After completing an effective addiction treatment programme, there are many ways acupuncture can bolster your long-term addiction recovery plan – as mounting research shows this ancient, low risk Chinese medical practice to have favourable effects on many of our body systems.


Acupuncture is one of the most well-known and widely used alternative medicines, and the benefits of acupuncture are far reaching. The 2,000 year old Chinese medicinal procedure has continued to gain popularity in the West since the early 1970’s and is used to help treat a wide variety of disorders, including addiction.

What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture therapy comes from traditional Chinese medicine and its practice has been used to heal ailments and promote wellness for more than 2,000 years. From the view point of traditional Chinese medicine, energy or qi (chi), flows through specific pathways in the body. Illness, pain, and disease are thought to be caused by a disruption or blockage to this flow of energy in the body. Acupuncture is the insertion of fine, sterile needles into the skin at specific anatomic sites, or acupuncture points, in order to bring the energy flow back into balance.

Modern medicine explains the benefits of acupuncture through neuroscience, and acupuncture points are seen by Western practitioners as places where stimulation of nerves, muscles, and connective tissue increases blood flow and triggers endorphins. Research has shown that acupuncture has noticeable effects on the nervous system, endocrine and immune system, cardiovascular system, and digestive system.

There are hundreds of clinical studies published about the benefits of acupuncture, and in 1997 the U.S. National Institute of Health (NIH) announced acupuncture’s safety for treating a wide range of conditions. However, scientists are still uncertain about exactly how acupuncture works, and there are practical research limitations that make it difficult to clearly document acupuncture’s role in patients’ improvements.

One of the benefits of acupuncture is that when performed by a trained and competent acupuncturist there are very few potential dangers and side effects. While research scientists are still trying to collect solid proof that acupuncture is beneficial, anecdotal reports consistently praise its use as a complementary therapy for many people, including those in addiction recovery.

The NADA 5-point Ear Acupuncture Protocol for Addiction Recovery

Acupuncture can be useful through all phases of addiction treatment, and there is a specific acupuncture treatment designed for treating addiction called the NADA (National Acupuncture Detoxification Association) protocol.

During the detox/withdrawal phase acupuncture can help reduce pain and combat cravings. It is also often used as a complementary therapy within alcohol and drug rehab as it has shown to help improve retention rates and support continued engagement in treatment. In addition, the benefits of acupuncture can be used as a tool to help maintain long-term addiction recovery.

The NADA 5-point treatment involves placing five needles into five points in each outer ear and leaving them for about 30 minutes. This can be done within small groups or individually and often takes place within an atmosphere targeted at further promoting a calm and meditative state during the treatment.

The five points targeted by this system are:

1. The autonomic point.

Calms the nervous system and aids relaxation.

2. The Shen Men “spirit gate” point.

Reduces anxiety and nervousness.

3. The kidney point.

Supports the healing of internal organs and calms fears.

4. The liver point.

Helps with detoxification, blood purification, and managing aggression.

5. The lung point.

Helps clients let go of grief and promotes air circulation. This is the most common combination of acupuncture points used on people suffering from addiction, specifically in the beginning phases of treatment or within an addiction treatment centre. However, the NADA 5-point protocol is only one of many potentially helpful acupuncture treatments, and an acupuncturist will work with the individual to determine which combination of acupuncture points will provide the best results depending on the situation. Therefore, acupuncture can provide multiple benefits to people long into their addiction recovery.

5 Benefits of Acupuncture for People in Addiction Recovery

Acupuncture is not a cure for addiction, but it can be one of many tools that people can make use of in their addiction recovery. The following five benefits of acupuncture make the therapy a useful inclusion in a holistic relapse prevention plan.

1. Reduces cravings.

Managing intense cravings is a challenging hurdle for many addicts, especially in the early stages of addiction recovery. Acupuncture, specifically the 5-point protocol described above, can be an effective alternative strategy to help reduce and manage drug and alcohol cravings.

2. Provides stress and anxiety relief.

Stress is one of the most common relapse triggers, and relapse prevention requires finding healthy ways to manage and relieve stress. Research suggests that acupuncture can be effective for providing stress and anxiety relief, and can be integrated as part of an overall stress management routine for people in addiction recovery.

3. Helps treat depression.

Evidence is also beginning to support acupuncture as an alternative medicine to treat depression. Depression and substance abuse disorders frequently co-occur, and should ideally be treated together. Managing underlying mental health disorders is an important aspect of maintaining long-term addiction recovery.

4. Helps manage chronic or acute pain without medications.

Unfortunately many people slip back into addiction after being prescribed strong pain medications. People recovering from any type of addiction need to be careful about taking addictive prescription medications, which makes finding safe and effective pain relief sometimes an issue. Acupuncture is actually most widely used and supported as an effective form of pain relief because of its ability to stimulate the body’s natural pain killers and can be a life-saver for those who do not want to take medications.

5. Improves sleep problems.

Taking care of the body by getting proper sleep is one of the cornerstones of relapse prevention. However, for many people sleep problems can threaten their addiction recovery. Clinical studies support the use of acupuncture to treat insomnia, again without the use of potentially addictive medications.

The benefits of acupuncture can be utilised to support a well-rounded addiction recovery. Of course like any form of treatment, acupuncture is not one size fits all. Finding a supportive and caring acupuncturist who listens to your needs is imperative in the effectiveness of its treatment. Many would agree that acupuncture is a low risk alternative therapy that could provide significant benefits to people in recovery when accompanied by a professional and effective addiction treatment programme.

If you or someone you care about is suffering with an addiction issue, call us and our caring clinical team will give you a free no-obligation assessment.

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