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Archive for March, 2014

Acupuncture for Addiction

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A chemical neurotransmitter known as dopamine is an important chemical messenger that transmits signals from neural cells of the substantia nigra to the corpus striatum, enabling normal and well-functioned muscle activity. Dopamine is a chemical metabolic predecessor of adrenaline (also called epinephrine) and noradrenaline (also called norepinephrine). In other words dopamine is the ingredient in which adrenaline and noradrenaline is made.  Dopamine can produce either an inhibitory or excitatory effect on the nerve cells. Whatever effect is produced will be based on the type of protein it interacts with.

Dopamine is responsible for the feelings of pain and pleasure. The more dopamine is in the frontal lobes, the more pleasure and the less pain one can feel.  An individual with a natural high level of dopamine due to a healthy diet, good genes and good personality is able to tolerate pain a lot better. This is one reason why different individuals who suffer from the same type of back problem or arthritis suffer unbearable pain wile others feel little or no pain at all.

Dopamine is connected to feelings of purposeful behavior, alertness and reward. It is usually related with the brain’s pleasure system, producing feelings of reinforcement and enjoyment to make us more motivated to perform or keep on doing certain activities. Naturally pleasurable and rewarding experiences such as use of certain drugs, sex, food and positive stimuli are factors that produce and release dopamine in the blood stream. Excessive amounts of dopamine in the limbic system can result in mild conditions such as memory and emotional problems whereas when minimal amounts of it is found in the cerebral cortex, it can lead to an overly suspicious trait that can run the risk of paranoia and affect social interaction.

Dopamine levels also can increase in the mesolimbic system with alcohol intake. Alcohol inhibits enzyme processes that break down dopamine. The abrupt cessation of alcohol intake among alcoholics cause their dopamine levels to dramatically fall creating a feeling of anhedonia which is the lack of ability to feel pleasure from pleasurable events like social interactions, exercise and eating and dysphoria, a sense of uneasiness.

The dramatic decrease of dopamine can lead to the powerful craving for alcohol that alcohol addicts suffer from. Individuals who release large amounts of dopamine when drinking coffee or alcohol are likely to be hooked to alcohol, particularly if they are not fond of social networks and are very smart. Some people have poor ability to produce enzymes that are needed in processing alcohol. They may then experience dizziness, nausea or stomach pain when they drink alcoholic drinks. There are some people who can never tolerate alcohol at all because of their unique physiology that causes them to reject or abhor alcohol drinks.

An acupuncture needle inserted at acupoint Ht7 can aid in preventing both the dwindling levels of dopamine in the area of the brain region known as nucleus accumbens when the person is in alcohol withdrawal phase and a rise of dopamine levels caused by alcohol craving. The needling of the Ht7 point helps in the normalization of levels of dopamine in the brain after chronic alcohol intake.  For alcoholics seriously desirous of stopping permanently, acupuncture sessions of around twice or thrice a week can bring stability to the dopamine level in their body in order for them to not be agitated or depressed.

Nicotine creates addiction and tolerance by affecting the central dopaminergic vessels which causes reward and pleasure sensations. This substance activates the central nervous system, lessens appetite and improves alertness.  Women who are smokers are unwilling to give up smoking for fear they will gain weight. Even if an addicted smoker cuts down his tobacco smoking by half, this cut down can trigger symptoms of withdrawal. These symptoms may include cigarette cravings (of course), cognitive dysfunction, hunger, sleeping difficulties, anger and anxiety.  There are medications that limit dopamine reuptake that are use to help a person quit smoking.  These medicines, however, can be risky when taken especially by people who are just recently abstaining from alcohol, for those who have uncontrolled hypertension, eating disorders, epilepsy or those who are presently getting therapy with mono-amine oxidase inhibitors.

People who have been smokers for 10 years or more basically will find out that some of their enzyme activities have been altered.  When they decide to stop smoking all of a sudden, the lowered levels of dopamine in their body will make them feel miserable.  Body and auricular body acupuncture can restore the balance of your brain chemicals in your body.  Acupuncture stimulates the production and release of natural feel-good chemicals in your body such as stress-reducing hormones like cortisol, adrenaline, endorphins, serotonin and dopamine.  This traditional Chinese medicine treatment stimulates the body to restore balance to the hormones.

People who have been smokers for a few decades or more and who have tried acupuncture showed that almost all of them neither experienced any withdrawal symptoms nor did they gain weight.  There are chronic smokers (some have been smoking for more than 2 decades) who have undergone auricular acupuncture for 3 months who never regained their craving for tobacco.  It is important to note, however, that not all smokers can be successfully treated with acupuncture.  Oftentimes, the person’s sincere willingness to quit and the hectic schedule of the patient during acupuncture treatment for smoking can contribute to the unsuccessful treatment of his/her addiction.

Strong narcotics such as morphine can stimulate the release of dopamine resulting in morphine addiction. Acupuncture has the power to suppress the withdrawal symptoms of morphine. It can alter levels of dopamine and can desensitize a person to craving for morphine. Again the needling of the acupoint HT7 can substantially lower both the hyperactive behavior caused by a systemic morphine challenge and dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens. Studies have revealed that acupuncture’s therapeutic effect on morphine addiction happens with the decrease of behavioral sensitization by morphine and the balanced and regulated release of dopamine in the body.

Written by Valerie

March 28th, 2014 at 7:41 am

Posted in Acupuncture

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Acupuncture for ADD/ADHD

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Diagnosing a hyperactive child with ADD (attention deficit disorder) or ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is a very controversial issue among some doctors. They argue that a lot of children in the past have this kind of characteristic and it was not really considered a type of health condition all throughout those years. Nevertheless ADHD is one of the most common conditions diagnosed in children in the United States today. In terms of gender distribution about 5% of girls and 10% of boys have this disorder. This statistic comes from the AACAP (American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychology).

ADD and ADHD conditions are usually addressed by very dangerous medications such as Ritalin (methylphenidate).  What’s worse this drug is now being given to younger and younger children.  These drugs have dangerous side effects and parents are wary of having their children take these types of drugs. Because of this apprehension, more and more parents now are seeking for safer, more natural and effective ADD/ADHD treatments for their children.

The addictiveness and nasty side effects of Ritalin is making this drug less and less popular especially among parents who only want natural treatments for their kids as much as possible.

These past few years, more and more people are beginning to see how acupuncture can be an ideal complementary therapy for children suffering from ADD/ADHD.  One very potent treatment is ear or auricular acupuncture. Depending on the acupuncturist, ear acupuncture can be the sole treatment for ADD/ADHD or it can be combined with body acupuncture. Acupuncture is widely known to address dozens of illnesses via the stimulation of target points on the body using reed-thin needles or with other devices such as laser or electricity. Since auricular acupuncture is a noninvasive procedure (as with all types of acupuncture procedures), using it on children is okay.

Acupuncture belongs to an oriental type of medicine called traditional Chinese medicine or TCM. This system has its own way of evaluating a patient particularly focusing on their bodies, problems and personality. ADHD treatment using TCM and acupuncture is considered a lot differently in western medicine. While western medicine views ADD/ADHD as a complex neuro-developmental disorder, TCM sees these conditions as either the result of orifice blockage by static phlegm or blood, spirit agitation by some type of heat or nourishment deficiency of the spirit. Static blood may likewise lead to poor blood flow which may result in insufficient nourishment of the spirit.

Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can be modalities to address ADD/ADHD.  A treatment plan involving ear acupuncture and Chinese herbs can be utilized as primary treatment for children with mild ADHD. They can also serve as an adjunct therapy for extreme types in order to help lower the dosage of the medicine and lessen its effects.

The United States considers ADD/ADHD a condition and because of this it is almost the only country in the world that uses Ritalin on its children.  Most countries handle the problem very differently.  The Chinese, for example, think that certain ADD/ADHD symptoms are normal characteristics of the way many preschool children behave. As the child ages by 6 or 7 years old, his behavior can change. In cases where behavior became worse, the child is given tests for ADD/ADHD.  Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are usually the primary option for children with these problems simply because these therapies are very safe for children.  For more than 3 decades, countless clinical trials have been done to see how Chinese herbs alone can treat ADD/ADHD children and the results have been encouraging so far.

Parents who are interested in trying out acupuncture treatment for ADD/ADHD for their children should talk to a licensed acupuncturist or a licensed TCM practitioner, preferably one who specializes in ADD/ADHD treatment. The good news is that many health insurance companies now cover full or partial costs of acupuncture treatments.

Written by Valerie

March 28th, 2014 at 7:36 am

Posted in Acupuncture

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