What Does Eastern Philosophy Say About Addiction and Treating It?

Philosophy -- to put it as simply as possible -- focuses on finding meaning and purpose in life.

Philosophy — to put it as simply as possible — focuses on finding meaning and purpose in life.

Most people  Eastern philosophy originates from East and South Asia, while Western philosophy is more shaped by Judeo-Christian and Greco-Roman thinking. Some say Eastern philosophy focuses more on general knowledge, while others argue Western thinking leans more individualistic. 

Many Eastern philosophies do have specific tenets that can be extremely helpful in guiding an individual with substance abuse issues along the path to recovery.


Buddhism is a centuries old-religion, philosophy and practice. It addresses the issues of spirituality and moral concerns. In terms of substance abuse, the focus is on the suffering and mind of the addict. 

Buddhism is centered on four truths:

  • The truth of suffering
  • The truth of the cause of suffering
  • The truth of the end of suffering
  • The truth of the path that leads to the end of suffering. 

For Buddhists, understanding oneself and ridding oneself of desire leads to truth. Meditation and mindfulness are the backbone of Buddhism. And Buddhism is compatible with cognitive behavioral therapy, the 12-step approach and mindfulness therapy. 

It’s all about self-knowledge, enlightenment and spirituality. With Buddhism, addicts are taught to have the right viewpoint, have the right intention, to be mindful of oneself, and to live in a manner that lines up with the spiritual path to enlightenment.


Confucianism emphasizes education and knowledge. When it comes to addiction, Confucianism applies an understanding of potential triggers for substance abuse. It also applies methods for relapse prevention. Practicing these helps the individual reshape their spirituality. The approach used to treat addicts consists of self-control, respect, frugality and humbleness.


The focus of Hinduism is to promote spiritual experience. In treating addiction, for this philosophy many use yoga and meditation to fix the spirit, mind and body. Hinduism also embraces a holistic approach to wellness. Holistic methods may include prayer and meditation, as opposed to medication or psychotherapy. The goal is to integrate therapeutic techniques that are consistent with the individual’s belief system.


Taoism is believed to have started in the 4th century BC. According to this philosophy, naturalness is achieved by freeing oneself from self-centered behaviors, selfish thinking and desire by embracing a simple life. Its goal is to live in balance in life and to live with compassion. Because of its focus, Taoism helps one become aware of their own triggers for addictive behavior. Addicts are taught to break those associations and to exercise self-control. Taoism emphasizes both a physical approach and a spiritual approach to address issues during recovery. 

Philosophy -- to put it as simply as possible -- focuses on finding meaning and purpose in life.

Eastern Holistic Strategies for Addiction

Today, many top alcohol rehabilitation centers in the West embrace Eastern philosophy into their treatment plan. Addicts are taught to connect with themselves, nature and their own faith.

Eastern holistic strategies may include meditation, exercise, yoga, art therapy and massage therapy. The practice of meditation helps addicts achieve emotional stability and mental clarity. It also helps promote mindfulness and make addicts more aware of their cravings. 

With physical exercise, patients can alleviate stress and improve well-being. Yoga combines both meditation and exercise to improve the body and mind. It also enhances self-control, self-awareness and self-realization. 

Art therapy is used to provide a healthy outlet for expressing emotions that may underlie addiction. Massage therapy helps boost mood, relieve stress and improve overall well-being for addicts. Because of the benefits, many top alcohol rehabilitation centers embrace Eastern holistic strategies for addiction.

Finding the right balance between Eastern practices and Western practices is a popular way to treat patients at inpatient alcohol treatment centers. While Western practices allow for medical tests to determine stress, Eastern practices have the ability to find the root cause of the stress. Simply put, Eastern practices focus on the core of the issue. It’s more preventative. But, having the right blend of both practices is the most successful.

– Patrick Bailey


Patrick Bailey is a professional writer mainly in the fields of mental health, addiction, and living in recovery. He attempts to stay on top of the latest news in the addiction and the mental health world and enjoy writing about these topics to break the stigma associated with them. Learn more about his work at patrickbaileys.com and connect with Patrick on Twitter and LinkIn