Acupuncture and Addiction Recovery

Acupuncture is a form of alternative medicine that has roots in traditional Chinese medicine.  It has been practiced for thousands of years in China, and it is beginning to become more heavily practiced and accepted in the United States in recent years.  Although it is useful for a wide variety of ailments, it is really beginning to find a foothold in the addiction recovery field in particular.  There have been many studies by doctors and other researchers to determine the effect of acupuncture on individuals in recovery, and results have been mixed.  However, there are enough positives to indicate that it is something that should be studied further and, considering that it has few if any negative side effects, it should be tried by interested individuals who are curious to find out more for themselves.

What is Acupuncture?

Most people know that acupuncture involves sticking tiny needles into one’s body, and that’s what it is – but it’s really quite a bit more complicated than that.  This sort of therapy began many centuries ago as a part of traditional Chinese medicine, and it has only become popular in western countries over the past few decades.  Chinese medicine practitioners believe that energy – otherwise known as chi – flows through all of us, following specific pathways in the body.  Things like pain, illness, or disease are caused by blockages in these pathways, and they believe that the way to open up these blockages is through the insertion of very small, sterile needles into the skin at specific points, called acupuncture points.  When done correctly, doing so clears the path for energy, and the body returns to a state of balance.

This may sound unbelievable to some, but modern medicine has studied acupuncture extensively and has often found it to be effective as well.  Doctors and scientists who have done research on acupuncture believe that the points of insertion used by acupuncturists are places in which stimulation of nerves, muscles, and connective tissue results in increased blood flow with triggers endorphins, which are the chemicals in our bodies that make us feel good.  Researchers have conducted studies that have shown proof of positive results for acupuncture on human muscles and connective tissue, as well as on endocrine, immune, cardiovascular and digestive systems.   However, since doctors are still unsure of exactly how acupuncture actually works, for now, it is still considered alternative medicine until more research can be completed.

However, while acupuncture is still not quite yet a part of mainstream medicine, one benefit for the time being is that as long as it is administered by a trained and competent acupuncturist, negative side effects are almost entirely nonexistent.  So, if individuals would like to try it for themselves, based on the large quantity of positive anecdotal evidence available, there is certainly no harm in giving it a shot.

How Acupuncture Can Help with Addiction

Acupuncture is beginning to become a popular complement to other forms of addiction treatment.  When paired with an ibogaine experience, individual counseling, group therapy, and other support groups, it can be very effective in helping an individual on his or her recovery journey.   First of all, it’s not a drug or ingested medication, which many in recovery try to avoid, but, as mentioned above, it is also very safe.  Also, it can be very cost effective.  Although it is usually not covered by insurance, an acupuncture clinic will often work with the patient to find an affordable way to offer care that works for both parties.

Although doctors are still not quite sure exactly how acupuncture works on the body, in the addiction realm, researchers believe that this sort of treatment may reduce the positive reinforcement properties of drugs by decreasing the amount of dopamine released when the drug is used.  Without this surge of dopamine, the high is diminished somewhat, making the user less likely to use the drug in the future.  Furthermore, it’s believed that acupuncture also decreases the withdrawal properties of drug.  Withdrawal symptoms can prolong an addiction by negatively reinforcing continued drug use, so blocking withdrawal can help an addicted individual more easily move forward on his or her recovery as well.

Acupuncture can also help to reduce stress and offer anxiety relief; both of these, if left unaddressed, can often be dangerous relapse triggers.  Many say that it helps with depression as well, and it can relieve a wide variety of sleep problems such as insomnia and inability to stay asleep for long periods.  And, acupuncture can help people suffering from chronic or acute pain without medications, which can thereby aid individuals who abuse prescription pain medications in moving away from those types of drugs, and assist them on their quest to find healthier ways to deal with their pain.

How Acupuncture Works

There are acupuncture points that an acupuncturist can tap into all over a patient’s body, but points on the ear are usually most effective in treatment for addiction recovery.  There are five specific points in the ear that are targeted.  They are all on external, visible parts of the ear.

  • The Lung Point – This point is fairly low on one’s ear, near the bottom of the opening of the ear canal.  Acupuncture at this point can improve breathing and, according to traditional Chinese medicine, can help to allieviate feelings of grief.
  • The Liver Point – The liver point is slightly higher than the lung point, but still near the ear opening. Inserting an acupuncture needle at this point can help to curb aggression, and is believed to help remove toxins from the liver and blood.
  • The Kidney Point – This point is still in the center of the ear, above the first two points, at the top of the ear canal opening. Acupuncture at the kidney point works to ease fears and repair organs.
  • The Shen Men – The Shen Men is in the middle front of the large fleshy part of the ear that is above the ear canal opening. This is also known as “the spirit gate,” and acupuncture here can decrease anxiety.
  • The Autonomic Point – This point is located on the outer edge of the ear, near where it attaches to the rest of a person’s head. Acupuncture in this location promotes relaxation and helps to sooth the nervous system.

The specific acupuncture treatment designed for treating addiction is called the NADA (National Acupuncture Detoxification Association) protocol, and some acupuncturists are specifically trained in this method.  This treatment involves placing needles at all five of these points, and leaving them there for about thirty minutes.  It can be administered individually or to a group at one time, but in either case, the environment is generally designed to be quiet, relaxing and meditative during that thirty minute period.

Benefits of Acupuncture

People who have experienced acupuncture as a part of their addiction treatment report many benefits including decreased substance abuse, anxiety relief, and an increased feeling of wellbeing.  Further, many report positive physical effects such as decreased pain from other ailments, and an overall feeling of peacefulness and relaxation.  All of these benefits can be extremely helpful for anyone, but particularly for individuals who are working on their recovery.

Although acupuncture treatment can be time-consuming if sought on a regular basis, and although it is not necessarily for everyone, it’s certainly something to consider when seeking additional facets to an person’s addiction treatment programming.  It must be administered by a certified professional, also; the fact that it cannot be performed independently at home can also be an obstacle for some.  However, many people have found a great deal of relief from acupuncture treatments, and so if acupuncture is something that interests you, it is very easy to find a place that offers it to try it out.  Many acupuncturists offer a free session to new patients, and can work with the client on determining a frequency that will work for him or her physically and financially, too.

If you’re interested in the benefits that ibogaine treatment can bring to your life, please feel free to reach out to one of our intake specialists and find out what ibogaine treatment can do for your specific situation.  Call us today at Clear Sky Recovery.