Acupuncture Aids Those Recovering from Substance Abuse

By Pacific College - April 21, 2014

By Michelle Fletcher, B.A.

Recent medical studies and research have led to the discovery of acupuncture’s abilities in the fight against substance abuse. Clinical success stories and anecdotal evidence strongly suggest that acupuncture can alleviate many of the serious symptoms of withdrawal, thus facilitating detoxification and encouraging acute addicts to continue treatment.

Detoxification clinics across the country are beginning to implement acupuncture into their programs. In addition, the courts in many major cities are creating what are called “drug courts,” where a program of intensive counseling and treatment – sometimes, including acupuncture – is substituted for traditional prosecution. Many law enforcement officials are hopeful that acupuncture will be an effective part of the solution of drug addicts, since courts are in dire need of more effective approaches in dealing with repeat offenders.

Clinical Studies in Detention Centers

Clinical studies are now being performed in detention centers, as researchers track the positive effects of acupuncture on drug abuse offenders. A 2001 study at the Maryland Detention Center in Baltimore performed detoxtherapy on 30 inmates – the first of its kind in the country. The traditional Chinese practice of piercing the body with needles to cure various ailments, acupuncture is used to help calm addictions, encourage sleep, and produce a more positive outlook on life for inmates.

Jail officials are also hailing acupuncture’s positive effects on the jail system. The detoxtherapy program has helped reduce redivism rate when those inmates are released. They praise the program’s positive effects:

“It’s a panacea for a disruptive body that has been abused,” said LaMont Flanagan, the state’s commissioner of pretrial detention and services and the founder of the acupuncture program. “It restores the balance of their psychological makeup.”

Inmate Experiences and Program Structure

Many inmates were skeptical about beginning the program, but changed their attitudes once results began to appear. “It’s waking up,” said James, a 48-year-old inmate undergoing detoxtherpy in the clinical study. “We’re beginning to be high – on a natural high, and that’s scary.”

Inmates meet throughout the week for 45-minute detoxtherapy sessions. Acupuncturist Paul Buchannan reported inmates began to feel better after two or three treatments. Through the course of 14 visits, inmates are slowly weaned of needles so they will be better able to rely upon themselves.

Participants in the program also undergo more conventional therapy sessions, including individual and group counseling, drug abuse education, and training in conflict-resolution procedures.

Understanding Acupuncture in Substance Abuse Recovery

Acupuncture is the stimulation of qi by the insertion of needles into meridians, routes under the skin’s surface. Also known as “vital energy,” qi warms and protects the body, soothes the body’s transitions from one state to another and governs the organs. Traditional Chinese medicine asserts that sickness is caused by the inability of qi to flow freely through the meridians. Acupuncture facilitates the flow of qi throughout the body.

“Acupuncturists use needles, herbs, touch, and self-healing skills to help people reconnect with their vital energy,” said Prenettie Blanton, director of the detention center’s substance abuse program. She noted that the acupuncturists revitalize the body’s organs, helping them to function normally by clearing the blocks that inhibit energy from flowing.

The Traditional Acupuncture Institute claims that people who have had therapy report fewer relapses and drug cravings, and notice a drop in anxiety, insomnia, nausea, and depression.

Research and applications prove that acupuncture can help in the long path to recovering from drug abuse and addiction.

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