets to the arts, only repetition (Shaolin proverb). 

In Western medicine receptor sites within the brain dictate our moods and construct our reality.  Chinese medicine offers a contrasting view, organs, not the brain, dictate our moods and are responsible for the construct of our view of reality.  Organs create bio/psycho/social life.  As such addiction is not seen as the problem, attaining balance is the real issue and as it is our biological destiny to feel good, and we get that by creating balance.  Symbolically, addictions represent an imbalance searching for balance.




Wellness may be defined as a balanced channelling of energy, energy received from the environment, transformed within you, and returned to affect the world around you.  Working with drugs and not against them offers new potentiality for the therapeutic considerations of the drug using community.  A complimentary medicinal approach, such as the Elemental system, integrates body-mind and acknowledges that our spiritual nature needs to be nurtured.  It is an efficacious and cost effective method of providing therapeutic assistance for ex drug users by providing a meaningful and positive way forward.  




Of note are the paragraphs entitled, Cannabis, ATS and Heroin, the summation of which were largely taken from notes that I transcribed during two seminar series’ conducted by Jost Sauer, during May and October of 2006.  I am very grateful and acknowledge Jost as the author of this framework of Elemental explanation.  


Brennan, Barbara Ann, Light Emerging, The Journey Of Personal Healing, pp3-5 Bantam Books, USA, 1993


Hammer, Leon, MD. Dragon Rises, Red Bird Flies, Psychology and Chinese Medicine, Eastland Press Inc, Seattle, USA


Mamtani, Ravinder, & Cimino, Andrea, A Primer of Complimentary and Alternative Medicine and its Relevance in the Treatment of Mental Health Problems, Psychiatric Quarterly, Vol 73, No 4, Winter 2002


Sauer, Jost, Higher and Higher, from drugs and destruction to health and happiness, Kijo Publications, Australia, 2005


Weill, A., Health and Healing, Chapter 6, Nine principles of Health and Illness, Boston Houghton Company, 1983



Wood E., There’s always help, there’s always hope, Australia, Hay House, 2004