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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?

Is acupuncture appropriate for mandated or court-referred clients?

The acupuncture protocols we describe were developed and flourished in programs targeting clients referred by social services, probation, and the courts. Indeed - until quite recently - there was more financial support for acupuncture in the United States from criminal justice sources than from conventional substance abuse or public health sources. One early outcome study actually found that acupuncture worked better with "resistant" and "mandated' clients than with those who were "self referred!"

These protocols - which were established by the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association (NADA) - were used in the first "Drug Court" established in Dade County, Florida, in 1989 (see article Why Drug Courts Work). The NADA protocol includes unique therapeutic daily urine testing, and - through its network of Registered Trainers - NADA provides consultation and support in educating referral agencies on strategies for retaining clients in treatment during the early relapsing stages of recovery.

One problem has been noted in mandated programs in which the acupuncture is the only non-required or elective activity offered. Many clients in such settings are prone to decline any activity if it is the only one in which they have a choice! It is therefore recommended that participation in acupuncture be treated the same way as participation in other program elements.

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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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