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Acupuncture for Addiction


Addiction is a serious, chronic dependence on a chemical, drug, activity, or substance, even though it is damaging psychological and physical health. Symptoms of addiction often include declining physical health, irritation, fatigue, and an inability to cease using a substance or engaging in a behavior. Addiction can lead to behavior that strains relationships and inhibits daily activities. Ceasing to use the substance or engage in the behavior often leads to withdrawal symptoms, including anxiety, irritability, nausea, vomiting, and shaking.

Addiction treatment can be difficult, but it is effective. The best form of treatment depends on the substance and the presentation of the addiction, which varies from person to person. Treatment often involves counseling, medication, and community support.

Acupuncture can be used as a complementary treatment in addiction recovery programs. Acupuncture is both safe and cost-effective. When combined with other forms of treatment, it can benefit those suffering from a substance addiction.


Acupuncture for Addiction Recovery

Acupuncture can increase the body’s ability to process toxins accumulated from the substance use by improving circulation of Qi (the vital energy of the body) and Blood and enhancing the function of internal Zang Fu organs. Acupuncture also stimulates endorphin release, which is very effective in diminishing the withdrawal symptoms, such as irritability, nausea, vomiting, and shaking. Endorphins are the natural chemicals produced by the body which relieve pain and increase a sense of relaxation and contentment. When inserted into the body, acupuncture needles stimulate the nervous system to regulate the amount of natural endorphins in the body and help calm and relax the mind, enhance the ability to concentrate, and minimize anxiety.

Acupuncture is also believed to affect the dopaminergic system in the brain. Acupuncture decreases the amount of dopamine released when the substance is used. Without the surge of dopamine, the person’s feelings of pleasure and euphoria induced by dopamine are diminished, and he/she is less likely to be dependent on the use of substances.1


Benefits of Acupuncture in Addiction Recovery

  • Decrease cravings for substance
  • Reduce withdrawal symptoms
  • Decrease anxiety and stress
  • Help regulate emotions
  • Relieve tension and physical pain
  • Improve overall well-being


Acupuncture / Ear Acupuncture Procedure

Acupuncture treatment involves the insertion of fine, sterile, disposable needles into specific acupuncture points on the body. Usually a combination of body acupuncture points and ear acupuncture points (NADA protocol) are used to influence the internal organs and energetic pathways associated with substance abuse.


NADA Protocol

In 1974, the Lincoln Memorial Hospital in the South Bronx started the first outpatient clinic offering acupuncture detox program. In 1985, the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association (NADA) was established to promote education and training for this detox protocol.

NADA Protocol

NADA protocol involves insertion of acupuncture needles into 5 specific locations in the ear that stimulate the Lungs, the Liver, the Kidneys and the nervous system. These points proved to be extremely effective in easing withdrawal symptoms and reducing cravings.

The 5 ear points used in NADA protocol are:

  • Lung: improves lung function and alleviates feelings of grief.
  • Liver: removes toxins from the liver and blood, and curbs aggression.
  • Kidney: repairs the vital organs and eases fears.
  • Shen Men: decreases anxiety – also known as the “spirit gate.”
  • Sympathetic (Autonomic): promotes relaxation and soothing of the nervous system.

The acupuncture needles will be remained for 20-30 minutes. After removing the needles, small ear pellets or ear seeds made of a Chinese herb, Wang Bu Liu Xing (Semen Vaccariae), will be taped to the ear and remained in place for couple days to maintain the stimulation. Patients are advised to apply gentle pressure on the pellets to stimulate the acupuncture points on the ear when a craving hits.

Acupuncture treatment is painless, leaving most patients relaxed, with increased energy and mental focus. Treatment is often complemented by an herbal formula to promote relaxation and assist the body’s recovery from the harmful effects of the abused substance.


NOTE: The names of organs are capitalized when referring to the entire, functional organ systems in TCM perspective: Liver, Blood, etc. The names of organs are lower-cased when referring to the distinct, biomedical organs: liver, blood, etc.


Treatment Plan

The degree of addiction to substance, the length of period substance has been used, and the patient’s will-power will largely determine the number of treatments needed. Other important considerations include the individual unique constitution and the function of the Zang Fu organs responsible for detoxification, including the Lungs, the Liver, the Kidneys and the Spleen.

Generally, 4 to 6 acupuncture treatments during the first two weeks are recommended to help reduce the craving and initiate the detoxification process. Although some patients may notice improvement after 5 to 10 sessions of acupuncture treatment, most patients need more sessions to notice improvement.

Once the physiological and psychological dependence on the substance has been reduced, monthly follow-up treatments for 6 to 12 months are recommended to maintain the effects. If life stressors or complicating circumstances are in play, then additional treatments may be necessary to preserve the positive results.

Although acupuncture has great potential in aiding patients who are struggling with addiction, it should be understood that it is not a cure.To be truly successful in overcoming addiction, individuals should seek for additional mental health treatment, such as medically tapered detoxification, counseling, and community support.




Acupuncture Wellness Center offers a special package deal to maximize the effect of acupuncture treatment for substance addiction while decreasing the financial burden for patients.

This special deal provides a 30 minute treatment using NADA protocol for $20 per session. The patients will be treated ideally 2-3 times a week.

Advanced payment for weekly or monthly treatments is required to encourage the patients to receive regular and consistent treatments.

For more information, please contact us.

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