Acupuncture, Drug and alcohol dependency, Health

Should you? Shouldn’t you? The new advice on alcohol.

The BBC headline this morning

Good or bad?
Good or bad?

So here we are, it’s that time of year when we’re encouraged to abstain and ‘detox’ from the xmas excesses.

I’m old enough to have seen this trend of conflicting health advice from ‘experts based on latest research’. Not so long ago, people were encourage to have a small glass of red wine which had been shown to help heart health. Whilst there may be some truth in this, it’s human nature to cherry pick our health advice. More becomes better and somehow drinking a few large slugs of red wine each evening is a medicinal practice. Chocolate’s good too isn’t it?

I do some work at a support centre for people with issues with alcohol. Alcoholism is the extreme end of the spectrum. In my experience, people usually know deep down when they have an alcohol problem. It constitutes an abnormal relationship with alcohol. A bit like the difference between ‘having a bit of a sweet tooth’ compared to compulsively hiding chocolate bars in your sock drawer.

So how much is too much? I’m surprised at how many people I meet who drink every day. Not huge amounts and not that they’d be noticeably drunk but it’s common for couples to share a bottle of wine most evenings. Of course that can creep up and become an extra G&T to wind down from work maybe and perhaps a bit extra at the w/e or whilst having a dinner party? A standard bottle of wine is 10 units *gasp*

Our nations drinking habits are in many ways driven by the media and marketing companies who in order to sell their product, have to make it cool. A bit of ‘health benefits’ from the experts all the better. Remember the old style ads with that handsome chap (probably in a smart woolly) chuffing on a marlboro and sipping a large scotch from a opulent crystal tumbler. These images stick with us.

My personal viewpoint regardless of what the experts say one way or the other is that alcohol should be enjoyed occasionally. It’s essentially a toxic substance. A hangover means you’ve poisoned yourself! Daily alcohol consumption will probably damage your brain, your liver, pancreas, give you oral cancer, stomach ulcers and probably lower your immunity making your more prone to colds, viruses and impeeding healing. It can also disturb your sleep patterns either by waking you up in the night for a wee or developing a dependance to get you to sleep.

Habits are hard to break though. The advice I give to people is to firstly go for quality not quantity. Try not to keep too much alcohol in the house. Switch to a wine spritzer (with spring water?), if you prefer spirits, get a measurer so you know how much you’re having or buy the smaller bottles of lower alcohol lager. Ultimately though, if you use alcohol to relax in the evening, why not experiment with herbal teas as an alternative? Camomile, limeflower, lavender and many more can produce a delightful relaxation without the toxic effects you get from alcohol. Buy a nice teapot & create your own blend of fresh herbal tea or try from the huge range on offer from companys like Pukka for example.

The bottom line is “all things in moderation”. Unfortunately that statement doesn’t make for a sensational headline, nor does it make companys rich.


Acupuncture, Acupuncture awareness week, Chinese Medicine, Drug and alcohol dependency

Acupuncture for addiction

auricular1One 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!