This last century has seen an incredible rise in the rates of addiction among people all over the world. With that increase, came a need to discover successful methods to help control and curb the obsession to use, as well as to heal the body and mind after the user begins to get sober. Acupuncture and Eastern Medicine have been discovered to be wildly beneficial tools for treating addiction and helping the addiction sufferer on their journey to recovery.
A Brief History of Acupuncture
Hailing from China, acupuncture is one of the oldest healing practices in the world that is still used today. The first records of using energetic meridians in the body were found in the Ma-Wang-Dui tomb in China in 198 BCE. However, tools that were considered to have been used for the practice were found dating back to 6000 BCE.
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The general idea of the practice is based upon the teaching that the bodies natural energy (Qi) flows through the body along meridian lines (channels). The practice focuses this Qi and redirects the flow to the proper channels in certain areas of the body by using small delicate needles to redirect the energy elsewhere along the meridians, therein, restoring equilibrium physically, mentally, and spiritually. The main goal of Acupuncture is that it is focused on the individual, not the ailment, and believes that all symptoms are in relation to the one main problem. In relation to drug and alcohol addiction, the idea is that the body has an unnatural imbalance of this Qi that it cannot fix on its own, and the sufferer resorts to drugs and alcohol to soothe the irritation.
One of the greatest benefits of Acupuncture is that it is extremely safe and non-invasive for the patient. Surveys for the British Medical Journal concluded that adverse reactions to the procedure have only been identified in every 1 out of 10,000 patients, which is far less than other non-traditional practice such as electroshock.
Acupuncture Treating Addiction
The Introduction of Acupuncture on addiction was discovered in the early 1970’s by Dr. H.L Wen. The doctor was preparing a patient, who was a known opium smoker, for a prefrontal lobotomy. The doctor was going to perform the surgery as an attempt to aid the patient in his addiction, as was a popular surgery on addicts during that time. Wen used these meridian channels when administering anesthesia, and discovered that for this particular patient who was suffering from opiate withdrawals at the time, that when he used specific points along the body, not only did the withdrawal symptoms of the patient decrease, they disappeared altogether. The Doctor canceled the lobotomy surgery and continued to perform an acupuncture routine for the next few days. The patient was cured of his withdrawal symptoms.
Treating Addiction with Acupuncture
Since this discovery back in 1972, acupuncture has become a widely used tool in early recovery to aid in the immediate withdrawal effects for addicts and alcoholics. For example, in some treatment centers in the UK, patients looking to kick an opiate addiction can choose between a chemical taper (methadone, suboxone, etc.) or to quit altogether and opt into an acupuncture treatment. The specific locations of the needle points (the ear and between the thumb and index finger) are used to immediately alleviate the withdraw symptoms of restlessness, anxiety, abdominal cramps, watery eyes, and sneezing. The main goal is that these points help the body to eliminate toxins faster, resulting in a drastically reduced detox period.
Acupuncture and Depression/Anxiety
Alone, with their addiction, many users will find that they are quickly diagnosed with depression and anxiety. Millions of addicts are readily prescribed to any handful it anti-anxiety/depressant medications and have to accept their never-ending grocery list of side effects. Acupuncture, on the other hand, has been tested side by side against many of these popular medications, and the results are definitely worth looking into.
During the experimental trials of Acupuncture against anti-depressant medications, it was shown that acupuncture was AS effective, with zero side effects in helping to level out the subjects’ mood. Acupuncture releases serotonin and endorphins in the brain which stimulates the nervous system and causes the release of neurochemical messenger molecules. All of that without the potential danger of chemical dependence, and without any side effects.
As for anxiety, the problem usually lies in the “analytic” side of the brain, which, when overstimulated, causes the symptoms of anxiety. Acupuncture works by targeting the opposing – parasympathetic nervous system, which initiates the relaxation response in patients. Again, without the side effects and potential for abuse of medication.
Treating Addiction with Other Forms of Eastern Medicine
For more longer term recovery solutions, many people find that other forms of Eastern practices such as yoga and meditation can be very useful in the maintenance of the mental state after the drugs and alcohol have been removed.
Many people find that not only does yoga do a great job of gently getting the body back into shape, but it also has a plethora of other health benefits to it. For example, yoga helps to increase circulation, boost natural energy, and speed up the metabolism. A regular practice helps to gently soothe any pain or inflammation in the joints while increasing flexibility in the body to prevent any injuries down the road.
Meditation is one of the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous – not necessarily eastern meditation, but training the person on how to quiet the mind and encouraging stillness of the body. Not to mention the ability it has towards helping people connect or tap into a spiritual source that can strengthen their recovery. Eastern medicine, along with yoga and meditation can be an unendingly useful resource for, well anyone really, but especially for recovering addicts and alcoholics who are looking for a gentle, holistic approach to their new found sobriety.
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Anna M. joined Find Addiction Rehabs with extensive experience in the field of addiction treatment. As a former Nurse Practitioner in Miami, she found her passion for addiction treatment when a family member was lost to his disease. With each article and resource, she hopes to save other families from experiencing the anguish of a loved one’s passing due to drinking or drugs.