• Ear-Acupuncture

Acupuncture for Addiction

 12th August 2015

I recently read an article about Sandra Bauer. Sometimes it’s hard for her to stop shaking.

The 56-year-old American struggles with anxiety that can be hard to control. She takes medication and sees a specialist from Connections Community Support Programs’ Assertive Community Treatment team in Dover every month.

Last Tuesday, however, it was as if all that stress disappeared. Bauer felt at peace. Her mind was calm. But it wasn’t medication that helped her feel at ease. It was five needles carefully positioned in her ears.

Bauer experienced acupuncture detoxification. This is not an uncommon story.

Known as acu-detox, the therapy utilizes standard acupuncture techniques to relieve stress, withdrawal symptoms and anxiety common in people living with addiction and behavioral health issues.

Acu-detox therapy is making a comeback in Delaware’s substance abuse and mental health community. It is not new by any means, just uncommon. Though its roots are in Eastern medical philosophies, it’s been practiced in modern medicine off and on for nearly four decades. Experts stress that it’s not a standalone therapy, but used as a supplement to a person’s treatment plan.

“There’s a lot of different ways for people to get clean and you want to offer all the options so that people can see what works best for them,” Connections President said. “It’s our intention to use all means that are available, that are evidence-based and proven to work.”

How it works

While acupuncture can be done on any part of the body, acu-detox is a treatment specifically concentrated in the ears. Therapy is typically done with a group, but it can be useful in a one-on-one situation.

Acupuncture can be used to treat addiction such as smoking, heroin, other drugs etc. All the acupuncture is done with five needles in the inner ear.

The ear is a microcosm of the whole body. The inner ear has five points that connect to bodily responses throughout the whole body, she said. The points are linked to “shen men,” the sympathetic nervous system, kidney, liver and lung.

Shen men represents a person’s Qi (pronounced Chi), or their positive and negative energy. The sympathetic nervous system connects to a person’s fight or flight response and the kidney, liver and lungs represent organs that filter the body of toxins.

When touched by a needle, each point releases stress. The needles used to stimulate those points are fine and stainless steel – as thin as a strand of hair.

The article quotes responses from clients varying greatly:

“Heads flopped down” , “It felt like my body was inside my body.” One client who had insomnia, anxiety and admittedly “bad tempers” couldn’t get enough of the session. “I get this real mellow feeling like I am in an open pasture,” she said.

In terms of addiction, nicotine is one of the most difficult to stop. “It’s part of a whole other protocol. Acupuncture is just one of the coping mechanisms,” she said. Even so, Stephanie Raffer, a 35-year smoker, credits Luzader’s acu-detox with helping her finally break the habit. Nicotine lozenges and other cessation tools had never really helped, she said. Going cold turkey was too difficult. She had acu-detox sessions once a week for about three months. “You kind of close your eyes and you just wander away,” said Raffer, 63, of Rehoboth. “I found it very relaxing, which helped keep me from reaching for my cigarettes.”

Going forward

The USA have realised that this approach makes economic sense. It costs $30 for a box of 500 needles. To treat close to 5,000 people five times a week for 50 weeks, it would only amount to a little over $4,200, she said. This is minimal compared to other treatments.

The practice also engages a person holistically and can help treat a dual diagnosis of substance abuse disorder and mental illness.

For substance abuse treatment in particular, it can help with withdrawal symptoms in a different way than opiate replacement therapy like methadone can. Potentially people will have shorter stays in rehab, she said.

“There’s no stigma attached with this,” Stafford said. “It’s something everyday people do.”