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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 it matter what time of day the acupuncture is provided?

Acupuncture should be positioned to match the needs of the program and its clients. So the answer to this question depends on the demographics of the population served and the schedule of other program activities.

For example, if the program is outpatient and targets homeless or indigent alcoholics, a good question to ask in making the determination is, "what time in the morning does the nearest liquor store open?" The time of highest use risk each day for these clients is when they wake up in the morning, so the acupuncture should be offered early.

If the program offers group activities in the evening hours, the acupuncture should be provided in the hour just preceding the first activity. Counselors report in both individual and group sessions profoundly positive differences in the behavior and attitude in clients who have just received acupuncture.

One large program I directed had both day and evening services; the acupuncture was provided from 8:00 to 10:00 AM, with the first group counseling session beginning at 9:00. The clinic opened again from 4:00 - 6:00 PM to accommodate evening clients. People enrolled in our 7 - 21 day acute detox program - which targeted indigent homeless alcoholics and addicts - came both morning and afternoon for two treatments per day. (The drop out rate for that drug-free detox program was consistently less than 2%!)

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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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