Acupuncture & Addiction Treatment – What’s It All About?!

Acupuncture 101

Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medicine that has been around for thousands of years. It is based on the meridian system of which there are 12 meridians. Most meridians are named for an organ in the body that they are associated with (ex. Lung, large intestine). Acupuncture is an effective form of medical treatment for many different conditions. Acupuncture is a holistic modality that treats all parts of the person (emotional, spiritual, physical, and mental). Acupuncture is recognized by the National Institute of Health (NIH) and World Health Organization (WHO) for treating numerous conditions.

Acupuncture is the practice of using very fine needles the thickness of a hair. The needles are inserted into specific points which it can unblock the blockage, move blood flow, and promote overall balance in the body.

Acupuncture Can Treat & Help More Than You Think

Acupuncture is known to treat pain relief, digestion, fatigue, anxiety, depression, asthma, arthritis, fertility issues, migraines, tooth pain, stress, insomnia, and alcohol and drug addiction. The benefits include reduced pain, feeling more relaxed, improved mood, help with balancing and regulating body functions, hormones, blood pressure, blood sugar and improve overall health.

Acupuncture Can Help Those With Alcohol and Drug Addiction

Acupuncture can help with the stress, anxiety, and depression that often are associated with alcohol and drug addiction. It can help relax and calm the mind, support willpower to make a change, and help to conquer the cravings.

Acupuncture is also known to help with alcohol and drug detox symptoms. The protocol to help with alcohol and drug detox symptoms is called NADA (National Acupuncture Detoxification Association). NADA was developed 40 years ago and has been successfully used across the country to treat substance use disorders. Numerous studies have proven that the NADA protocol can help reduce drug and alcohol addiction detox symptoms such as insomnia, headache, muscle aches, nausea, and panic attacks to name a few. It can help with overall balance, reducing cravings, and mental stability. A study showed that utilizing acupuncture in treating those with drug and alcohol addiction was also associated with a higher completion rate.

Interview With an Acupuncturist

To learn more, Laura Golden – Footprints to Recovery Substance Abuse Counselor sat down to interview Christa, a seasoned Acupuncturist. Christa Pasquini Saltzman, L.Ac., Dipl. Ac. is a nationally certified and Pennsylvania state licensed Acupuncturist. Her resume includes over 12 years in private practice at Eagle Acupuncture in Exton PA treating everything from Substance Use Disorders and anxiety to sports injuries. She also works at the Penn Medicine Ann B. Barshinger Cancer Institute in Lancaster PA.

What does it take to become an acupuncturist?

Many people think Acupuncture is a weekend seminar. But that couldn’t be furthest from the truth…it actually takes 7 years (4 years bachelors degree, and 3 year acupuncture decree (from an accredited acupuncture school) in order to sit for the national board exam. the third year of Acupuncture school consists of treating patients in the school clinic under close supervision. Each student spends about 500 hours treating patients during this clinical rotation.

What are the biggest challenges when treating individuals with Alcohol & Drug Addiction?

The biggest challenge when treating Substance Use Disorders is when the patient is not truly ready to make the change. Many times patients have hit “rock bottom” or been given an ultimatum by their families. Their intellectual mind says to stop the behavior related to Substance Use Disorders but the emotional and impulsive self-wants to continue to use. Also in the world today everything is so fast-paced, people are looking for a magic cure or instant relief, but it doesn’t work that way. It is a process, treatments build on each other over time. Many patients will experience some relief right away but it varies from patient to patient.

Are there any negative side effects you notice?

So far I have not seen any negative side effects. The worst thing is maybe it wasn’t as effective as they hope. It never makes anything worse.

What if someone is triggered or afraid of needles?

Most people are afraid of needles at first. I will stop and show them the needles and I will even put one in my own arm so people can see it first. Although utilizing the NADA protocol requires the use of needles there are other treatment options when using acupuncture points in other parts of the body. Examples include: acupressure, cupping, and acutonics (the practice of using tuning forks at the acupuncture points instead of needles).

What’s the average length of time to see relief?

It can range. For some people, it’s immediate while others it can take a couple of days. In some occasions, it may take a few treatments before any change starts to show.

In conclusion, Acupuncture is a holistic modality that can be used to treat a variety of symptoms. There is research showing the benefits of acupuncture in treating alcohol and drug addiction. Acupuncture can balance all parts of self-emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual. Acupuncture has many benefits and minimal side effects which make it a safe addition to alcohol and drug addiction treatment.


Author: Laura Golden, MSW, LSW – Footprints to Recovery – Substance Abuse Counselor

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