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Acupuncture for Drug Detox: Is It a Legitimate Option?

Acupuncture may be a more recent buzz word for the United States, but it’s been a proven alternative medicine in Chinese culture for at least 2,000 years. Acupuncture has gained popularity in the West as we see its benefits in the body and use it to treat a variety of aches, pains, disorders – and even addiction.

Using acupuncture to help with addiction is certainly a newer form of treatment for people who use drugs and alcohol, so you may be skeptical about using it. You will certainly question if acupuncture is a true benefit for addiction and why you may want to include it in your treatment program. While the method has been used for quite a while, it is a highly sought out method in drug detox to help with the painful withdrawals.

We’re going to discuss the ins and outs of acupuncture as it relates to addiction and how acupuncture may be a definite positive benefit to your recovery.

Can Holistic Approaches Be Used In Drug Detox?

Someone looking for holistic therapy must do their due diligence and research the facility they wish to attend. While a facility may offer holistic approaches, such as acupuncture, they may not provide holistic therapies at all. 

You must ask what therapies are offered, the way the people offering therapies were trained, and the overall cost of care. It will be the best choice to determine if the facility delivers what they offer.

Holistic therapies, such as yoga, meditation, massage, and acupuncture, are used as an alternative to more traditional treatment methods, like individual counseling, medical detox, and behavioral therapies.

Using Holistic Techniques for Drug Detox

A survey of rehab centers revealed that one-third of them offer some form of holistic treatment. Fifty-eight percent of those centers used meditation. Holistic addiction treatment aims to deal with several factors considered by these programs that contribute to addiction. These aspects include:

  • Physical symptoms of addiction or withdrawal
  • Emotional imbalance that leads to substance abuse
  • A lack of spiritual grounding that can make drug desirable
  • Environmental contaminants or toxins that result in a need for substance abuse

Is Acupuncture a Legitimate Treatment Option?

In a regular detox treatment program, you won’t likely find acupuncture. Most detox plans will emphasize on medicine, relaxation, and group therapy, all of which are undeniably necessary to get through the withdrawal of drugs and alcohol and reach recovery. However, more recently, many professionals have included acupuncture into their programs for good reason.

That being said, is acupuncture a legitimate treatment option? Used alone, you may find that acupuncture isn’t enough to cure you of drug addiction. However, when combined with a normal regime that includes medicine or therapy, acupuncture is a legitimate aid that helps soothe the body and get through drug withdrawals far easier. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) states that acupuncture treatment is acceptable for 64 medical issues, with drug abuse being one of them.

Acupuncture is a useful method to be used in conjunction with other therapy methods. It is a legitimate treatment option for drug detox, but it should not be used as a sole treatment. The benefits outweigh the risks, and those who use this method will find comfort in its effects.

What Does the Research Say?

Plenty of research has been done on acupuncture, trying to understand its connection to treatment and relief. So what does the research say about acupuncture being used in a residential drug rehabilitation program? 

While there’s little scientific evidence, numerous studies show that acupuncture has a positive connection to recovery. This is because acupuncture uses a specific acupuncture treatment known as the NADA 5 Point Protocol. In this system, the following points are targeted:

  1. Autonomic point. This point calms the overall nervous system and helps to relieve stress, promoting relaxation. While the nervous system is going awry during withdrawal and tensions are high, hitting this target ensures that you reclaim a calmer, more relaxed state of mind that is essential for recovery.
  2. Spirit gate point. When this point is targeted, anxiety and jitters are reduced, which are so commonly found in those recovering from addiction.
  3. Kidney point. With this point being targeted, the healing process of internal organs is greatly increased. This is imperative for those who are struggling through detox, where internal organs are affected by drug use.
  4. Liver point. As we all know, drug and alcohol abuse has a big impact on the liver. When the liver point is targeted during acupuncture, the detoxification process is increased for better function, while the blood is purified, and aggression is reduced in patients.
  5. Lung point. When hitting this target, circulation is enhanced, and overall grief is reduced.

As you can see, the five-point system is uniquely designed for drug and alcohol abusers going through rehab. These five points, together, create a calmer, healthier body that can go through the withdrawal process in a more relaxed and stronger state of mind. Acupuncture also reduces the pain that is heavily associated with most detoxes. Detox can be extremely painful in some situations, and having any method of relief at your disposal can help sustain your long-term sobriety outlook.

Benefits of Acupuncture for Drug, Alcohol Detox

There are many reasons why more treatment centers are adding acupuncture to their programs. Some of the benefits of acupuncture for patients include the following:

●     Acupuncture can help to reduce cravings. One of the strongest feelings a drug or alcohol abuser will endure is the cravings. This is an intense, physical and psychological urge to have the substance back in their system. To help with the intensity of these cravings – especially during the first few days of detox – acupuncture can be used. With acupuncture, certain pressure points are hit to relax the patient and help them through the uncomfortable feeling of cravings.

●     Acupuncture provides stress relief. Stress is one of the biggest causes of relapse during the treatment period and in recovery. To ensure there is no relapse due to stress, acupuncture can be used. This is imperative during the initial phases of detox in which stress and tensions are high, but it is also important long after the recovery to ensure there is no relapse during stressful events in life.

●     Acupuncture fights depression. Research has shown that acupuncture may be beneficial to fight depression, which is something that often occurs in drug and alcohol abusers. To help stave off a relapse due to depression, a medical alternative of acupuncture may help.

●     Acupuncture manages pain. One of the most prominent things a substance user will feel is pain during and sometimes after the detox process. To ensure that pain can be managed without using pain medications (which can cause further addiction), acupuncture may be used. Hitting certain targets may reduce pain throughout the body without the need for pain medications.

●     Acupuncture can help with sleep problems. Sleep problems go hand in hand with drug and alcohol recovery. Research has shown that acupuncture helps greatly with relaxing the nervous system enough for a good night’s rest. This means you may not have to worry about insomnia during treatment, and your body may get a much-needed night of sleep to deal with all of the side effects that detoxing has.

How Often Is Acupuncture Used, And What Else Goes Along With It?

Acupuncture for addiction treatment has not been widely used in the past, but more professional inpatient locations are adding acupuncture to their treatment plans. This is because acupuncture has shown promise in reducing stress and giving one a more relaxed state of mind that helps with the overall healing process. This, combined with a reduction in pain, heightens the chances of recovery success.

Acupuncture for Opiate Addiction

Several studies in humans and animals have shown that acupuncture can cause multiple biological responses. Early works demonstrate the involvement of opioid receptors in the mechanism underlying the effects of acupuncture on morphine addiction. Acupuncture affects the reinforcing effects of morphine, and one such study shows that it helps reduce the effects of positive and negative reinforcement in opioid addiction by modulating dopamine neurons.

Sources

National Institute of Health. Acupuncture for the Treatment of Opiate Addiction. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3296192/

NCCAOM. Acupuncture: A Solution to the Opioid Crisis? Retrieved from https://www.nccaom.org/blog/2015/12/08/opioid-crisis/

Medscape. A Possible Mechanism Underlying the Effectiveness of Acupuncture in the Treatment of Drug Addiction. Retrieved from https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/585219_1

Complementary, Alternative, or Integrative Health: What's In a Name? (2019, April 02). Retrieved from https://nccih.nih.gov/health/integrative-health

Priester, P. E., Scherer, J., Steinfeldt, J. A., Jana-Masri, A., Jashinsky, T., Jones, J. E., & Vang, C. (2009, March 19). The Frequency of Prayer, Meditation and Holistic Interventions in Addictions Treatment: A National Survey. Retrieved from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11089-009-0196-8

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