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on acupuncture and addiction


There’s a bit of a back-story to this post.  In an effort to make acupuncture available to folks in recovery from addiction, I’ve been talking to people on our local Opioid Task Force, to people at the jail to see about providing treatment to men who are addicted when they’re arrested, and I’ve been trying to hook up with the new detox/rehab facility that will be opening in our town.  I’ve slowly – and persistently – been trying to spread the word that adding acupuncture to detox and rehab will increase ‘positive outcomes’ – which is to say it increases the successful recovery from addictions, any kind.

Acupuncture detox has been used in the US for over 35 years.  There’s a simple protocol that was developed in Lincoln Hospital in the South Bronx by Dr. Michael O. Smith, that, when used with more conventional therapies, can improve the chances of successfully recovering from addiction by as much as 50% – if acupuncture is available every day for at least 3 months.  Ideally, once such a program is set up, it should just always be available for those who need it for as long as necessary.

I feel strongly that such a program needs to be available at the site where other interventions are being provided.  It’s just easier for people to go to a facility for counseling, say, and stay for an extra hour to have acupuncture with other people experiencing the same challenges.   If acupuncture is only available off-site, you’ve just created another barrier to success.  I’m afraid, though, that that is what is going to be suggested, and it was while I was trying to pull together my arguments to counter that idea that I had an epiphany of sorts:

You can’t expect the mind to overcome what the body has already hijacked.

  Similarly, you can’t expect the body to overcome what the mind has hijacked.

If the body’s needs overwhelm the mind’s ability for rational decision-making, we cannot expect people to do what is good for them, even if they recognize the action as important and valuable.

Never mind that additional travel and transportation to another facility may be beyond reach or even just simply another complication in an overwhelming situation.  Never mind that trying something new in another new place may be the one step that’s just too hard to take (among all the other hard steps already being taken).  It doesn’t matter if the mind knows this will be helpful.  If the body is screaming for relief from craving that drink or that shot of heroin or that pain med, or from the pain that led to use of that med, the mind is going to be focused on relieving that pain now.  It has been hijacked by a tortured body.

And the body cannot recover if the mind believes it is in a permanent state of dis-ease.   This is a split in awareness of self that gets in the way of getting better.

The mind and body are never split, really, though we humans are masters at letting one or the other think it controls all.  Acupuncture treatments are based on this knowing, and every single treatment works on all levels at once.  Even as it relieves the edginess, the cravings of withdrawal, it soothes and strengthens the mind and spirit so that the whole person can meet this challenge and heal.

That’s what I want all these good people and organizations that are mobilizing to know: offering acupuncture will help immeasurably, so make it easy to access and offer it often.

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PS  I think this also explains why people say ‘I want to be healthy, but I don’t want to give up my Diet Coke’, or why we say ‘I really should come in for acupuncture soon’ and don’t do it.  Think about it.  I sure will be.


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