California Highlands

Acupuncture for Addiction Therapy: Does it Work?

Alternative holistic therapies can be incorporated into addiction treatment to help people in recovery get the most out of their programs.

Acupuncture, along with holistic treatments like massage therapy, is a therapy that can help people recover from substance abuse. The traditional Chinese Medicine practice now used in Western countries can be traced to China more than 2,500 years ago, according to Dr. Axe.com. In acupuncture, certain points on the body are stimulated using thin needles that penetrate the skin. Each point is linked to a specific emotion or organ.

DrWeil.com explains acupuncture is a complete medical protocol that is used to help correct energy imbalances in the body. While the practice has evolved in a variety of ways since its origins, the technique is used to treat a variety of diseases and conditions, including stress, and promote health and wellness.

Acupuncture for addiction therapy

It is estimated that more than 700 addiction treatment centers in the US use acupuncture in their programs, according to data cited in the Chinese Medicine journal’s 2016 study on the topic.

Acupuncture in addiction therapy can help:

  • Clients who are resistant to addiction treatment. Acupuncture is nonverbal intervention.
  • Clients who are anxious or agitated. Acupuncture promotes calmness and openness.
  • Clients who are seeking to develop and improve their meditation.

Acupuncture has been said to also help with:

  • Reducing drug cravings
  • Easing drug uncomfortable withdrawal signs, symptoms
  • Easing pain in the body
  • Improving sleep disturbances
  • Supporting physical, emotional healing

The National Acupuncture Detoxification Association (NADA), established in 1985, says its ear acupuncture protocol was originally developed for addiction treatment. It is the most commonly used method of treating clients with substance abuse. The protocol is also known as acudetox, acupuncture detoxification, five-point ear acupuncture protocol, five-point protocol, and 5NP. According to the organization, clients in all types of treatment settings, including inpatient and outpatient, can benefit from the practice. Supporters agree that it’s safe and effective.

How does ear acupuncture work?

NADA explains the ear acupuncture protocol its trained practitioners follow:

“Individuals trained through NADA apply up to five fine-gauge, sterilized, one-time use stainless steel needles just under the skin at designated points in each ear. The needles remain there 30-45 minutes.” The NADA protocol is also delivered in a group setting that is designed to build support among clients.

These five points of the ear are treated in acupuncture therapy of recovering substance abusers:

The Shen Men Point –  Also known as the Spirit Gate or Divine Gate, it reduces anxiety, pain, disturbed sleep, and allergies

The Kidney Point – Boosts the client’s source of energy while helping the person resolve fear, boost willpower, and heal their organs

The Autonomic Point – It is also called the Sympathetic Point, and it calms the nervous system and promotes relaxation

The Liver Point – Strengthens the immune system, accelerates detoxification and blood purification, and aids in resolving anger and aggression

The Lung Point – It promotes aeration and helps clients let go of grief

NADA continued that the ear acupuncture procedure “functions as an adjunct within a comprehensive treatment program that offers other therapeutic elements including counseling, education, family involvement, mutual support group involvement, and supportive medical health care.”

People in recovery who receive acupuncture therapy report positive results. They have more energy, are calmer and more relaxed, and are clear as they pursue recovery.  It is important to receive acupuncture therapy services from a trained professional. According to the Mayo Clinic, though there are side effects, the risks of this treatment are low if you have a competent, certified acupuncture practitioner.

There could be soreness, minor bleeding, or bruising at the places where the needles were placed when the procedure is done. Acupuncturists should always use sterile, disposable needles. Reused needles are dangerous and could put you at risk of contracting a disease, such as hepatitis, the Mayo Clinic advises.

Using acupuncture with massage therapy

Some people combine acupuncture therapy with massage to help guide their minds, bodies, and spirits in healing. Massage therapy can also help clients manage migraines, headaches, fibromyalgia, and nerve damage. Acupressure is another type of massage therapy that uses the same principles as acupuncture. WebMD explains that acupressure practitioners apply pressure to acupoints, or acupressure points, that lie along channels of the body using their fingers, palms, elbows or feet. The client remains fully clothed while on the massage table, and the session lasts an hour. More than one session may be needed to see results.

Acupuncture may not help everyone in addiction therapy

It’s not clear; however, that acupuncture for addiction therapy has benefited some people recovering from substance abuse. The Chinese Medicine study reported that “AA [auricular acupuncture] and NADA protocols failed to show a strong therapeutic effect for cocaine, nicotine, and alcohol addiction treatment.”

Still, the study found the effects of  acupuncture increased “levels of enkephalin, epinephrine, endorphin, serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine in the central nervous system and plasma that might mediate substance abuse.”

Acupuncture and the opioid crisis

In January 2016, the Joint Acupuncture Opioid Task Force, Acupuncture Now Foundation, and the American Society of Acupuncturists sent a letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that expressed support for using acupuncture to treat opioid addiction.

Part of the letter explains that research shows “acupuncture can facilitate the better usage of the body’s own natural chemistry creating the potential for similar or sometimes better benefits than synthetic drugs, without the risks of addiction or side effects. As such, acupuncture has the potential to reduce or even in some cases eliminate the need for opioids and non-opioid drugs while also helping to treat opioid addiction.”

Interested in giving acupuncture therapy a try?

California Highlands Addiction Treatment offers clients a safe, comforting place to live as they recover from substance abuse. We also offer customized treatment plans that can include acupuncture therapy. If you are in need of addiction treatment, call California Highlands Addiction Treatment at 888-969-8755 today to learn more about your options.