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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 the treatment hurt?

Full body acupuncture can sometimes be momentarily uncomfortable when the acupuncturist "finds the chi" at the point of insertion. Acupuncture in the drug treatment setting however does not involve these "full body" points.

In the ear acupuncture protocols recommended by the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association (NADA), very thin needles are inserted at a very shallow depth in the ear cartilage. Sometimes there is a pinching sensation on insertion, and sometimes there is no sensation at all. There is often "pathology" in the ears of drug addicts - a redness, for example, at the lung point. This actually acts as a guide to the clinician as to where to best insert the needle for maximum therapeutic benefit, and if the person has a very low pain threshold - as is often the case with detoxing heroin addicts, for example - the needle insertion may hurt a little initially. During their NADA training training, your clinician will have an extended practicum on needle insertion techniques.

There are some good approaches in responding to the client's anxiety about this fear in the beginning. First is to allow them to observe other clients in the clinic being needled so they can see that it is "no big deal." Other clients are usually very helpful in alleviating the new client's fears and encouraging them to "try it."

Second, the acupuncturist has the discretion of beginning the treatments with fewer than five needles - trying just one or two to start with. Once the client experiences the positive effects and sensations of acupuncture following initial insertion of the needles, any fear and anxiety usually disappear.

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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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