Acupuncture in Addiction Treatment - Frequently asked Questions

Why Add Acupuncture to your Treatment Program?


Adding Acupuncture Helps Clients by:

Adding Acupuncture Helps Programs by:


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 many clients can be treated at once?

(Scroll down for more Frequently Asked Questions)


The use of auricular (ear) acupuncture (sometimes called "acudetox") in treating acute drug withdrawal began in Hong Kong in 1972. Its practical application in alcohol and drug treatment evolved at New York City's Lincoln Hospital during the 1970's. Over 2000 clinics in diverse settings have since been established worldwide based upon the protocol developed by the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association (NADA) by Michael Smith, MD. Acupuncture treatment offers to the client cost-effective, non-medical support during acute and post-acute withdrawal from alcohol, heroin, cocaine, and other drugs through relief of classic symptoms. It has also been found useful for relapse prevention, and as an entry point to treatment and/or recovery in such non-treatment settings as jails and shelters. It has particular efficacy in the treatment of resistant clients.

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Frequently Asked Questions (continued)

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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