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The importance of Integrating Acupuncture Into Drug Addiction Therapy

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In the United States, alternative medicine is a growing billion-dollar industry. In 1990, Americans spent about more than 10 billion dollars out of their own pocket money on alternative modes of treatment compared to more than 12 billion dollars on hospitalizations based on a research gathered by The New England Journal of Medicine in 1993. Interestingly, the research also revealed that Americans made less visits to primary care doctors (388 million) than they did alternative treatment providers/practitioners (425 million). These statistics should be pertinent reasons to be thoroughly acquainted with alternative medical procedures more than ever

One of the most popular alternative forms of treatment in the world is acupuncture, an Oriental healing procedure virtually unknown in the United States until the beginning of the 1970s. The serious clinical experimentation and research of the healing potentialities of acupuncture has brought about the discovery of a very promising tool in the battle against chemical addiction. Clinical stories and anecdotal evidences of success strongly point to the truth of acupuncture’s ability to alleviate a lot of the severe symptoms of chemical and substance withdrawal despite the fact that the medical community wants more reliable scientific data to be collected on this particular subject. This ability of acupuncture makes detoxification easier to accomplish thus encouraging addicts to persevere in the treatment.

Spurred by this success some detoxification clinics have incorporated acupuncture treatment into their programs. In many major cities in the US, drug courts have been set up by Court systems that have included acupuncture, intensive treatment and counseling as substitutes for prosecution. The inclusion of acupuncture into the system’s drug rehabilitation program combined with the low cost of treating clients in drug court programs has made law enforcement officers more optimistic that acupuncture will be much more attractive to addicts than the lure of substance abuse.

What is Acupuncture?

The approaches and objectives of Chinese medicine are quite different to that of Western medicine. This difference has made it very difficult to integrate the former into modern American addiction therapies. The completely different nature of Chinese medicine causes skepticism in a lot of Western researchers if it does actually work.

In 1991, the NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse) released a review that talked about the role of acupuncture in detoxification programs in Linwood. It admitted that the system used by Western medicine in testing treatment programs is not compatible or sufficient enough to understand the way acupuncture works in treating drug addiction. This explains why there is a lack of study dealing with acupuncture’s ability and effectiveness in treating drug addiction and other types of conditions. This simply means that Western medicine doesn’t know how acupuncture actually works and why it is such an effective modality for addictions and certain other health problems.

Western medicine practitioners should first understand the underlying principles behind Chinese medicine, especially acupuncture, before they can utilize it in drug courts and detoxification clinics.

Acupuncture, based on Chinese medicine principles, is a procedure in which, needles are inserted into a patient’s skin stimulating vital energy (known as Qi, or Chi) in neural pathways known as meridians just underneath the surface of the skin. Both meridians and the Chi that travel through it are not visible to the naked eye. There really is no English word that can exactly describe Chi and so vital energy is the term used often. When Chi is functioning normally, it governs retention of the organs and substances of the body, smoothens the different body transitions from one state to another, and it protects and warms the body. According to Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), sickness is the result of Chi’s inability to flow freely through the meridians. To treat conditions, acupuncture needles are used to clear the blockages in the meridians and boost the circulation of Chi.

Western medicine’s acceptance of acupuncture has been steadily increasing over the years and a few modern developments have aided in integrating the collected wisdom of TCM with Western diagnostic methods even if Chi is a concept not widely accepted outside the world of TCM. New studies have revealed that when inserted into the body, acupuncture needles have the tendency to stimulate the body to manufacture endorphins. If this is proven to be true, the idea of an unseen vital energy circulating in the body via invisible energy channels will seem like a valid explanation for a then-unknown physiological process.

One form of acupuncture known as auricular acupuncture or ear acupuncture was discovered by a French doctor, Paul Nogier in 1955. The doctor was experimenting on electrical activity on the skin’s surface. He saw that the ear has acupuncture points that corresponded with every acupuncture point on the body. Since then, ear acupuncture has become the most popular form of acupuncture treatment in the West. With regards to drug detoxification therapy, ear acupuncture therapy provides the patient with a treatment that does not require privacy, so that a lot of patients can be treated all at once in a single room.

There has been talk as to what type of acupuncture procedure is most effective in treating chemical addiction: body or ear acupuncture? To answer this question, the NIDA technical review stated that in the interest of uniformity, five needles treatment on each ear placed on the acupoints shenmen, sympathetic, liver, lung, and kidney should be the type of acupuncture treatment for chemical addiction in the future. For reasons unexplained, the review also added that there was no reason to study singe-ear therapies, electrically-charged needles, or any type or procedure that would deviate from the accepted detoxification points.

Is acupuncture really effective in treating drug addiction?

When it comes to chronic pain, doctors in the US agree that acupuncture is a safe and effective treatment for this condition. The medical community is exploring the other applications of acupuncture for the alleviation of morning sickness, nausea, arthritis, asthma, tinnitus, IBS, and other types of illnesses. There are a few studies that have been actually done about the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating drug addiction and in these studies, the results have been inconclusive.

The Lancet, a well-known British journal released a study in 1989 that showed the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating alcoholism. In this experiment, 80 people with severe alcohol problems participated and were treated. They were either given -specific point acupuncture treatment on the ear or correct-point acupuncture. Over half of the patient in the treatment group s was able to complete the two-month program; in the control group, however only in 40 people did. Also, half a year after the study, the patients in the control group had twice as many relapses than the treatment group.

The Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment published an analysis about a certain study that used acupuncture as part of a detoxification protocol. This study used animals for test subjects. The results of this study were promising in terms of acupuncture’s ability to significantly reduce withdrawal symptoms. The experimenters stated that acupuncture provided the subjects with more than just a placebo effect, and they recommended additional studies to confirm their findings.

In spite of the constant success of acupuncture in treating a wide variety of health issues, practitioners are hesitant to make sweeping and broad claims about the treatments versatility and about their work, as well.

Some doctors state that while acupuncture may not be a physiological cure for drug addiction, it can provide the addict a relaxing and soothing feeling that may be very helpful for him in seeking a healthier kind lifestyle that will lessen the effects of his drug withdrawal symptoms. But still, in order to overcome drug addiction, a lot of doctors say that people should learn to make decisions based on their own confidence and sense of self-worth in order to change their environment. These doctors appreciate the benefits acupuncture can provide addicts who truly want to change despite the paucity of controlled studies that have been done to validate acupuncture’s effectiveness.

Written by Valerie

November 10th, 2015 at 3:04 pm

Posted in Acupuncture

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