When a person struggles with addiction, there are some medications that may be available to reduce cravings and/or minimize withdrawal symptoms. However, there are alternative treatment therapy programs that can help patients relieve stress, anxiety, and insomnia related to addiction recovery. One of these therapies is acupuncture.
What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is an Eastern medicine practice that involves the stimulation of particular points in the skin to promote the flow of a person’s energy known as “qi.” Often, this stimulation is through the application of fine needles into the skin. An example of acupuncture treatment for addiction that researchers have studied is auricular (ear) acupuncture. This involves applying acupuncture needles to three or five points on the ear. Practitioners believe that each of these points corresponds to a specific part of the body, such as the kidneys, lungs, and/or liver. Because each of these organs can become damaged due to drug abuse, acupuncturists aim to restore balance and energy.
Who Is a Good Candidate for Acupuncture for Addiction Recovery?
Acupuncture shouldn’t be used as the sole treatment for recovery, but instead as a component of a person’s recovery program. This includes psychotherapy, medication treatments, nutritional therapy, sleep, and other complementary therapies, such as meditation or pet therapy.
According to theAmerican Holistic Health Association, acupuncture can have the following benefits related to recovery:
- Reducing anxiety
- Preventing relapse
- Improving focus
- Reducing muscle aches and pains
Therefore, nearly any person in recovery desiring these benefits could potentially utilize this alternative form of treatment.
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Is it Safe?
While the idea of being stuck with small needles for health benefits may sound unusual, acupuncture is considered to be a safe and effective practice. It’s important to see a licensed acupuncturist and ask about sterilization and cleanliness. For example, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires that acupuncture needles be sterile, non-toxic, and only be used one time before being discarded, according to theNational Institutes of Health.At a certified rehab center, therapists will provide a clean and safe environment for the patient’s treatment. This helps them to feel calm and relaxed during the session.
What are the Overall Goals of this Therapy?
Research studieshave supported acupuncture for the treatment of specific addictions, including addictions to cocaine and heroin. However, the exact mechanism by which acupuncture benefits those struggling with addiction isn’t known. One thought is that this form of therapy helps to balance chemicals called neurotransmitters in the brain. This is especially important for those who struggle with addiction because using drugs and/or alcohol causes a release of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin that are associated with feeling euphoric or high. When a person stops using drugs, these neurotransmitters can become imbalanced. Through acupuncture, a person can help to restore balance to the neurotransmitters in their brain.
The overall goal for acupuncture treatments is like many of those for a recovering addict – to help them feel better and live a healthier life. The therapy is considered a safe, healthy way to relieve stress and enhance energy.