Acupuncture is an alternative therapy that dates back thousands of years in Chinese history. It’s been used to help with nausea, stroke rehabilitation, asthma, and a variety of pain conditions including dental pain, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, and menstrual cramps. The general idea is that there are pathways of energy flow, called chi or Qi, in the body that are essential for good health, and disruptions to this flow are responsible for the disease. Practitioners insert small needles into the skin at strategic points on the body, which is meant to realign the energy flow. Western practitioners, however, take a less mystical view of things and believe that acupuncture points stimulate nerves, muscles and connective tissue, which might boost the body’s natural painkillers.

There have been a few studies done that suggest acupuncture might help with addiction. One published in the American Journal of Public Health found that it could help with tobacco and cocaine addictions in particular. They studied the effects of sham acupuncture, acupuncture alone, and acupuncture in combination with education on how much the 141 participants smoked. Although both the education group and the acupuncture group had positive results, the combined group had the best results by far, with 40 percent not smoking at all and 52 percent have decreased their smoking at the 18 months follow up.

Since pain relief is one of the major uses of acupuncture, it stands to reason that it might be beneficial to people with opioid addictions. Most people start off with a prescription for painkillers for a perfectly valid reason, and if they do manage to get clean the underlying pain problem is still present. Alternative pain relief methods like acupuncture can help prevent relapse by lessening the pain.

The risks of acupuncture are fairly low, as long it’s done properly. Generally, the only side effects are a little soreness and possibly bruising. Single-use needles are the norm now, so the chances of infection are minuscule. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration actually regulates acupuncture needles as medical devices. The needles must be manufactured and labeled according to certain standards; for example, they must be sterile, nontoxic, and labeled for single use by qualified practitioners only. There are some potential dangers involved if you have a bleeding disorder or take blood thinners, have a pacemaker (because some acupuncture needles deliver small electrical pulses), or are pregnant.

If you are considering acupuncture, make sure you check the practitioner’s training and credentials. In most states, acupuncturists must pass an exam conducted by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. Talk to your regular doctor first about any possible reasons you shouldn’t have the procedure. Ask friends if they have any recommendations or read reviews online. Also, find out whether your insurance will cover it, as many carriers, including Medicare, do not.

If you or a loved one need help with quitting drugs or alcohol, consider Asana Recovery. We offer medical detox, along with both residential and outpatient programs, and you’ll be supervised by a highly trained staff of medical professionals, counselors, and therapists. Call us any time at (949) 438-4504.



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