Introduction to Auricular Acupuncture for Addictions
Ancient Remedy Alleviates Modern Ills
In this challenging time of budget restraints and program reviews, it is refreshing to note that an innovative acupuncture technique has been offered through Addiction Prevention and Treatment Services (APTS) here in Nova Scotia since July of 1999. It is a technique popular with clients and staff. Research has demonstrated that this treatment as being successful in substantially reducing withdrawal symptoms and the cravings associated with addictive or compulsive behaviours as well as symptoms of trauma.
On any given morning a number of clients make their way to the group room at sites though out the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM). Entering the room you will find participants seated quietly in a large circle of chairs. Clearly relaxed, most have their eyes closed, some sleep, some appear to meditate. Look more closely and you will see that they have up to five thin acupuncture needles on the surface of each ear. Once the needles are in place, the recipients rest in their own quiet space. In addition, they have an opportunity to indulge in a detoxifying herbal tea formulated from seven organic herbs. This tea is designed to help them relax and heal.
Not everyone who visits this clinic is necessarily dealing with a history of addiction. The calming and soothing effect of the acupuncture has proven beneficial to those dealing with depression, anxiety, and high stress levels. Sleeping patterns begin to stabilize and participants report feeling more grounded and relaxed. At the same time this treatment has been shown to be effective with all modes of addictive and compulsive behaviours: nicotine, alcohol, opiates, methadone, cocaine, gambling and even eating disorders have been helped. Those suffering from traumatic stress symptoms also can benefit.
Originating in the Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx,NY City over thirty years ago, this procedure is now being used internationally in a wide variety of treatment settings such as hospitals, street clinics and prisons. It has been used at ground zero in New York to treat first responders, in New Orleans to for residents displaced by Hurricane Katrina, in Haiti for victims of the earthquake, and at Stadacona military base in Halifax, N.S. for veterans of the Afghan conflict. Over a third of the prisons in the U.K. offer this procedure where it was found that prisoners became more manageable, fought less, and remained clean of drugs longer. There are well over 1000 clinics in operation world-wide.
Here in Nova Scotia, the first Maritime clinic began in Dartmouth by targeting smoking cessation. The success of these trials led to an expansion of this service. Another precedent for the Maritimes was that the first Acupuncture Detoxification Specialist training was held in November 1999. This was followed by the establishment of other acupuncture clinics in HRM. Today there are locations found throughout Nova Scotia, PEI and New Brunswick.
This acupuncture protocol can easily be learned by anyone working in the healing field. It is taught effectively in a 70 hour program modeled on the Lincoln Hospital program. A wide range of clinicians can take the training including counselors, social workers, nurses, medical doctors and psychologists. This arrangement allows for the acupuncture to be integrated with existing services in a flexible and cost effective manner.
How does it work? The medical theory behind acupuncture holds that placing needles at strategic points on the body can stimulate internal energy and strengthen the body’s balancing mechanisms. Auricular acupuncture utilizes points exclusively on the ear , like reflexology using points on the feet, to influence other areas of the body and psyche. Five standard points are used – two for relaxation, – shen men, sympathetic, and three organ points – lung, liver, kidney. For the best effect the needles are left in place for 45 minutes. Since the effects are accumulative, participants are recommended to come as frequently as they can in the first three weeks of starting treatment.
Oriental medicine sees the behaviours associated with addiction as resembling a ‘false fire’, one characterized by aggressive, destructive tendencies. The acupuncture calms this fire, bypassing much of the verbal denial and resistance that limit the participation of new and relapsed clients in treatment programs. Acupuncture can reduce stress and craving so that participants gradually become more ready to participate in the treatment process. Studies have shown that recipients of this acupuncture stay drug free longer and remain in treatment programs longer.
Each of us seek greater power and control in our lives. False fire is the illusion of power – an illusion that leads to more desperate levels of abuse and senseless violence. Acupuncture is an effective treatment for false fire. The recipient is empowered, but in a gentle, easy and long lasting manner.