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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?

How much does acupuncture cost?

There are potentially four costs to consider when planning the addition of an acupuncture component to an existing treatment program.

1. Staff to administer the acupuncture treatment

Licensed acupuncturists: If your State does not have an acudetox law, the services will need to be administered by someone licensed to perform acupuncture. Hourly contract salaries for licensed acupuncturists vary widely based on local "supply," from $20 to $70 per hour. The person doing the needling is optimally budgeted and scheduled for 1 ½ hours per one hour in the clinic to allow time for clinic preparation, clean-up, and paperwork. In larger clinics, it is also recommended that the clinician's time be budgeted to allow them to participate in client casing and clinical supervision to assure integration of the service.

Where State laws allow for acudetox specialists, staff costs other than required supervision can be minimal, because existing staff can be trained to do the acupuncture treatment.

2. Supplies

Supplies include auricular needles, alcohol prep wipes and cotton balls, a hazardous waste dispenser, rubber gloves, benedine solution, tea, a thermos dispenser, and cups. The cost of all of these supplies may be computed at 65¢ per treatment. It should be noted that the larger the number of treatments delivered, the lower the cost per treatment, as supplies such as needles and tea are generally discounted in large quantities.

3. Clinic Monitor or Support Staff

If the number of clients treated at one time exceeds 15, the acupuncturist or "acudetox" specialist should be supported up by a "clinic monitor" or support staff to assist clients with paperwork and help deal with other clinic management problems that may arise. If the acupuncture clinic time is used for new client intakes, which is highly recommended, the support staff needs to be large enough to perform intakes rather than relying on the acupuncturist to do so.

4. Liability Insurance

Acudetox specialists may be covered by special and reasonable liability policies now available from most acupuncture liability carriers. Licensed acupuncturists working in medical facilities will generally be covered under the agency's medical insurance. Acupuncturists working in non-medical facilities will need to carry their own liability/malpractice insurance. They can name the agency as additionally insured for a typical additional 10% of their annual premium, which the agency may want to defray. A typical cost in these latter cases would not exceed $120 annually.

If indirect overhead costs - inculding training - are added to these, the total cost of acupuncture typically does not exceed $4.00 per treatment.

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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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