One of the areas where acupuncture, specifically ear (auricular) acupuncture, has been used successfully for many years is in drug and alcohol services. Firstly I would say, it makes sense to find non-pharmocological ways of treating drug and alcohol dependency. For a lot of addicts and alcoholics, coming off drugs and alcohol is in many ways the straightforward part. The difficulty is staying clean, coming to terms with the feelings of guilt (towards friends and family that have been affected) and generally rebuilding their lives.
A recent study published in the Journal of Psychiatric And Mental Health Nursing found ear acupuncture within drug and alcohol services to be both effective and extremely cost-effective. In my experience, the sessions are run in a group setting. Five needles are placed in each ear (see photo) which is known as the NADA protocol. The clients are left to relax usually with some suitable relaxing music in the background.
One of the biggest problems for clients is establishing natural sleep patterns. To be able to use a natural therapy such as acupuncture is far preferable to sleeping pills particularly for someone who has addiction problems. Clients often find that after one or two sessions of acupuncture they are able to sleep at least for a few nights following the treatment. This enables clients to then find a normal routine and are in a much better place to make good decisions…i.e stay off drugs/alcohol and develop positive coping mechanisms.
Many of the clients I meet who’ve had addiction problems are often very driven people….they don’t know when to stop and demonstrate extreme behaviors. The acupuncture treatment allows clients to find balance…I call it a “positive zero”, not too manic/hyper but not too lethargic. In Chinese medicine we would simply say..”freeing the flow of qi”.
There is a lot of help out there for addicts and alcoholics. It affects people from all walks of life. If you or someone you know is suffering from an addiction problem then GET HELP! Your GP can refer you to local services or there are many projects that will accept self-referral. There is no judgement….only help!