Addictions Acupuncture and You

By: Jenny Redding, Community Acupuncturist

Addictions, some are good and some are bad, whether good or bad the one commonality is that they can affect your life.  We all know someone who has one, we ourselves have one (or more), and sometimes we need help!  Addictions are never easy to deal with, but some can be less harming then others.  We live in a world of addictions; coffee, food, exercise, social media, alcohol, drugs, shoes and on and on.  Some may seem silly but they all fall under the same umbrella of ‘addictions.’  We deal with them consciously, sub consciously, physically or emotionally, happily or unhappily.  Sometimes it can be as easy as just sitting down and taking a couple of breaths before deciding on what the best option is or other times we need an outside source to help us out.  No matter how serious your addiction is acupuncture can help.  How? Really? No way!  Yes it can!

It all starts with endorphins, they are a morphine like substance originating from within the body.  They give us that ‘feel good’ feeling or that ‘runners high’ (a feeling of euphoria experienced by long-distance runners who have crossed the five-mile line).  We become invincible, faster, stronger, free of any restraints and the pain can just disappear.  A prime example of the natural release of endorphins is in child birth.   When the body senses stress and pain it produces the calming and pain-relieving effect.  The level of this natural opiate substance tends to rise toward the end of pregnancy.  In unmedicated labors, it continues to rise steadily and steeply through the birth of the baby.  High endorphin levels during labor and birth can produce an altered state of consciousness that can help you flow with the process, even if it is long and challenging. Despite the hard work of labor and birth, high endorphin levels can make you feel alert, attentive, and even euphoric after birth.

So, how can acupuncture help with addictions?   Research has shown that acupuncture can raise the level of endorphins in the nervous system. Resembling opiates in structure and function, endorphins are the body’s natural pain killers.  It seems that the cravings and withdrawal symptoms experienced by people giving up smoking or drugs can be alleviated by raising the level of endorphins in the nervous system. Some researchers also believe that the desire to eat is also mediated by the endorphin level in the brain, which would explain why acupuncture helps dieters to control their appetites.

What and or how can acupuncture do this?  The treatment we offer involves nourishing the yin.  Our bodies are both Yin and Yang , and when one is weaker the other takes over, therefore creating an imbalance with in the body.  The ideal body is one that is as close to balanced as possible.  We use some points on the outside of the ear and some on different spots throughout the body, depending on the addiction and length.  The treatments often have an amazingly calming effect on the mind and body, creating feelings of peace and well- being. Three of the five acupuncture points strengthen the liver, kidneys and lungs, which are the major organs of elimination. These organs have often grown weak in addicts because they have been subjected to the daily burden of eliminating an excess of toxins from the body.

If your addiction is to hard drugs or alcohol we advise daily treatments until your body is clean/detoxified.  We then cut the treatments down to a couple of times a week for a while and then down to a maintenance only plan.  To insure long-term abstinence, both groups are encouraged to seek counseling and participate in a support group.

If you are a smoker you are in a different category because nicotine is a much milder drug. It does not produce the dramatic effects of hard drugs, though it is probably just as addictive in a more insidious way. Smokers do not generally need daily treatments and can usually kick the habit in a shorter period of time. After one or two treatments, the craving for nicotine is usually sharply reduced. After four or five treatments spread over a two-week period, seven out of ten patients will have managed to quit. Others will have drastically cut down on the number of cigarettes smoked daily.  Smokers need not come in daily, so after each treatment, small pellets or press tacks are taped over these points, and the patient is sent home with instructions to press on them frequently. This pressure creates a mini-stimulus which helps to keep the endorphin level high.

As you can see the height of the endorphins in the body is key to recovery in any addiction.  We want to feel good all the time and acupuncture can do that for you.  If the body can flow in the proper dire