• Can You Trust Acupuncture?
    Addiction Treatment (Drugs and Alcohol)

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    Can You Trust Acupuncture?

    There are different paths to addiction recovery. One path has been acupuncture. This ancient Chinese remedy is believed to reduce anxiety, cravings and withdrawal symptoms and make it easier to stay the course of addiction recovery. Many U.S. treatment centers trust it and have been offering it since the 1970s. However, research findings regarding acupuncture’s effects have been mixed.


    Surely, acupuncture is a fairly safe addiction treatment method, but it may not suit you if you are pregnant or epileptic, have heart issues, blood disorders, electrical implants or some other problems. This is why it’s so important to be honest with your practitioner.

    The most common form of acupuncture in the United States is ear acupuncture. It involves extremely thin metal needles which are virtually painless at the point of contact, and are also disposable, singly-packed and pre-sterilized. Acupuncturists pierce five points of the outer ear that are supposedly linked to the body parts most weakened by prolonged drug or alcohol abuse, namely the kidney, liver and lungs. They may then gently revolve the needles or apply heat to stimulate these areas and unblock the energy lines believed to be crucial to self-healing. Patients are usually treated in 45-minute group sessions. There may be 10 sessions in all, spread over six weeks.

    What Acupuncture Adherents Say

    Some adherents credit acupuncture with helping them quickly get clean and stay clean. Research has shown that ear acupuncture raises endorphin levels, which are natural calming levels, allowing addicts to better curb cravings and withdrawal symptoms and ward off a relapse. The more relaxed patients feel, the more in control and willing they are to stay the course and avoid a relapse, and the quicker they progress towards full recovery.

    A study at Yale University in 2000 revealed that in a group of cocaine addicts treated with ear acupuncture, about 55 percent tested addiction free in the last treatment week, with only about 23 percent failing the test. And a 2006 study at the Colorado Mental Health Institute, found that of the patients involved in their twice-weekly acupuncture sessions, 61 percent completed the full treatment schedule, as opposed to about 32 percent who abstained from acupuncture. Those who stayed the course also experienced a drop in aggression, insomnia and anger levels.

    Other Views on Acupuncture

    Skeptics say there’s little evidence that acupuncture has a serious practical impact on its own. The 2006 Colorado study, while seemingly showing patients staying the course and recording decreased levels of withdrawal symptoms, does not provide proof that the impressive results were due only to acupuncture. And in the Yale University study, it was conceded that the acupuncture did not work on its own but was part of a comprehensive program which included group therapy, psychotherapy, and counseling programs. At some centers, patients are advised to have herbal treatment in between acupuncture sessions to help curb cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

    Other studies found that the recovery and treatment rates of acupuncture for alcohol and cocaine users were not more significant than those of conventional medicine on its own. And studies related to heroin users found that while acupuncture did help with withdrawal symptoms, it did not decrease relapse rates.

    But despite some skepticism about acupuncture, it can’t hurt to try it. Addiction treatment centers are increasingly using it to complement their existing counseling and support programs. So while the patient is receiving acupuncture for reducing withdrawal symptoms such as cravings, anxiety and poor sleep, he or she is also receiving other psychological and emotional support. You’ll know after a few sessions whether it’s working or not.


    Acupuncture Healing Arts. The natural way to manage drug addiction. Retrieved 7 March 2016 from http://acupuncturehealingarts.com/the-natural-way-to-manage-drug-addiction/

    Alcolhol Rehab. Acupuncture and alcohol rehab. Retrieved 7 March 2016 from http://alcoholrehab.com/drug-addiction-treatment/acupuncture-and-alcohol-rehab/

    Medscape. A possible mechanism underlying the effectiveness of acupuncture in the treatment of drug addiction. Retrieved 7 March, 2016 from http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/585219_6

    National Addictions Management Service. Acupuncture treatment. Retrieved 7 March 2016 from http://www.nams.sg/services/Pages/Acupuncture-Treatment-.aspx

    Pacific College of Oriental Medicine. Acupuncture for addictions. Retrieved 7 March, 2016 from http://www.pacificcollege.edu/news/blog/2014/06/02/acupuncture-addictions

    Pacific College of Oriental Medicine. The rough road of alcoholism and how Chinese medicine can Help. Retrieved 7 March, 2016 from http://www.pacificcollege.edu/news/blog/2015/03/15/rough-road-alcoholism-and-how-chinese-medicine-can-help%E2%80%A6

    Reynolds, V. Acupuncture for addiction. Retrieved 7 March 2016 from https://www.thefix.com/content/accupuncture-addiction


    Benhilda Chanetsa has a BA Honors degree in History and Sociology and a teaching diploma, both from the University of London. She was a high school teacher for 11 years, and chief subeditor at a weekly newspaper for four years. She’s been a freelance lifestyle writer for the past 10 years and has two nonfiction e-books published on Amazon. The books are on overcoming negative thinking and surviving abusive relationships.

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