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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?

What does the acupuncture clinic look like?

Clients are treated for 45 minutes seated in a group setting. Talking - especially drug-talk and "war stories" - is discouraged. There are no behavioral or cognitive expectancies, and clients are "free to do nothing." A special blend "detox tea" is also usually served during or following treatment.

Clients are optimally seen on a drop-in basis, with no appointments required. Like the twelve step program, the clinic is "barrier-free" in that there are no motivational or other screening requirements for entering or continuing acupuncture treatment. People are instructed to come as "clean and sober as they can" for treatment, and treatment is recommended daily, in the same "one day at a time" rhythm as recovery. While other treatment and recovery services are usually also held in proximity to the clinic, participation in these activities should not a condition of receiving acupuncture treatment.

Clients do everything they can for themselves, such as "prepping" their own ears with an alcohol solution and cotton. In some clinics, clients select their own personal autoclaved or pre-packaged disposable needles. Often, clients even use a mirror to remove their own needles upon leaving. The staff doing the needling are counseled not to "fuss" with clients, question them as to relapse, or lecture or confront them in any way. Clinic rules are minimal, and clients are barred from treatment only for disruptive behavior. Such instances are rare in this setting.

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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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