15 Mar Acupuncture and addiction treatment
Acupuncture and addiction treatment
Managing withdrawal symptoms during drug and alcohol detox at our New Mexico drug rehab center is an essential early stage of the rehabilitation process. Detox can be an intimidating prospect and a barrier to people even beginning treatment. Depending on the severity of the addiction being treated, the particular drug and dosage, as well as any cross-addictions. However, acupuncture is uniquely equipped to minimize the stress and physical pain of drug addiction recovery, and this ancient Chinese healing modality forms part of ViewPoint Rehabilitation’s holistic programs that tailor a unique approach for each individual according to their needs.
An ancient practice
Acupuncture stimulates points under the skin along the 12 main energy channels or pathways in the human body. These are known as ‘meridians’. The therapist does this through the application of long, ultra-fine sterilized needles. The principles of this traditional Chinese medicine rest on the idea that whatever impedes the smooth flow of qi (pronounced ‘chee’) – or the vital lifeforce energy – can cause illness. The needles release stuck or stagnant qi to flow freely along the meridians being stimulated, each of which corresponds to an organ.
Alternatively, for those undergoing alcohol addiction recovery or drug addiction recovery who are sensitive to or phobic about needles, the meridians can also be stimulated through massage (acupressure), heat, and topical medicines. The needles themselves can be manipulated manually or via an electrical stimulator, known as ‘electroacupuncture’. More recent methods include applying an electric current to skin electrodes, directing a laser onto the acupoints, and focusing on specific ‘microsystems’ such as the scalp or ear (auricular acupuncture), which contain clusters of acupoints.
How it works
Acupuncture is particularly effective at decreasing the intensity of withdrawal symptoms among drug and alcohol addicted persons, minimizing their cravings, and balancing the body’s chemistry. Research shows that acupuncture, at its most basic, promotes relaxation and pain relief. The contemporary practice of acupuncture is much different from its original form dating back to at least 100 BC and many European and American studies have given rise to a number of more sophisticated hypotheses about how it works.
Dr. Ting Bao, an integrative medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, told Live Science that one theory holds that acupuncture triggers the body’s natural painkillers. “The nerve sends signals to the brain and the brain releases neural hormones such as beta-endorphins,” she says. “By doing that, the patient may feel euphoric, or happy, and this increases the pain threshold and they feel less pain.”
Easing the pain of detox
According to the National Health Statistics Report, 3.5 million adult Americans receive acupuncture treatments each year, many for physical problems such as back pain, fibromyalgia, headaches, and osteoarthritis. In one New York study, 40 percent of new patients dependent on crack cocaine whose withdrawal symptoms were treated with acupuncture were still clean several weeks after treatment. They found that acupuncture greatly increased the rate of participation of addicts in long-term programmes[i] for drug addiction recovery and alcohol addiction recovery, a testament to this complementary medicine’s capacity to significantly ease the detox process.
A study by Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that acupuncture stimulates the production of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which decreases pain, promotes a feeling of well-being, and even helps short-circuit the reward mechanisms in the brain implicated in addiction. “Acupuncture helps reduce the effects of positive and negative reinforcement involved in opiate addiction by modulating mesolimbic dopamine neurons,” the authors write.
Despite its success mitigating withdrawal symptoms, acupuncture is not regarded as a self-contained treatment for addiction. ViewPoint Rehabilitation offers acupuncture to ease detox and facilitate recovery and long-term abstinence as part of a broader rehabilitation programme at our New Mexico drug rehab center. This is a best practice whereby acupuncture is administered by an experienced practitioner who can take a proper inventory of an addicted person’s drug and alcohol history, and diagnose any presenting or underlying health conditions compromised by the addiction or forming part of the pathway to the addiction itself. As the authors of the Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine study write: “Our experience suggests that better therapeutic acupuncture effects are obtained by doctors with several years, or even decades, of clinical training.”
[i] An acupuncture programme for the treatment of drug-addicted persons, M. O.Smith Medical Director, Substance Abuse Division, Lincoln Hospital, New York, New York; I. Khan Senior Medical Officer, Division of Mental Health, World Health Organization