Can acupuncture help me with drug abuse

Q: I have been taking drugs for 20 years, and have been on and off the wagon during this time. The longest I was clean was 8 years, when my children were small, then my husband died 4 years ago, and I fell apart. I have been using on and off, first monthly then weekly, now almost every day, combined with at least half to a bottle of wine.
I have had acupuncture once at a rehab for outpatients which I felt had huge benefits but I didn't stick it out. I was very young then.
I really need help to change the pathway of my brain. I know I can do it. and I cannot leave my children to go away to a rehab. Will acupuncture help me?

A:  We are very sorry to hear of the problems which you have had, especially since your husband's death.

There is no doubt that many people have benefited from using acupuncture treatment to help them. Although there is some scepticism in medical circles, as our review paper (rather complicated, we're afraid) shows

http://www.acupuncture.org.uk/arrc/public-review-papers/substance-abuse-and-acupuncture-the-evidence-for-effectiveness.html

there has been a considerable amount of work done to see whether treatment can help with drug dependency, not least because understanding these mechanisms could help with pain relief in a wider setting.

The most obvious first port of call, if you have to juggle a number of factors in your life, is to one of the many thousand practitioners who offer ear acupuncture/auricular acupuncture as a way of beating the craving. There are three organisations who between them represent well over 10,000 practitioners using this form of treatment. They are:

NADA-UK  http://www.nadauk.com/

SMART UK http://www.smart-uk.com/

MACRWG  http://www.macrwg.org/

This may be the most effective way to get started with the focus primarily on getting the habit under control. Each of these groups has a very clear search facility and you should be able to find a group near you where you can get the help and support you need.

Of course, you will recognise more than most how many factors are involved in addiction, and it may well be that you could benefit from some form of counselling or therapy to address the patterns which take you back to drugs and alcohol. The groups we've mentioned all have access to or can point to people specialising in this type of work.

Many of our members treat people with addictions because one of the strengths of Chinese medicine is that it treats body, mind and spirit as one, thereby picking up problems at all levels in the way that someone functions. Not all of our members may be willing to take this on; it requires a certain amount of experience to deal with addiction and some newer graduates may feel that they are out of their depth. However, we have no doubt that you could well derive some benefit.

The best way to start, though, in our view, is to try some of the systems aimed specifically at substance abuse, and then progress from there as and when you're ready.

We wish you well.

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