Back in 2009, Yale’s Department of Psychiatry started offering training in ear acupuncture to all incoming fellows whose studies had an emphasis in addiction. Although the training was voluntary, every student took the course curious to see how complementary and alternative treatments can provide new ways to treat addicted patients.
Katurah Bryant, RN, LMFT, is head of the acupuncture training program. He says: “It’s not a cure for addiction, but it is one tool in the tool belt for recovery that we’re trying to get clients to establish for themselves.”
Ismene Petrakis, MD, director of the distinguished Yale Department of Psychiatry’s addiction training program, encourages all the students to read the research and watch the patient’s response to acupuncture and decide for themselves. She believes from her own examination of the research that auricular acupuncture is an effective treatment for addiction.
Petrakis says: “The best evidence is when it is used as an adjunctive treatment for opioid detoxification.”
One of Bryant’s patients has been receiving ear acupuncture for years to help him stay sober. He says: “It’s the best relaxation, anti-anxiety drug I’ve ever had. It’s better than a Valium or Lorazapam or anything from the past.”
This seems to be the overwhelming consensus from patients, according to those providing the auricular acupuncture. It takes a few seconds to put the needles into the five points on the ear known as the NADA protocol, then patients relax into a state Bryant calls “needle sleep.” Words heard frequently to describe the experience from patients are “contemplative,” “meditative” and “relaxing.” Often patients will become so peaceful that they will fall asleep with the needles in place.
This deep relaxation caused by acupuncture is not a mysterious effect but one that has been evidenced by scientists with MRI studies. A variety of research shows acupuncture’s ability to release endorphins in the brain and blood, which causes both a relaxing and analgesic effect. This can be superior to prescription drugs that provide these same results because it is an individual’s own innate chemicals doing the work with no negative side effects rather than a foreign substance that may cause other issues.
The Yale Department of Psychiatry is not using a new method of acupuncture addiction treatment. In fact, the same five points in the ear have been used for nearly 40 years to treat drug dependence. The Lincoln Recovery Center in the Bronx, NY was the first to develop and use the treatment on a wide scale. The center is still a mecca for addicts in recovery and they provide the NADA protocol training to a variety of practitioners in the addiction and recovery field.
If you or someone you love needs help with an addiction, contact us today. We have trained counselors who can discuss a variety of treatment options with you. Call now.