Holistic Therapies: Using Acupuncture In Addiction Treatment
September 2nd, 2016
Holistic addiction treatments use all-natural recovery methods to help promote sobriety. One of these methods is acupuncture, a heavily-studied healing technique that has been used for centuries to treat a wide variety of problems. Fully understanding the nature of acupuncture and how it can be used to manage addiction can help you decide whether it is right for you and your recovery needs.
What Is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese art and healing method that uses the manipulation of various points on the body to treat a variety of health concerns. Traditionally, acupuncture involves the insertion of long and thin needles into the skin at key points to help stimulate healing. Each needle is carefully sterilized to ensure that no infection occurs. However, other treatments, such as massage, heat therapy, cupping and topical herbal medicines are also used in acupuncture.
The ancient theory behind acupuncture was that it balances the flow of qi energy in the body. However, modern acupuncture experts understand that acupuncture works by stimulating various systems of the body (including the cardiovascular, endocrine, immune, nervous and digestive systems) to produce its positive effects. Acupuncture therapists must receive an appropriate license before they begin practicing their particular healing method.
How Can It Help With Addiction?
Addiction creates a body-wide imbalance that affects the physical and mental health of anyone who suffers from it. Acupuncture seeks to restore some of this balance by managing a few of its symptoms. Studies show that acupuncture can help drug addiction in the following ways:
The origin of these benefits may lie in the way that acupuncture promotes dopamine production. In a study on acupuncture and opiate addiction, it was found that “Manual acupuncture (MA) and EA (electronic acupuncture) are capable of triggering a chain of events… EA of low frequency (2 Hz) accelerated the release of β-endorphin and enkephalin in the CNS whereas EA of high frequency (100 Hz) accelerated the release of dynorphin.”
The release of these chemicals could help manage the physical and emotional pain of opiate addiction and withdrawal. For example, dopamine will naturally decrease the pain of withdrawal and create a more pleasurable state of mind. Understanding this impact is crucial to gauging how effective acupuncture is in treating various forms of addiction.
Is It Effective?
Multiple studies have tested the effectiveness of acupuncture in drug addiction. In one study, it was used to treat cocaine addiction. Eighty-two patients suffering from an addiction to cocaine were given daily acupuncture treatment sessions for two months. The results showed that those who received these treatments, along with methadone maintenance, were more likely to stay off cocaine than those who just received methadone.
In another study, which tested acupuncture as an anti-smoking technique, 141 adults who were addicted to nicotine received multiple cessation methods. While all methods showed some success, when combined with acupuncture, they were noticeably more effective. The conclusion of the study stated: “Acupuncture and education, alone and in combination, significantly reduce smoking; however, combined they show a significantly greater effect, as seen in subjects with a greater pack-year history.”
These promising studies seem to suggest that acupuncture can be a useful tool in the addiction recovery process. The next step in gauging the appropriateness of acupuncture for your needs is understanding the exact nature and structure of acupuncture therapy. In this way, you can get a feel for the type of treatment you’ll be experiencing if you decide to try it out.
What Form Does This Treatment Take?
The first step in an acupuncture treatment is to examine your health history, including the length of your addiction, the psychological aspects of it and any physical health problems that may contribute to it. They will ask about physical pain and stress to get a feel for your case.
After that simple step, they will examine your tongue, your pulse and a few other aspects of your health to gauge any underlying effects of your addiction. This is crucial, as there may health problems that you’ve either missed or didn’t understand could contribute to addiction. For example, arthritis pain may be severe enough to cause a person to abuse painkillers to manage it.
Once your health has been assessed, a variety of acupuncture treatments to treat your physical pain and promote relaxation. As mentioned before, massages and ointments may be applied to your skin. However, a majority of your treatment will be the insertion of needles into the body at precise points. The needles are inserted slowly and with great stability, in order to minimize pain potential. Needles are typically kept in the skin between five to 30 minutes or so.
In some instances, individual needles may need to be twirled, heated or otherwise manipulated to increase their effectiveness. After the predetermined therapy time, the needles are carefully removed from your skin and another massage or oil treatment may be applied. Multiple treatments of acupuncture can be performed in a week, depending on your own needs and enjoyment of the treatment.
Can It Be Used On Its Own?
While acupuncture does show promising signs of being an effective method of treating symptoms of drug addiction, it isn’t a good idea to use it as a singular treatment. Think of it as an alternative or supplemental treatment. For example, while acupuncture may ease many of the symptoms of withdrawal, those in recovery should still receive medically-tapered detoxification.
The most effective use of acupuncture in treating addiction may be how it promotes relaxation and pain relief. Stress and physical suffering often go hand-in-hand with addiction, and acupuncture can decrease both in a natural way. While anti-anxiety and depression medications are still necessary for those who suffer from severe symptoms, acupuncture can help.
The best way to think of acupuncture in addiction treatment is as a comforting and natural tool. Remember, there is no singular treatment method that covers all addiction recovery needs. For example, while tapered detoxification only manages the physical side of addiction, it is still a necessary step in the process. In a similar way, acupuncture has a useful, if specific, function in recovery.
Learn More About Acupuncture Today
If you are interested in learning more about acupuncture therapy or any other holistic therapy treatment, please contact us today at Treehouse Rehab today. Our staff is filled with a variety of addiction experts who can assess your needs and find a treatment solution that works for you. Don’t hesitate to make this important and healing decision.
National Center For Complementary And Integrative Health – Acupuncture: In Depth
National Center For Biotechnology Information – Acupuncture For The Treatment Of Opiate Addiction
The Journals Of American Medical Association – A Randomized Controlled Trial of Auricular Acupuncture for Cocaine Dependence
UC San Diego: Center For Integrative Medicine – How Acupuncture Can Relieve Pain And Improve Sleep, Digestion And Emotional Well-Being
Dr. Manik G. Hiranandani – Methods Of Acupuncture