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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 compatible with harm reduction?

One way of thinking about the 5-point auricular acupuncture protocol is to realize that a person need not even have a problem with alcohol or other drugs to benefit from the treatment. Practitioners are often able to profoundly observe this when they make community outreach presentations and give "sample treatments" to criminal justice planners, administrators, or to line staff in public health clinics and homeless centers. The treatment is very pleasant and calming, especially for people who have a lot of stress and anxiety or pressure in their work. Indeed, many successful acupuncture programs and initiatives in the country are the result of a judge, legislator, or policymaker receiving a treatment and experiencing a profound benefit. For people who do outreach to promote acupuncture, the maxim is, "one needle is worth a thousand words!"

Understanding this, one can see why acupuncture had been successfully incorporated into many harm reduction programs. For example, in residential geriatric settings, infectious disease clinics, and centers that provide social services for people living with AIDS, the treatment has been successfully integrated as a way of helping people deal with "minor aches and pains," or with "stress," or for help in reducing the side effects of prescribed medications. Some programs also have special opportunities for acupuncture treatment for family members.

Even in alcohol and other drug treatment programs, the flexibility of acupuncture when provided daily in a barrier-free, outpatient setting, allows the program to adapt a philosophy of "first things first." For example, it is the policy of many clinics to encourage clients to "come as clean as they can." Multiple drug users may be encouraged to take things "one step at a time;" for example, a heavy drinker concerned about their excessive use of marijuana might be encouraged to just work on the latter first.

Regardless of the setting where the acupuncture is provided, it is always advisable that that program be strongly linked or integrated with a comprehensive array of alcohol and other drug treatment and recovery services in the community.

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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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