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Resources for Acupuncture in Chemical Dependency Treatment and Recovery


Frequently Asked Questions



What kinds of agencies or services should think about adding an acupuncture component?

Does acupuncture really work?

Are there any drugs that it doesn't work for?

Does it help with other addictions?

How much does it cost?

How do programs pay for it?

Is acupuncture safe? What are the liability issues? Is there increased risk of spreading infectious disease?

Does the treatment hurt?

How much time does the treatment take?

Do clients need to make an appointment for acupuncture?

What do clients do while they're getting needled?

Are there any drugs that acupuncture doesn't work for?

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Acupuncture relieves acute and post-acute withdrawal from all psychoactive drugs. It was first used in the treatment of heroin addiction, and was quickly expanded to the treatment of alcohol and cocaine addiction.

There are two substances - methadone and the minor tranquilizers - from which withdrawal is so severe that clients either need to taper off in their use or use drug replacement therapies adjunctively with acupuncture. There have been cases in which a highly motivated client abruptly stopped his methadone maintenance regimen and was able to remain engaged in treatment using acupuncture only, but acupuncture treatments are generally not strong enough to alleviate methadone withdrawal symptoms at a level that makes this advisable. For persons severely addicted to minor tranquilizers such as Valium or Ativan - due to the long half-life of these drugs - acute withdrawal is so severe that a regimen of medically-supervised tapering should be used in addition to daily acupuncture.

Although withdrawal seizures are exceedingly rare in acupuncture-based programs, when acupuncture alone is used to detoxify persons from minor tranquilizers, barbiturates, and alcohol, training needs to be provided clinicians on the symptoms that precede seizure, and emergency protocols need to be in place to respond if it occurs.

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More FAQs

How many clients can be treated at once?

How often do clients need to be treated?

How long to clients have to keep having treatments?

Does it matter what time of day the acupuncture is provided?

What national organizations support acupuncture in treating addiction? What resources are available to support us if we decide to do it?

Won't adding "alternative medicine" such as acupuncture make our program seem experimental or "fringe" with our referral sources, funders, or potential clients?

Can I start an acupuncture treatment program if I am not currently an alcohol and other drug treatment provider?

Does the acupuncture program have to include herbs or nutritional supplements?

What is the history of how acupuncture began to be used in chemical dependency treatment?

What does the acupuncture clinic look like exactly?

How much space and extra equipment will we need to do it?

What staffing is required?

How do we get the needles?

How do we clean or dispose of the needles after they are used?

What about medical liability?

How does acupuncture fit with drug testing?

How do we find and train people to do the needling?

Could we just try it experimentally to make sure it's a good fit for us?

What technical assistance will be required to start and maintain an acupuncture component?

Is it compatible with harm reduction?

Is it compatible with 12-Step or abstinence-based treatment approaches?

Is it appropriate for mandated or court-referred clients?

Is it appropriate for adolescents?

Is it appropriate for pregnant women?

Is it appropriate for people with co-morbid psychiatric problems?

Is it appropriate for people with HIV/AIDS?

Is it appropriate in methadone programs?

Is it appropriate in residential programs?

What training is required for current program and administrative staff?

What are the steps we should take to add an acupuncture component?


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