When thinking about acupuncture for addiction, many acupuncturists recommend ear acupuncture as an essential part of treatment. It can be used for any kind of addiction, such as to food, smoking, alcohol, prescription or recreational drugs. So how is it different to normal body acupuncture?

Ear acupuncture works by stimulating the release of endorphins in the brain, which helps to combat cravings. If treatment is given on a regular basis, this helps to break the cycle of addiction. From a Chinese perspective, the surface of the ear is like a map of the whole body. Points on the ear correspond to different body parts, so by placing needles in the points that correspond to the organs most affected by addiction, treatment helps to detoxify those organs. Typically, the ones that are most affected are the liver, kidneys and lungs, hence the use of those points in the picture below. The other two points in the picture are used to help calm the body in crisis through its necessary period of withdrawal.

NADA ear acupuncture points

The NADA 5 point protocol points

Ear acupuncture is an example of a ‘micro-system’ of acupuncture. One fairly well known micro-system is Korean hand acupuncture, but possibly the best known micro-system is the non-needle based reflexology. The main difference between these micro-systems and whole body acupuncture is that the points in the micro-system usually map directly to the places that you are trying to treat. In whole body acupuncture, points are chosen based on more holistic considerations such as the balance of yin and yang in the various organs of the body, and generally do not have a one to one correspondence between points and areas to treat.

Clients in crisis often don’t wish to reveal a lot of information about themselves and their health conditions, and may be feeling emotionally withdrawn and inward-focused. A micro-system approach like ear acupuncture allows a basic treatment to be given without having to question somebody too deeply. Also, if people have suffered abuse and have issues removing clothing, or feel self-conscious exposing body parts that might have scars, then ear acupuncture is a good way to begin treatment and start the process of detoxifying and the road to recovery without having to address the deeper issues right away.

If patients do not have these more serious issues, then ear acupuncture can be used at the same time as body acupuncture. For example, if a patient is not in crisis and just wants to stop smoking then we would definitely recommend coming in for weekly body acupuncture to help clear the old stagnant energy that has built up over the years from smoking, and to help nourish and support the underlying core energy of the body. In this case, we would use ear acupuncture to manage the cravings as needed, either alongside the body acupuncture or in a separate shorter session. The physical cravings from stopping smoking are usually the worst for about three weeks so often treatment is most intense during this time frame. Once the cravings have subsided somewhat, treatment can be scaled back to once every two weeks and then later to once monthly.

Ear acupuncture is now employed in many drug services, prisons and mental health units all over the UK, as well as being used by many private acupuncturists for addictions of all kinds. Our practitioners are fully trained in the protocols of ear acupuncture for addiction and detoxification.

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014


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