The Role of Acupuncture in the treatment of Substance Abuse APA

June 20, 2018 Psychology

Although acupuncture itself has been around for thousands of years, treating addiction with acupuncture dated back to the early 1970’s (Otto, 2003). In the research I read for this paper, I found information stating that a Dr. Wen in Hong Kong was researching the effects of acupuncture for post-surgical pain when Dr. Wen coincidentally found that applying electrical stimulation to the lung point in the ears relieved opiate withdrawal symptoms.  The work of Dr. Wen led to the discovery of what became a hybrid of acupuncture.

In the U.S., Lincoln Hospital in South Bronx in New York City began a substance abuse program in 1974 where they would replace the methadone treatment with acupuncture (Otto, 2003). The doctor who worked at Lincoln Hospital at the time, Dr. Michael Smith, developed a program replacing methadone treatment with acupuncture. Eventually over time Dr. Smith developed a simple and effective acupuncture protocol that eliminated patient’s withdrawal symptoms while decreasing relapse rates. Later on it expanded to treating drug, alcohol and smoking addictions.

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The length of treatment was determined in general by the patient’s time and practice of substance abuse (Shwartz, 2000). A common treatment guide would be that the substance abuse treatment would go for treatment for six months. The first month would generally be approximately 5 treatments a week, the second month of treatments would generally be three to 4treatments whereas the third to sixth months of treatment would be approximately 1-2 treatments a week.

In the acupuncture treatment for substance abusers studies I read they indicated that psychological factors differences in results were very minimal if any difference at all (Zarelsky, 1976).

At least one of the article indicated that acupuncture treatment for substance abusers is better suited to some substances than others (Knox, 2007). Dr. Michael Smith who works at a treatment center is South Bronx indicated that the treatment was better suited, for example for cocaine addicts vs. methadone addicts. Smith commented, “Unlike methadone for heroin addiction, which requires considerable structure and policing to guard against illicit heroin use, acupuncture can be available whenever a crack addict slips back into use” (Knox, 2007).

“Acupuncture advocates do not contend that the treatment is for every addict, or that acupuncture alone is going to break the shackles of addiction. Its main value, they say, is to ease addicts through the throes of detoxification without using any other drugs, and then, to reduce the craving for drugs so clients can focus on pulling their lives together” (Knox, 2007).

The statistic that I  found stated that there are more than 800 treatment centers in the U.S. and Europe (Russell, 2000).

Data obtained from clinical studies of acupuncture in substance abuse treatment are controversial. Some research indicates that there is no clear evidence that acupuncture is any more effective than a placebo or the patient’s existing detoxification treatment (Kim, 2005).

Overall, the result of most research I studied on the benefits of acupuncture on substance abuse found that their was not a great benefit to using acupuncture as the sole treatment of substance abuse. However, when acupuncture is used along or as an adjunctive therapy to complement existing methods of treating substance abuse there were possible benefits (Yoon-Hang, 2005).

However, acupuncture treatment was shown to be beneficial in suppressing alcohol withdrawal symptoms such as hypermotility, rigidity and tremors (Kim, 2005) along with other problems in general that individuals face when withdrawing from substances in general. This was shown to be the case in much of my reading.

The benefits to the substance abusers of acupuncture treatment  Most research I read on acupuncture and substance abuse agreed with former president of the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture (AAMA) who stated “There’s a significant body of research suggesting acupuncture could be useful as part of a comprehensive program for addiction. Dr. Williams also added that acupuncture is an integration into Western medicine as an enhancement rather than a replacement of current methods. “The use of acupuncture for addition is just another adjunct” (1997).

There are inconsistencies in the licensing requirements from state to state in the U.S. as far as the practice of acupuncture. In some states in the U.S., a person practicing acupuncture is required to have a Doctorate in Medicine.  Other states require state licensing or national board certification. In one of the article I listed in my references I remember reading that acupuncture was performed by massage therapists in at least one state. Whereas other areas, an Acupuncture Detoxification Specialist can perform the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association “auricular protocol in a supervised program” (Otto, 2003).

In most of the journal articles I read, the acupuncture treatment was acknowledged as being only a supplement to a substance abuser’s existing method of  treating substance abuse. One of the limitations may be seen is that by no means is acupuncture a sole means of treating substance abuse problems. Other limitations are that it has shown to work better for some substances than others (Knox, 2007).

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