Acupuncture is a practice in Asian medicine used to treat both physiological ailments and mood-related disorders. Acupuncture works with needles, which are inserted into up to 365 points along the body. These points are thought to intersect channels of energy through which the human life force, known as Qi, flow. Recent discoveries indicate acupuncture has been in use for thousands of years, with the discovery of sharpened stones and bone that may have been used in place of needles long ago.
Late this past century, the practice of acupuncture grew in popularity in the United States. And with it, the scrutiny in examining how and why the practice is effective. Western medicine associates the “channels” through which Qi moves with the body’s neural network, asserting stimulation of these nerve channels must stimulate changes within the brain affecting health, mood, and emotional states. To date, more than three million Americans have benefited from acupuncture treatment.
Acupuncture can be beneficial in the treatment of drug addiction as the body’s natural neural pathways are adjusted and stimulated. Understanding how it is effective requires a basic understanding of the key areas of the brain impacted by acupuncture therapy.
Acupuncture And The Brain
During acupuncture, several occurrences take place within the neural network of the body. Research supports an increase of endorphins and naturally occurring opioids is evident during treatment, contributing to the therapy’s success in pain management. Changes in the hypothalamus and pituitary glands have also been indicated. These glands relate to functioning of the nervous and endocrine systems and can affect the constriction of blood vessels, heart rate, sleep cycles, hunger and gastrointestinal function, regulation of blood pressure, and memory.
How Acupuncture Benefits The Drug-Addicted Individual
For someone seeking treatment for an addiction to alcohol and other central nervous system depressants, and even to stimulants including cocaine, acupuncture stimulates endorphin, dopamine, and opioid neurotransmission, mimicking both central nervous system depressants and opioids in varying degrees, resulting in a decrease in drug cravings.
Acupuncture benefits an addicted individual going through withdrawals twofold. Firstly, the practice regulates sleep cycles and appetite, often disrupted during drug use and subsequent withdrawal. As some of these natural functions are restored, the addicted individual benefits from a reduction in anxiety and discomforts associated with the withdrawal. Secondly, acupuncture stimulates the endocrine system, aiding in strengthening these organs often battered by long-term drug abuse, while also flushing the body of drug-related accumulated toxins.
Acupuncture In Affecting Incentive Sensitization In Drug Addiction
Addictive drugs share one thing in common: they initiate a dopamine response. During the early phases of addiction, when the body is adjusting to use of the drug, and before any tolerances have developed, a process known as drug sensitization, or incentive sensitization begins. It is this process scientists believe relates to addictive behaviors, as the body is hyper stimulated to any traces of the drug, resulting in initial cravings for the substance.
Studies on laboratory animals indicate acupuncture diminishes this hypersensitivity associated with drug use and negative withdrawal side effects.
Acupuncture’s Success In Treating Drug Addiction
Discovery of acupuncture’s success in treating drug addiction happened by accident in 1972, when a physician treated an opiate-addicted person and discovered the treatment significantly reduced the individual’s drug-related cravings.
Since then, acupuncture has grown in popularity as a co-therapy in helping drug-addicted individuals achieve recovery. By 1996, the World Health Organization (WHO) listed acupuncture as a valid treatment option to combat drug addiction. Acupuncture is inexpensive, safe for all ages, and has been shown to be an effective option in the prevention of relapse. It also treats co-occurring disorders that may have lead to the addiction, further reducing risk of relapse.
One study conducted on alcohol-addicted individuals found that a control group that did not receive corresponding acupuncture therapy during treatment suffered double the occurrence of relapse. Other studies examining the use of acupuncture in conjunction with detoxification, individualized counseling, and participation in a 12-step program, proved equally as successful.
Another Yale University study examining the effectiveness of acupuncture in the treatment cocaine addiction demonstrated a success rate of 54 percent after only eight weeks, compared with just 23 percent in the control group.
Treatment professionals report acupuncture makes for a positive transition into treatment for the person facing some denial about their addiction. It works without the need for direct communication between patient and practitioner and can make the difference between a conflicted person staying in treatment and leaving.
Acupuncture In Treating Drug Addiction In Pregnant Women
Pregnant women suffer greater disparity in their search for treatment for drug addiction. Withdrawals must be carefully managed as they can put both mother and infant at risk. While still considered an alternative therapy, acupuncture offers a safe and effective method to manage withdrawal symptoms associated with drug abuse. Drug-addicted pregnant women who received acupuncture in conjunction with other treatment protocols, had healthier birth outcomes and their babies were born at higher birth weights than those who did not receive acupuncture.
Acupuncture As A Part of A Drug Addiction Treatment Protocol
Acupuncture offers many rewards when used in conjunction with other treatment protocols. These include:
- Acupuncture diminishes drug cravings
- Acupuncture prevents relapse
- Acupuncture treats underlying issues relating to addiction
- It is affordable
- Acupuncture therapy can act as a bridge between drug addicted individual and treatment
- Acupuncture is a safe and effective therapy for pregnant women
Help For Drug Addiction
If you are suffering with an addiction to one or more substances and need help, DrugRehab.org can connect you with resources and treatment options available in your area or to meet your individual needs, including treatment centers that integrate acupuncture as part of a comprehensive treatment plan. Contact DrugRehab.org today and begin a new life free from drug addiction.