Nature Rehabs for Drug & Alcohol Addiction Treatment

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Learn about how drug rehab centers can intertwine natural beauty and proven therapeutic modalities to create a healing environment for all patients.

Seeking treatment for addiction can be overwhelming prospect. It is a process that takes patience and motivation as well as an openness to discover and implement significant lifestyle changes.

Rehab and treatment for substance use disorders (SUDs) may be more appealing to some people if the facilities are in a beautiful, natural environment. Research suggests that nature and even virtual nature settings, referred to as environmental enhancement, have therapeutic health benefits that can play a significant role in addiction therapy.1

Environmental enhancement, whether in the form of spending time in nature, physical activity, or building social connections, is thought to be successful in large part because it is not dependent on new learning.1 It can help control compulsive drug taking, reduce the effectiveness of drug cues, and reduce stress, a known risk factor in relapse.1

A treatment facility located near a beach or in the mountains may increase a person’s motivation to get help. Location can be an additional incentive, beyond recovery, for seeking treatment and going to rehab.

The Role of Nature in Recovery

Contemporary advances in addiction neuroscience have led researchers to study the efficacy of mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) in treating substance use disorders.2

Mindfulness practices typically incorporate breathing exercises and body scans to bring awareness to the physical body and the present moment to reduce stress.2 Grounding exercises can contribute to a feeling of connection with ourselves and the world around us. MBIs also reduce the heart rate and regulate physiological reactivity, thus helping to manage cravings for drugs and alcohol.2

Research indicates that both mindfulness training and exposure to nature have many positive health benefits.3 Studies show that spending time in nature promotes health by reducing levels of stress, depression, and anxiety.3

Coincidentally, mood disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder are the most common co-occurring mental health disorders among substance use and addiction patients.4 Some research has shown that as many as 20%–67% of people seeking treatment for alcohol use also experienced depression.4 Treating people’s mental health conditions while simultaneously addressing their substance abuse and addiction has been shown to improve treatment outcomes.4

Being in nature and paying attention to the natural environment, away from electronic devices, promotes what is called soft fascination, where the attention is effortlessly drawn to fascinating objects and can also help reduce stress.3

Nature-Based Rehab Amenities and Therapies

The amenities and therapies that nature-based rehabs can provide, including group outings, hiking, and even surfing, can be powerful experiences for people in early sobriety.

Outdoor behavioral healthcare and extended backcountry and wilderness therapy allow for active and direct client participation and responsibility. It also fosters teamwork and social interactions, and uses nature in reality, as well as a metaphor within the therapeutic process. Adventure experiences can help encourage the development of a positive use for stress and facilitate a strong ethic of care and support throughout the therapeutic experience.

Addiction treatment should be customized to meet the needs of each person, so treatment may look different for different people. It is important to determine what will work best to address the needs of you as a whole person, not just your substance use disorder. Nature-based rehab facilities and programs could be an ideal option for you. Don’t hesitate to find out more today by calling or clicking here to find the best treatment options available to fit your needs.

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  1. Reynolds, L., Rogers, O., Benford, A., Ingwaldson, A., Vu, B., Holstege, T., & Alvarado, K. (2020, May 19). Virtual nature as an intervention for reducing stress and improving mood in people with substance use disorder. Journal of Addiction, 2010, 1892390.
  2. Garland, E. L. & Howard, M. O. (2018, April 18). Mindfulness-based treatment of addiction: current state of the field and envisioning the next wave of research. Addiction Science and Clinical Practice, 13(14).
  3. Djernis, D., Lerstrup, I., Poulsen, D., Stigsdotter, U., Dahlgaard, J., & O’ Toole, M. (2019, September 2). A systematic review and meta-analysis of nature-based mindfulness: effects of moving mindfulness training into an outdoor setting. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 16(17), 3202.
  4. Quello, S. B., Brady, K. T., & Sonne, S. C. (2005, December ). Mood disorders and substance use disorder: a complex morbidity. Science & Practice Perspectives, 3(1), 13–21.
  5. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (1997). Chapter 5: Specialized substance abuse treatment programs. Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) 24.
  6. Gass, M., Wilson, T., Talbot, B., Tucker, A., Ugianskis, M., & Brennan, N. (2019, August 20). The value of outdoor behavioral healthcare for adolescent substance users with comorbid conditions. Substance Abuse: Research and Treatment, 13.
  7. Galaj, E., Barrera, E. D., & Ranaldi, R. (2020, January). Therapeutic efficacy of environmental enrichment for substance use disorders. Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior, 188,
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