Acupuncture for the Treatment of Substance
For centuries, Asian cultures have placed needles in precise locations on the
body to relieve pain and treat disease. The use of acupuncture for the treatment
of drug and alcohol dependency, however, is a recent development in the history
of this ancient healing art.
In 1972, a Hong Kong
neurosurgeon, H.L. Wen, M.D., conducted research that indicated that acupuncture
could alleviate symptoms of drug withdrawal, and the modern use of acupuncture
for this purpose was born. In drug addiction, exogenous opiates bond to receptor
sites normally occupied by endogenous endorphins. One of the ways acupuncture
may facilitate withdrawal is by activating the release of previously suppressed
natural endorphins, which can then occupy the receptor sites formerly dominated
by the narcotic drug. The acupuncture treatment has a naturally calming effect,
improves energy and concentration, soothes irritability, and promotes restful
sleep. It can also aid the natural cleansing abilities of the liver, kidneys,
In 1974 the Lincoln Memorial Hospital in the South Bronx
started the first outpatient clinic offering acudetox. In 1985, the National
Acupuncture Detoxification Association (NADA) was established to promote
education and training in the use of this detox protocol. Acupuncture
detoxification evolved rapidly and is now used effectively to relieve symptoms
during detoxification, prevent relapse, and support long term recovery.
Currently there are thousands of programs throughout the United States and
Europe. Acudetox should be used in combination with other treatment modalities
such as group counseling, Twelve Step, psychotherapy, or Social Model programs.
Properly administered, acupuncture can enhance and support the program goals of
virtually any traditional chemical dependency treatment, but loses much of it's
efficacy when practiced in isolation.
The treatment protocol developed at Lincoln Hospital in New
York, and furthered by NADA, consists of the insertion of five small sterile
needles at specific sites on the skin of the outer ear. Treatments are
approximately 45 minutes long and are often performed in a group setting. The
treatment is painless, leaving most patients relaxed, with increased energy and
mental focus, and is complemented by an herbal formula to promote relaxation and
assist the body's recovery from the harmful effects of the abused substance.
Although originally developed for the treatment of narcotic addiction, the use
of acupuncture can effectively enhance treatment for most drugs, as well as
alcohol and nicotine.
Generally, patients are treated daily for the first week, tapering gradually
week by week. After one month of treatment, most patients who have been
consistent with treatment are successful. Drug and alcohol treatment protocol is
more lengthy, but follows a similar tapering of treatment over time. Some
patients simply do not respond well to treatment in private practice, in which
case a treatment center which includes acupuncture is the best option.