by P F Louis
In 1972, a Hong Kong neurosurgeon, Dr. H. L. Wen, discovered that the acupuncture he used on a surgical patient for analgesic purposes also diminished the patient’s opium withdrawal and cravings. Dr. Wen was using auricular or ear acupuncture, where needle points are routinely used for diminishing pain throughout the rest of the body.
Dr. Wen experimented with auricular acupuncture on different addicts, and discovered a high rate of recovery for addictions of all types. By 1974, this treatment was used by the addiction recovery and detoxification clinic of New York’s South Bronx Lincoln Memorial Hospital. It was used as an adjunct for methadone treatments.
Methadone was eventually dropped. The acupuncture treatments were so effective that dropping the substituted addiction of methadone for heroin was a no-brainer. Since then, drug addiction recovery and detoxification clinics using auricular acupuncture have been established in several U.S. Cities.
The clinics are often publicly funded, but not from Medicare or Medicaid. The FDA ruled that acupuncture was “experimental.” This ruling effectively restricted medical competition by banning government insurance and discouraging private insurers from providing coverage.
Acupuncture basics in a nutshell
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is based on the Nei Ching, The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine, which is estimated to be at least 2,500 years old despite the FDA’s “experimental” ruling.
TCM has five branches: Acupuncture/acupressure, a large mostly herbal pharmacopeia, dietetics, and energetics practices such as Qigong, Tuina massage, and a unique mind/body psychology.
The philosophical basis of TCM centers around the awareness that Qi (chi) or electrical vital energy flows through the body via 12 meridians. Approximately 100 major points have been mapped along these channels. Chi (Qi) is a specialized form of electrical energy possessing innate intelligence, similar to the forces of nature.
The 12 energy channels are located in the subtle or energetic body, which serves as the energetic blueprint for the physical body. When the Qi is ample and flowing smoothly through the meridians, Chinese medicine considers this ideal state to be one of organic balance or harmony, or what western medicine considers optimum health.
Conversely, when the Qi is obstructed, disease will manifest first in the subtle body and eventually into the physical body. Thus disease is seen as a state of disharmony, where the body’s innate energetic intelligence is blocked and unable to function optimally. The strategically placed needles stimulate chi energies to unblock them or regulate their flows.
Auricular (ear) acupuncture is a subset of acupuncture. Ear acupuncture is based on the understanding that the macrocosm of the full body’s meridians is represented in the microcosm of the ear. The ear or the feet and hands contain mini-maps of the 12 meridian energetic system for the entire body.
Basic auricular (ear) protocols for addictions
Normally, acupuncture sessions’ needle points are determined from session to session. But the addiction recovery protocol is set in stone and never varies. There are two basic auricular acupuncture protocols used for all addictions, thus allowing non TCM doctors to administer them.
One is the National Acupuncture Detoxification Assocation (NADA) treatment protocol. The NADA protocol uses five needle points in the ear: Lung 2, liver, C. kidney, shen men (stress, anxiety, overly sensitive), and the autonomic point for balancing sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems and blood circulation.
The other standard protocol is the American College of Addictionology and Compulsive Disorders (ACACD) treatment protocol. Three points are the same as NADA’s: Shen men, autonomic point, and C. Kidney. But ACACD uses three other points: Limbic system for aggressive compulsive behavior, brain for endocrine glands, and point zero for homeostatic balance.
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