Physio Logic’s Chiropractor and Licensed Acupuncurist, Dr. Allison Heffron, DC, L.Ac., Discusses the benefits of Acupuncture for helping to treat addictions, including smoking.
This article is meant to revolve around using acupuncture to quit smoking, however, the treatment involved is useful for any addiction. That’s right, any addiction. Smoking, heroin, food—or to assist with those suffering from addictive personalities. This isn’t to say that acupuncture is the cure-all for any of the aforementioned, but it is certainly an extremely useful addition to any and all therapies to help with addiction.
How Does It Work?
Normally, I like to explain how acupuncture works because it seems so mysterious to most people. In most cases it isn’t anything magical or outworldly, but rather a sensible way to treat the human body when looking at its most fundamental theory. It helps balance and harmonize the body to bring it to a stress-reduced state in order to optimize its function. Stress is not only what drives many diseases, but also what triggers us into adapting bad addictive habits.
The NADA Protocol
In a way, acupuncture specific to addiction has the same fundamental theory except its mechanism of action is much more difficult to explain. Acupuncture’s focus in addiction is mostly auricular acupuncture- aka ear acupuncture. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (or TCM) the ear is looked at as an upside down fetus and the points in it are based on structures in a fetus (i.e. the lung point is where the lungs would be in a fetus while upside down). There is no real understanding as to how auricular acupuncture works, but there is an extraordinary amount of outcome/anecdotal research that proves its success. The points used are based on the NADA (National Acupuncture Detoxification Association) protocol. It’s safe to say that NADA was the first to come up with a way to help aid in seizing addictions using acupuncture.
The protocol is actually quite simple in that the acupuncturist needles 5 different points in each ear: Shen Men (related to the heart), Sympathetic (nervous system, which I always discuss when explaining how acupuncture works), Kidney, Liver, and Lung. There is also a point around the wrist called Tim Mee that is used in addition to the ear points. Aside from the protocol the acupuncturist may use needling around the body just to help with the patient’s specific needs (gut restoration, headache relief, overall stress relief, etc). Again, balance in the body can only help with treatment.
Is Acupuncture All It Takes To Treat An Addiction?
Throughout my clinical experience I have seen this protocol work in amazing ways for my patients who want to quit addictive habits, mostly smoking and decreasing appetite. What I have found with my patients, is that it is most useful for those who truly WANT to quit whatever addictive habit they have formed. How many times have you seen a loved one or heard of someone who was an addict, went to rehab, and immediately relapsed? In many cases, those individuals did not actually want to quit. What is hard to understand for so many is that addiction is not something you can just shut off, but rather an issue with the chemical makeup of the brain. It is literally and almost beyond a “mind-over-matter” situation. People need to have a desire to quit for any type of therapy to work.
Although acupuncture is extremely powerful in its ability to aid in decreasing addiction, it is absolutely necessary to be mentally ready and desiring to quit.