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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 staffing is required for treatment programs that have an acupuncture component?

The answer to this question will be determined in part by your own State's laws governing ear acupuncture for detox (check with your State Board of Medical Examiners). If your State has an "acu-detox," law, any of your current staff members may be trained to do the needling under the supervision required by law. The training is done by the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association (NADA). Since the acupuncture is not scheduled at the same time as groups, most programs are able to use existing counselors with no additional clinical staffing.

In States where only licensed acupuncturists, chiropractors, or other medical practitioners are allowed to do acupuncture needling, the practitioner is optimally hired on contract for 1.5 hours for each hour that the clinic is open so they have time allotted for clinic set-up and dismantling. These people also require NADA training in the specific protocols they will be using. In large programs, it is also highly recommended that this professional be reimbursed for attending staff meetings and supervision and casings meetings. (Some programs pay two different rates for this person - a "clinical rate" for needling and a lower "administrative rate" for attending meetings.)

If more than 20 people are treated at once, it is strongly recommended that the program also have a "clinic monitor" during the time that the clinic is open to make tea, do intakes, monitor needle safety, and assist clients with questions so that the clinician is free to concentrate on giving treatments. The clinic monitors are usually assigned from existing staff, optimally on a rotating basis so all front-line staff gain a familiarity with the acupuncture program.

For some clients, the psychological and emotional effects of acupuncture are more profound than for others. Some report significant mood changes. While these changes are almost universally reported as positive, some people - especially those with psychiatric disorders - may find these changes disconcerting. The treatment may also stir traumatic memories. As with all treatment interventions, it is very important therefore that the program have qualified staff available during and after acupuncture for counseling and support for issues that might arise for clients during 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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