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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?

Does acupuncture really work in treating substance abuse and addiction?

Like all drug intervention strategies, acupuncture works best within the context of a rich and comprehensive treatment program that includes counseling, education, case management, medication therapies, and drug testing. In these settings, there is an abundance of anecdotal evidence that it works exceptionally well on multiple levels to support clients in achieving sobriety.

Acupuncture is not a "magic bullet," and cases are rare in which it completely alleviates all alcohol and drug withdrawal symptoms. Its great value is that it makes these symptoms manageable for people attempting recovery.

Acupuncture research - on both humans and animals - has unequivocally demonstrated that properly placed acupuncture needles impact physiological processes. For example, it has been proven that acupuncture reduces pain and relieves depression, reduces excess stomach acid, and speeds up the rates at which the body metabolizes and eliminates alcohol.

Researchers have not been able to replicate many studies showing excellent success in treating acute withdrawal using 5-point auricular (ear) therapy. Clinical trials on acupuncture in the drug treatment setting are as problematic as clinical trials in all aspects of drug treatment. The reason for this is that all drug treatment interventions and strategies depend for their success on the context in which they are delivered, and on a host of variables that contribute to that context. Imagine, for example, that a researcher goes to a comprehensive drug treatment program and picks out one of the multiple strategies that are used in that program to see if it is effective. He takes that strategy to a university setting to eliminate all of the variables that exist in the treatment program. The results would not accurately reflect the efficacy of the strategy because it is being studied out of its normal context, "in a vacuum." Several acupuncture studies have been conducted this way. The subjects received money for their participation; the study was not conducted at a treatment program; the subjects received no counseling or education, and the acupuncturist wasn't allowed to talk to them even if they asked for extra help or referrals for their addiction.

See also:The Acupuncture-Adenosine Connection: Implications for Addiction Treatment and Research

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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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