NADA Acupuncture Protocol

What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a complementary medical practice that entails stimulating certain points on the body, most often with a needle penetrating the skin, to assist in treating various health conditions. First developed and utilized thousands of years ago, the traditional Chinese medicine technique of acupuncture is still employed in various locations around the world today to help people suffering from various chronic conditions such as back pain, headaches, and fibromyalgia. One type of acupuncture, which follows a very specific protocol, is currently being used to treat what has been declared one of the United States biggest health problems: addiction.

So exactly what kind of acupuncture is used for addiction?

Acupuncture is an alternative medicine modality that relies on stimulating various points on the body, most often with needles, to relieve pain or treat other physical, mental and emotional conditions. In the mid-1970s, Michael Smith, a medical doctor at Lincoln Hospital in the South Bronx area of New York, modified an existing system of acupuncture into a simple technique used for the treatment of many common drug addictions. This selection of ear points proved to be extremely effective in the treatment of addictions, and became what is now referred to as the “NADA (National Acupuncture Detoxification Association) protocol.” As outlined in this published article, the NADA Protocol is a specialized form of acupuncture and is performed by placing five thin, sterile, single-use needles in your ears. A State Licensed Acupuncture Detoxification Specialists (ADS) administer the treatments. Pathways Addiction Recovery utilized this protocol as an additional tool to assist in the recovery process.

What does acupuncture have to do with addiction?

Select addiction treatment and recovery centers have offered patients treatment plans that include a form of acupuncture suggested to help with stress and anxiety, trauma and addiction. Also referred to as auricular acupuncture, acudetox, the specific technique of the NADA Protocol involves inserting needles into the patient’s ear, which some claim can help ease the symptoms of withdrawal, anxiety or insomnia. In a typical session, both ears of the patient are needled at the same time, usually for between 30 minutes and 45 minutes. Those treated with the NADA protocol often report an improved sense of well-being, reporting that they feel “energized,” “lighter” and “more relaxed” after undergoing a session. This published review demonstrates the mounting evidence that the NADA protocol has positive effects on a host of measures, populations, and treatment modalities. It is striking that many of the studies reveal NADA’s effectiveness with populations often considered to be the most difficult to treat.

The NADA protocol, has been reported to have the potential to provide vast public health relief on issues currently challenging our world. As stated in this article, the benefits of the NADA Protocol includes but is not limited to the treatment of addiction, but also encompasses mental health, trauma, PTSD, chronic stress, and the symptoms associated with these conditions. Simple accessible tools, such as the NADA Protocol, that improve outcomes can make profound differences.

The National Acupuncture Detoxification Association, one of the main proponents of this approach, states, “people who undergo this type of treatment, as an adjunct within a comprehensive treatment program that offers other therapeutic elements including counseling, education, family involvement, mutual support group involvement, and supportive medical health care [experience benefits that include] a more optimistic and cooperative attitude toward the process of recovery, as well as reductions in cravings, anxiety, sleep disturbance and need for pharmaceuticals.”

Is auricular acupuncture a sufficient treatment for addiction?

Dozens of studies have documented the effectiveness of the NADA protocol. Among the benefits reported by patients and health care providers are: improved retention in drug treatment programs; more optimistic attitudes about detoxification and recovery; reductions in cravings and anxiety; fewer episodes of sleep disturbance; and reduced need for pharmaceuticals. While the NADA protocol is an important component of any detoxification program, it is by no means the only component. An individual’s behavior and attitude, along with the perceptions of the clinician delivering care, are also integral to successful treatment. Pathways Addiction Recovery utilizes the NADA protocol with other treatment modalities, such as medications, counseling, support groups and self-help programs, to increase the overall effectiveness of care; it is not utilized as a sole means of treating addiction.

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