Why Acupuncture is an Important Tool in Recovery

Acupuncture is becoming a popular tool for treatment in addiction recovery programs. Acupuncture originated in China and involves inserting needles into the skin in specific locations. It is used as a compatible and alternative treatment for numerous physical and mental ailments, including drug and alcohol addiction.

Auricular or ear acupuncture is a proven form of this treatment that involves shallow insertion of a thin needle at various points on the skin of the external ear to help ease withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings.

Houston Rehab Centers acupuncturist inserts a thin needle into the person’s ear and targets 5 specific areas:

Lung Point: improves lung function and alleviates feelings of grief.

Liver Point: removes toxins from the liver and blood, and curbs aggression.

Kidney Point: repairs vital organs and eases fears.

Shen Men: decreases anxiety

The Autonomic (or Sympathetic) Point: promotes relaxation and soothing of the nervous system.

Acupuncture is based on the idea that the human body has meridians spread throughout it. When these are stimulated, they can increase the flow of Qi (life energy). Organ function is believed to improve when it becomes unobstructed. This can help to reduce cravings, increase patient retention in rehab, ease unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, ease physical pain, help the person regulate emotions, decrease anxiety and stress, and help regulate sleep.

Acupuncture is believed to affect the dopaminergic system in the brain. Drugs positively reinforce continued use by inducing feelings of pleasure and euphoria and negatively reinforce it by suppressing withdrawal symptoms, such as dysphoria. Acupuncture is believed to decrease the positive and negative reinforcements of addiction and therefore reduce drug use.

Acupuncture treatments are thought to reduce the positive reinforcement properties of drugs by decreasing the amount of dopamine released when the drug is used. Without the surge of dopamine, the person’s euphoric high is diminished, and he or she is less likely to use the drug in the future.

Conversely, it is believed that acupuncture treatments decrease the withdrawal properties of drugs, such as dysphoria and distress, that serve to negatively reinforce continued drug use (since a user might otherwise quell withdrawal with more of the abused drug), by inhibiting gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) neurons and increasing the release of dopamine. This flood of dopamine into the nucleus accumbens in the brain can improve mood and alleviate withdrawal symptoms.

Houston Rehab Center includes this holistic approach in treating the whole person by improving physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health.   We incorporate acupuncture into our treatment programs in combination with other recovery strategies, such as group counseling, meditation, nutritional counseling, exercise programs, and yoga.

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