Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine for Drug Withdrawal

photo credit kphotographer (flickr)

Drug withdrawal can be one of the most difficult experiences a person can go through. Whether quitting cocaine, narcotics, cigarettes, alcohol, or foods, it can be a dark period filled with emotional and physical pain that makes it hard to see the light beaming from the end of the tunnel. Often people keep their addictions quiet to begin with and thus, go through the drug withdrawal process alone and unsupported. They may erroneously believe that the strength of their intention alone is the determinant of success.

Undoubtedly, in the initial stages of letting go of the addiction, will power is important. However, to ensure success one should also have the support of alternative healthcare professionals. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners have much to offer here. They can be a part of their client’s support team by providing acupuncture and Chinese herbs to ameliorate the physical symptoms of drug withdrawal, as well as offering suggestions and strategies to help avoid relapse. To round out the healthcare team, the client should consider having access to a good counselor and a support group of people who have struggled with the same addiction. Because those in support groups have had similar experiences, they can provide emotional, mental, and spiritual support in a way that friends and families may not be able to do.

The effectiveness of acupuncture in relieving the physical pains and cravings of drug withdrawal has been well-documented the world over. In China, acupuncture has long been used in opiate, cigarette, and alcohol addictions. In the USA and Europe, acupuncture has recently gained the attention of the media and the western medical communities through the widely successful treatment of crack cocaine withdrawal cravings. There are free clinics and organizations in major cities throughout the USA and Europe that offer treatments for drug withdrawl and addiction ranging from simple ear acupuncture to counseling services and support groups.

The National Acupuncture Detoxification Association offers training for healthcare professionals in how to use ear acupuncture to treat drug withdrawal symptoms. Many association members who are drug treatment counselors have noticed that when acupuncture is added to the treatment regimen, the success rate becomes much higher that with counseling alone.

After the individual moves through the initial phase of letting go, they might consider additional help to reinforce their new life direction. The Chinese medicine practitioner can give them tools that promote good health by providing lifestyle counseling, dietary counseling, and therapeutic movements such as Yoga, Tai Chi Chuan, and Qigong. These can help build a stronger foundation to resist the temptations to relapse. This type of personal empowerment has unlimited potential to not only help with this problem, but to also prevent problems from developing in other areas as well.

If you or a loved one is planning to let go of an addiction, consider a TCM practitioner as a part of well-rounded healthcare support team. They have much to offer throughout what can be difficult process by helping to support positive life changes.

Published – September 2002 The Healing Path magazine