Indigenous Healing Vs Western Biomedicine

Published: 2021-09-15 13:25:11
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When an individual is diagnosed with an illness or disease, a majority of us lives with fear thinking if there is any cure out there to treat it or if it will lead us to our death bed. At the same time, when there are treatments to cure it, there are also some side effects that come along with the treatments. The side effects can either be severe or it can be light depending on the kinds of treatment that will be used to cure us. Some turn to traditional healing whereas some turns to western biomedicine based on the effectiveness of the treatment and also based on personal preferences. Majority of people prefers natural remedies since there are not many side effects associated with it, whereas some turns to western biomedicine thinking these treatments will get them cured quicker. Throughout this paper, I will be focusing on a cure for drug and alcohol substance use within the Indigenous traditional healing and western biomedicine. In this paper, I will be talking about the treatments that are used to cure the alcohol and drug use, along with how it is performed and which treatment is most effective or problematic. Many Indigenous people turn to alcohol and drug use as an escape from reality since they had little control over from the real world. Indigenous kids were separated from their parents at a young age and were forcibly placed in the residential schools.
Many of us know what happened at the residential schools and how many kids went through many forms of sexual, physical and verbal abuse. All these abuses have impacted these kids as they were growing up into a mature adult. These kids witnessed their peers commit suicide within the residential school due to the unbearable torture that they received at the residential school. The Residential school wanted to demolish the Indigenous culture and language because they wanted them to adapt to the Christian culture and speak in English. The amount of torture and pain that these kids had to go through haunted them in their old age and this also affected their family. It is believed that the alcohol addiction started after the residential school, where many kids had to go through with the discrimination, racism, and stigma due to the government policy that was misled and the negative acts of colonization for generations. People who are not in part of the aboriginal community are known to be part of the drug and alcohol use for various reasons.One may become an alcohol or a drug addict due to peer pressure, stress, recreation, mental health disorders, alcohol or drug is not enough, loneliness, prescription drugs, family history or genetics and experimenting. Many people turn to alcohol or drug use as an escape from their problems. There are many people that we may come across in our lives, who are either under the influence of drugs or alcohol and a majority of them either cries out in vain. Instead of encouraging them to continue being a drug or alcohol addict, we should go help them instead by making them face their problems and find a permeant solution to it. Even though alcohol and drug use give a temporary relief it does not help solve any problems that one might be facing. The Indigenous healers focus on the holistic aspect of its wellness, whereas the western biomedicine focuses on the mind-body separation when treating people who are addicts (Rowan et al, 2014). It is said that in order to cure someone who is part of an alcohol and a drug use, it is important to focus not only on the physical or mental health but to focus on the emotional, spiritual, mind and body as well (Rowan et al, 2014).
Before an indigenous individual can participate in one of their holistic treatments, they first need to believe in themselves and in the treatment. The film, “The Gift of Diabetes”, Bryan mentions that the individual needs to fully have belief and hope of the Indigenous healing in order to see the treatment work on you (Whitford et al, 2005). Since Bryan had hope and belief his diabetes started to go down and he noticed a difference within himself (Whitford et al, 2005). In the film, it showed that he was provided with consistent herbal remedies, participated in the sweat lodge ceremony and visited a Shaman to help him in bringing down his diabetes (Whitford et al, 2005). Throughout this film, Bryan had full hope, faith, and belief in the Indigenous healing methods and most importantly, never gave up (Whitford et al, 2005). At the end of the film, Bryan lost weight and managed to keep his diabetes in control by just making small changes within his lifestyle one at a time (Whitford et al, 2005). Within the indigenous healing treatments, every healer looks at the alcohol as a form of a spirit, since the alcohol has played a form of a destruction within the individual’s life (Smillie-Adjarkwa, 2016).
It is also believed that healing needs to start when the spirit, alcohol, is consistently fighting back within the spiritual field (Smillie-Adjarkwa, 2016). By becoming an alcohol and drug addict, it disrupts the Indigenous cultural beliefs such as “courage, humility, generosity, and family honor, cultural involvement” (Smillie-Adjarkwa, 2016). So many Indigenous healers and elders believe that in order to gain sobriety, the individual needs to start reconnecting with their cultural beliefs and these practices will act in the manner of a preventative and curing mechanism within the treatment of the alcohol and drug abuse (Smillie-Adjarkwa, 2016). A Sweat Lodge is known to purify an individual’s mind, body, and spirit, to bring out the new version of themselves (Smillie-Adjarkwa, 2016). The Sweat Lodge ceremony is used a majority of the time to help alcohol and drug addicts to regain their sobriety since it focuses more on the traditional healing methods of the Indigenous community (Smillie-Adjarkwa, 2016). There are four reasons of how the Sweat Lodge can help an individual who is an alcohol and a drug addict (Smillie-Adjarkwa, 2016). The first reason is that when participating in a Sweat Lodge ceremony, it brings out an understanding of who they are, even if they do not speak the Indigenous language (Smillie-Adjarkwa, 2016). The Sweat Lodge is a symbol and an indicator of being Indigenous (Smillie-Adjarkwa, 2016). Secondly, the Sweat Lodge cleanses and purifies the persons psychological and spiritual connection, to a fresh new start to new beginnings (Smillie-Adjarkwa, 2016). Thirdly, when participating in a Sweat Lodge ceremony, you need a lot of mental and physical strength to push yourself to the end of the ceremony (Smillie-Adjarkwa, 2016). When the individual makes it through the end, they will feel accomplished, where the atmosphere makes it a lot easier for the person to withdraw from alcohol and drugs (Smillie-Adjarkwa, 2016). Lastly, the individuals who handle the Sweat Lodge Ceremony were also addicts of alcohol and drugs but instead provides a sub role model to the label of the “drunken Indian” (Smillie-Adjarkwa, 2016).
Whereas, within the Western Biomedicine, in order to aid an alcohol or a drug addict, one of the treatments that are used on them is providing medications to treat the alcohol use problems or addictions (Finding Quality Addiction Care in Canada, 2017). Medications that are provided are disulfiram, naltrexone, acamproste, and methadone (Finding Quality Addiction Care in Canada, 2017). It is understandable that these medications are supposed to help them become sober but they are being presented with medications and they are a form of drugs. At times, this may not help them from being an addict to alcohol or drugs. Other kinds of treatments are addiction therapy and counseling and structured treatment programs (Finding Quality Addiction Care in Canada, 2017). In these treatment programs, the individual just has to sit with a group of people or alone with a counselor or therapist and share their problems to them (Finding Quality Addiction Care in Canada, 2017). From there, suggestions will be provided to the individual in regards to what necessary steps should be taken next in order for them to gain sobriety (Finding Quality Addiction Care in Canada, 2017).
When comparing both of the treatments within the Western Biomedicine and the Indigenous traditional healing, I would lean towards the Indigenous traditional healing because the healers use a lot of herbs and natural remedies as their treatments. Within the Western Biomedicine, even though there are therapies and counseling involved, they also do prescribe medications for the person as a part of the treatment. The indigenous community goes out to gather the medicinal plants, in a respective manner, knowing that these plants have all the power to heal one (Kawagley, 2001). They do not take ownership over these plants but instead shares them with other people within the community, knowing that these plants were given to them at no cost and that they should share them freely (Kawagley, 2001). The Indigenous understands that over time these plants can go through misuse and disuse, if the indigenous do not use the free gifts provided by nature “regularly, respectfully and mindfully” (Kawagley, 2001). In the film, “Spirit Doctors”, they talk about the spiritual world of traditional native medicine. In this film, Marie, a spiritual healer, explains how rock moss is used as a medicine on sores that don’t heal (Burke, 2005). When the rock moss is placed on the sore, you got to wrap it so that the poison can be pulled out to help heal the sore (Burke, 2005).
They do not take the rock moss unless they need to heal a sore (Burke, 2005). Also, it is important to go to the water very often to take away all the negativity, such as the hurts and the pains (Burke, 2005). Don is a cancer patient and has been receiving treatments within the western biomedicine, but started to look into the holistic approach (Burke, 2005). Don wanted to give it a try since it was all natural and it is part of his roots since he comes from an indigenous background (Burke, 2005). He stated that, when he was taking the treatments through the western biomedicine, he did not feel at ease, as if something was bothering him or there was some sort of heaviness on his chest (Burke, 2005). Once he visited the spiritual healer, he felt much lighter and much better the next day (Burke, 2005). Throughout this film, Marie states that it is important for every individual to never forget their roots and to also be connected to nature and to be humble towards it (Burke, 2005). From this film, it shows how the natural way of healing is much better than walking a westernized treatment to heal, since it may not be at ease for some or many patients. There was another film called “The Wit”, that focuses more on the patient’s point of view throughout the movie. This patient was dying of cancer and was admitted to the hospital for treatments (Nicholls, 2001).
Throughout this movie, it showed that the physician would always do a small talk, never ask how is the patient is doing and at times keep the patient waiting for so long in the examination room (Nicholls, 2001). The patient will at times feel lonely and feel as if the physician does not care about her but there a nurse who works there always asks about her wellbeing, to see if she’s okay and at times sits with her for a while to talk (Nicholls, 2001). Also, the treatments that she was receiving through the health care was very aggressive, brutal and painful (Nicholls, 2001). In reality, western medical care is aggressive and the amounts of medications that they prescribe to heal you is not a natural form of healing.
The physicians at times view their patients as an object at times but fail to view them as a human being. They just try to focus on the main source of the problem, instead of trying to heal them as a whole. So when it comes to alcohol and drug addicts, it is important to help the individual to heal in a much natural way, where they do not need to rely on medications to come off of drugs. In general, any form of medications that are being prescribed to the individual is more like persuading them to not be off of drugs and turn into a drug addict, where their body will only rely on those drugs. When looking into a holistic approach, there might be some changes that may be needed to heal but it is for the best. For an individual who is trying to come clean from doing drugs or to gain sobriety, it is always the best option to take treatments that are natural and not rely on medications from the western biomedicine. Herbs that are provided from mother nature are much safer than the pharmaceutical medications.
When taking herbs and being in part of the traditional healing ceremony, such as the sweat lodge, it helps the individual to cleanse and purify their body as a whole. Counseling and therapy can help the individual to a certain extent but there are many success rates of an individual gaining sobriety and becoming drug-free through the Indigenous traditional healing, such as the sweat lodge. Even though it takes some time, it pushes the individual to make some lifestyle changes. In conclusion, many individuals may choose the western medicine over the holistic healing approach or vice versa. Western medicine might heal the individual must faster compared to the holistic approach, but it is not natural. Especially for an individual, who is trying to gain sobriety and become a drug-free person, it is important for them to lean towards a natural approach, instead of turning to medicated drugs to heal. It takes time to see the change, but that is what it’s all about. It is to have patience, hope, and faith in the holistic approach and trying to make a few changes within their lifestyle to gain that change and to maintain it. Counseling and therapy may help the individual to a certain extent but the question is how long will it take for the individual to cheat by drinking alcohol and taking drugs here and there. Counseling and therapy may have helped few people but it takes time for the individual to refrain themselves from going back to the alcohol and the drugs. Whereas within the holistic approach, it takes time but they are being provided with herbs and are being in part of traditional healing ceremonies to help them heal not only mentally, but also physically, spiritually and emotionally as well.

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