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Can Acupuncture be Beneficial in Treating Drug Addiction?

Overcoming drug addiction is an incredibly difficult journey that can require a variety of different approaches and methods in order to be successful. However, an increasing number of studies are showing that acupuncture could potentially be an effective tool in treating drug addiction and aiding the detoxification process. In addition to mental health treatment, such as counseling and group therapy, acupuncture can help patients find relief from their cravings, and be more successful in sustaining a life of sobriety after substance abuse and addiction.

Acupuncture is increasingly becoming a popular method for treating a number of ailments including many different forms of addiction. Treatments subdue patient cravings for drugs while also creating feelings of calm and relief from withdrawal symptoms. It is not entirely understood how acupuncture is effective in treating drug addiction. Research results show evidence that acupuncture raises the level of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers, in the nervous system, and that cravings and withdrawal symptoms can be alleviated by raising endorphin levels. However, Chinese medicine explains the efficacy of acupuncture in a different way, describing acupuncture as a way of balancing yin and yang energies. By receiving acupuncture treatments, a person struggling with substance abuse nourishes the yin energy and brings balance back to their natural energies.

During an acupuncture session, paper-thin needles are inserted into five different points of the ear. It only takes about 1-2 minutes for the practitioner to insert the needles. Then, the patient sits silently for 30-45 minutes, usually with the lights dim. This creates an environment of peace and well-being which leaves the patient feeling profoundly calm and relaxed. Those currently dealing with symptoms of drug withdrawal often report feeling some amount of relief from their symptoms after treatment.

Though acupuncture is still perceived as a form of alternative medicine, more drug rehabilitation centers and treatments are implementing its practice because of how effectively it helps to treat drug addiction. In a 1989 study, practitioners treated 80 alcoholics with half of the patients receiving counseling and acupuncture treatments, while the other half only received the counseling. Patients that received both the acupuncture treatments and counseling were twice as likely to remain alcohol free. And when Lincoln Memorial Hospital, the first acupuncture detoxification clinic in the U.S., opened its doors in 1974, acupuncture treatment results were so good amongst patients that the hospital dropped all methadone treatments that were previously being used as an adjunct.

As is well-known, methadone is a highly addictive substance in its own right, and is used primarily as a heroin substitute for heroin addicts, maintaining a certain level of drugs in the user’s system to increase functionality and curb withdrawal symptoms. Those who use methadone to treat their addiction often find themselves becoming addicted to the methadone instead. Acupuncture treatments, therefore, far surpass methadone treatments because there are no side effects or addictive qualities, and acupuncture can treat a variety of addictions, working equally well for those addicted to cocaine, heroin, amphetamines, and psychedelics.

Now, practitioners from Lincoln Memorial Hospital include acupuncture as part of their comprehensive drug rehabilitation plan that also incorporates mental health treatment, urine testing, and a 12-step group therapy program. Those who receive the acupuncture treatments report significant reduction in cravings for drugs, relief from symptoms of withdrawal, and feelings of relaxation. The success of acupuncture treatments at Lincoln Memorial has opened the doors for many other publically-funded acupuncture detoxification centers throughout the nation. Furthermore, the growing popularity of acupuncture has encouraged some courts to order acupuncture as part of a comprehensive drug rehab program. Abusers who receive treatment along with counseling and vocational training are found to less likely reappear in court for similar charges than those who are sentenced to prison.

Though acupuncture proves to have great potential in aiding patients who are struggling with addiction, it should be understood that it is not a cure. To be truly successful in overcoming addiction, individuals should seek out additional mental health treatment. Acupuncture treatments should be seen as a beneficial tool toward recovery, a potential adjunct treatment to other more formal methods and mental health treatment, never a stand-alone. However, if you or a loved one are struggling with addiction or the symptoms of drug withdrawal, then seeking out acupuncture treatment might prove beneficial in reducing your symptoms and cravings. Just remember that only through the addition of mental health treatment, such as counseling and therapy, can you or a loved one ensure the continuation of long-term abstinence and sobriety. In Vancouver, Washington, mental health treatment provides a fundamental key to a successful life of sobriety after addiction.

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