Acupuncture is increasingly being recognized as a promising and unconventional approach to addiction treatment, blending ancient Eastern wisdom with modern therapeutic practices. This holistic method addresses not only the physical symptoms of addiction but also delves into the nuances of mental and emotional well-being. It offers a unique perspective on the journey towards recovery.
A 2022 study published in the National Library of Medicine found that holistic addiction treatment programs exhibited a success rate of 61%, meaning 61% of individuals who completed these programs maintained abstinence from substances for five years or more.
Acupuncture in addiction treatment has a rich history and offers numerous benefits. This traditional practice has demonstrated the potential to ease withdrawal symptoms, curb cravings, and promote a sense of overall wellness. By tackling both the physical and psychological aspects of addiction, acupuncture serves as a possible complementary therapy in the complete treatment of substance use disorders.
In the realm of addiction treatment, acupuncture offers uses beyond just pain management. This traditional practice is effective in treating anxiety, depression, and stress – all of which are common factors contributing to addictive behaviors. As a complementary therapy, acupuncture adds a unique dimension to the treatment process, improving the overall effectiveness of addiction recovery programs.
What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a therapeutic practice rooted in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). With a history spanning thousands of years, this ancient art strategically places small, slender metal needles on various points across the body. Practitioners use precise hand movements or electrical stimulation to activate these needles and relieve patients.
Acupuncture is based on promoting the flow of qi or chi, which is the vital energy circulating within the body. Practitioners believe that disruptions in the natural flow of qi can lead to ailments and compromise overall health. According to the philosophy of acupuncture, specific anatomical locations serve as acupuncture points, chosen strategically to access and manipulate the body’s qi energy.
Acupuncture is a practice that involves inserting needles into specific points in the body and activating them to restore the harmonious flow of qi. This helps address imbalances and promotes a state of well-being. This time-honored practice embraces a holistic approach, viewing the body as an interconnected system where manipulating energy can contribute to physical and mental health.
Is Acupuncture Approved For Treating Addiction?
Absolutely, in 1997, the National Institutes of Health acknowledged acupuncture therapy as a complementary procedure to Western medicine, according to a study published in the National Library of Medicine. Research into pain control, fibromyalgia, headaches, Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, and depression, as well as clinical practice, provide evidence for its therapeutic effects. Acupuncture therapy may involve manual insertion of needles or electroacupuncture (EA), which utilizes a mild electrical stimulation of acupoints. Extended acupuncture methods may also use finger pressure (acupressure) and laser therapy.
The National Acupuncture Detoxification Association (NADA) protocol, developed by Dr. M. Smith in 1985, is now practiced in over 250 hospitals in the United Kingdom and the United States. In 1996, the World Health Organization recognized acupuncture as a treatment for drug abuse. Dr. Ji Sheng from Peking University, Beijing, China, developed the latest modification to this treatment protocol in 2005. Currently, more than 700 addiction treatment centers use acupuncture as an adjunctive procedure.
According to a study, when undergoing acupuncture, the central nervous system and plasma experience increased levels of various substances, such as enkephalin, epinephrine, endorphin, serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. This increase in substances may help with treating addiction, as acupuncture has been used for this purpose for the past 30 years. Auricular acupuncture (AA) is effective in treating drug and alcohol abuse in both Europe and the United States.
How Does Acupuncture Work Scientifically?
The National Center For Complementary and Alternative Medicine has stated that while the exact workings of acupuncture are not entirely understood, there are indications that acupuncture can impact the nervous system and other bodily tissues and may also have nonspecific (placebo) effects.
This is how acupuncture scientifically works according to the NCCIH:
- Research conducted on both animals and humans, using imaging techniques to observe the brain, has indicated that acupuncture has the potential to impact the functioning of the nervous system.
- It has been observed that acupuncture may directly impact connective tissue, particularly in the areas where the needles are inserted.
- It has been observed that acupuncture can have effects not explicitly related to its primary mechanism of action. These effects can be attributed to factors such as the patient’s belief in the treatment, the relationship between the patient and the practitioner, and other incidental aspects, rather than just inserting needles.
- Interestingly, studies have shown that the benefits of acupuncture have been more prominent when compared with no treatment rather than sham acupuncture procedures, such as the use of a device that only touches the skin without penetrating it. These results suggest that nonspecific effects play a role in the beneficial outcomes of acupuncture for pain relief and other symptoms.
- A recent study found that patients who had previously received pain relief through acupuncture were able to imagine the treatment happening again by watching a video of the session. This technique, known as video-guided imagery, was found to have a significant pain-relieving effect.
How is Acupuncture In Addiction Treatment Used?
Auricular (ear) acupuncture is increasingly being used in addiction treatment, and the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association (NADA) advocates for its inclusion.
As part of addiction treatment, the NADA Protocol involves a methodology of ear acupuncture that involves inserting five needles into specific points of the ear. These points include:
- The Shen Men Point.
- The Kidney Point.
- The Lung Point.
- The Sympathetic Point.
- The Liver Point.
When needles are inserted into specific points, NADA explains that they can have distinct effects. One of these is the stimulation of the Liver Point, which is believed to aid in detoxifying blood, while the Shen Men Point is intended to alleviate feelings of anxiety.
Before using acupuncture for addiction, it is crucial to identify any underlying health conditions that may be causing physical pain and leading to self-medication with drugs or alcohol. If any issues are detected, acupuncture can focus on those areas to alleviate pain.
Endorphins, chemicals that bring pleasure and relaxation, are released during acupuncture, making them useful in addiction treatment. This can assist individuals experiencing withdrawal symptoms or cravings in managing these sensations and staying on track with their recovery journey.
Moreover, there is a belief that the release of endorphins can lessen the enjoyment or high obtained from a possible relapse, increasing the possibility that the individual in recovery will remain abstinent. The effectiveness of acupuncture remains debated among scientists due to mixed evidence and an incomplete understanding of its outcomes.
What Are The Uses Of Acupuncture Other Than Addiction?
The NCCIH states that acupuncture can effectively assist in the treatment of:
- Low back pain.
- Neck pain.
- Osteoarthritis (OA).
- Knee pain.
Other studies suggest that acupuncture can also assist in the treatment of:
- Peripheral neuropathy.
- Rheumatoid arthritis.
What Are The Benefits of Acupuncture In Addiction Treatment?
Acupuncture can be a valuable addition to other addiction treatments, offering numerous benefits to those who are open to trying it. In addition to calming anxiety, it has various other positive effects. A notable advantage of acupuncture is that it achieves these benefits without the use of any chemicals or medication, which can carry the risk of side effects or adverse reactions. Below are some of how acupuncture can positively impact individuals:
- Enhanced tranquility
- Diminished anxiety
- Reduced cravings
- Alleviated withdrawal symptoms
- Decreased reliance on prescribed medications
- Heightened sense of control
- Elevated overall well-being
- Improved sleep quality
- Heightened cooperative feelings
- Increased relaxation
- Mitigated anger and mood swings
- Lessened intensity of panic attacks
- Lowered stress levels
- Revitalized and refreshed energy levels
Is Acupuncture Safe?
- Acupuncture is a safe practice, and very few complications have been reported. However, if nonsterile needles are used or the treatment is not delivered correctly, complications can occur. Ensuring that the needles used in acupuncture are sterile and that a qualified and trained practitioner administers the therapy is vital.
- If acupuncture is not performed correctly, it can lead to severe adverse effects such as infection, injury to the central nervous system, and punctured organs.
- Acupuncture needles are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as medical devices. This means they must be sterile and labeled for single use only.
Choosing a reputable acupuncture treatment center is crucial to avoid potential hazards.
What To Expect When Getting Acupuncture Treatment?
The acupuncturist will first examine you to evaluate your condition. Then, they will use one or more thin, sterile needles to treat you and provide guidance. You usually sit or recline during the procedure, while the acupuncturist uses single-use, disposable, sterile needles. You may feel a brief stinging or tingling sensation when the needle is inserted, followed by a potential dull ache at the base of the needle.
The needles are usually placed for 20 to 60 minutes during an acupuncture session, depending on the treatment. In some cases, heat may be applied to the needles after insertion. The number of treatments required can vary from person to person; someone with a chronic condition may need weekly sessions for several months, while someone with an acute health issue may see improvement after 8 to 12 sessions.
Quest 2 Recovery’s Acupuncture for Addiction & Holistic Treatment Approaches
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