Acupuncture & Addiction Recovery
Addiction is increasingly a major problem in the US. In this article we will explain how acupuncture can help with addiction and a specific protocol created to treat addiction, while also addressing some of the more addictive substances. Most importantly, what we want you to get from this article is that, if you or a loved one is suffering from addiction, there is hope.
Here is a list and brief description of some of the most addictive substances people have problems ridding themselves of:
CIGARETTES/NICOTINE: This is the number one substance addiction, people resort to acupuncture for. Cigarettes and other tobacco products are usually full of other toxic additives besides the nicotine and people who regularly smoke are at more risk for coronary heart disease by 2 to 4 times, for stroke by 2 to 4 times, of men developing lung cancer by 25 times and of women developing lung cancer by 25.7 times. Cigarette smoking causes more than 480,000 deaths (near ⅕ deaths) each year and is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States.
BENZODIAZEPINES: Valium and xanax are two examples of benzodiazepines. Using these addictive drugs for four months or more greatly increase the chance of addiction. Usually they are prescribed for a range of health issues, including anxiety, sleep disorders, and alcohol withdrawal. They provide a tranquilizing effect in the brain and can cause dizziness, drowsiness, poor coordination, and feelings of depression. There are fast acting and long acting benzodiazepines. Each are addictive but the fast acting ones tend to cause physical withdrawal much quicker. For example, xanax (a fast acting benzo) can become physically addictive within as little as one week of use.
OPIOIDS: Some examples of opioids are the illicit street drug heroin and analgesics such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine and fentanyl. All are incredibly addictive and have started an “opioid crisis” throughout the nation. Physicians and pharmacists are needing to more closely monitor patient prescriptions to make sure these prescription drugs are not being abused. In turn, some people truly in the need for pain killers, are lacking their go-to relief when they are suffering. Acupuncture is an effective alternative to a pain-killer without the addiction or negative side effects.
COCAINE & METHAMPHETAMINE: These are very addictive stimulants. Cocaine has been used medically as a local anesthesia for surgeries and methamphetamine is chemically similar to amphetamine which is used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and narcolepsy. The street use is illegal and dangerous, leading to reckless, high risk behavior and very poor health outcomes.
ALCOHOL: Alcohol is not only toxic for the body but also a hard addiction to physically and psychologically overcome. Alcohol is a very socially acceptable addictive substance throughout the world. Since it is so normal to drink and such a big part of culture, media, advertising, social gatherings, celebrations, it makes it particularly difficult to avoid. When peer pressure is involved because everyone else is participating, willpower and inner-strength become even more important.
UNHEALTHY FOODS: From sweet to salty foods, food can be a serious addiction. Emotional eating and overindulging in comfort foods has become a real epidemic in the United States. Sugar is a neurotoxin that not only adds unhealthy pounds but damages our brain and other body tissues.
ACUPUNCTURE & ADDICTION
Acupuncture not only can help with detoxification of the body to clear the substance from the body quicker but it can also be very helpful at addressing the withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms when addicted to a substance (depending on the substance) can manifest as cravings, constipation, diarrhea, sweats, uncharacteristic behavior, aggression, anxiety, hypersensitivity to light/sound, insomnia, irritability, nausea, vomiting, numbness/tingling in extremities, tremors, trembling, seizures, tense muscles, nightmares, depression, paranoia and suicidal thoughts.
Acupuncture is able to help balance the emotions and deal with stress better. It releases serotonin and other endorphins that make one feel good. Sleep has been shown to also improve with acupuncture and herbal medicine. The GI tract can be healed to stop nausea, vomiting and bowel issues. The sinews and muscle channels can be released to help with any irregular movement or sensations in the body.
A well known protocol to help treat addiction is the NADA protocol. NADA (National Acupuncture Detoxification Association) created this protocol specifically to treat addiction, behavioral health issues, stress and trauma in a safe, affordable, group setting. The protocol consists of five points used in each ear (a total of ten points). Michael Smith, the leading pioneer in training others of the NADA protocol said, “the Spirit of NADA creates a zone of peace within so patients can begin to experience their own inner strengths.”
Lakewood Community Acupuncture (LCA) offers a three week addiction treatment package consisting of ten acupuncture treatments and three sessions of semi-permanent needles to wear outside of the clinic each week. LCA’s acupuncturists address the patient’s needs from basic to more intricate inner details that formed the addiction in the first place. It is strongly recommended to reach out to other resources if needed (ex. AA, narcotics anonymous, behavioral therapist, friends, family, hypnotherapist, etc).
OVERCOMING ADDICTION AS A WHOLE
Once someone has gone through the initial withdrawals and detoxification from an addiction it is important to stay balanced and healthy to prevent future relapse. Ridding yourself of negative people and avoiding high risk situations with your addictive substance present. Spending time with people that support you being sober is crucial. You don’t want to be around anyone who would pressure you into your addiction. Eating healthy, exercising and treating your body with respect helps to not want to partake in anything that could possibly hurt or damage what you have been working so hard at taking care of. Practicing self-love and developing responsible habits which may you feel good in a healthy way. Attending acupuncture sessions regularly, receiving bodywork, cupping, talking to supportive friends/family and possibly a therapists to process through any lingering emotions that need to be addressed.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders. SAMHSA’s National Helpline – 1-800-662-4357. https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline
About the author: Crystal Jancovic, L.Ac is co-founder of Lakewood Community Acupuncture in Lakewood, Colorado, which is the first nonprofit community acupuncture clinic in the state. She believes fully in offering affordable healthcare to her community and becoming an active community member through supporting local businesses, growing her own food with her family, attending community events and keeping her patients healthy and happy.