Opioid Crisis: How Acupuncture Can Help

Addiction is a heavy word. Those who struggle with it, often have a really hard time saying the word. This is better known as denial and it's very real. Only until someone realizes they have a problem, and they seek treatment, do they finally admit " I have a problem". The opioid crisis is at an all time high and it's reached the most unsuspecting victims. These are not your traditional, stereo-typical, strung-out drug addict. These are every day people, teachers, priests, judges, police officers, nurses and even doctors fall victim to addiction. Many of whom had a legitimate surgeries, which genuinely needed pain killer medication (opioids) to recover at home. Unfortunately, the pain killers that were legally prescribed for a short term healing process bleeds into a chronic misuse or addiction of the drug for self medicating anxiety, depression, insomnia or it's just a blatant addiction. The brain needs more and can't willingly wean itself off the medication.

Acupuncture is the most effective, non-drug, option we have. So why isn't everyone getting it? Some suspect it's because large organizations cannot figure out how to profit from it. Many won't refer out for something that doesn't bring in money for them or their organization personally. Doctors and nurses are under-educated when it comes to acupuncture. They just aren't being taught. Patients who have become dependent on opiod medications are often just cut off from receiving the prescription. They are not given a proper referral or even a suggestion to go get acupuncture.

Some prestigious medical institutions are utilizing acupuncture to help patients de-stress. Many don't understand why acupuncture works, they just know it does, so they keep suggesting it. As an Acupuncture expert I know exactly how it works and it's pretty straight forward. I will attach several articles in this post for your reading pleasure. Some are scientific in nature showing that acupuncture actually access parts of our brain to reduce cravings. Cravings are at the heart of the problem. If there is no craving, then the patient has a chance to stop. Other studies prove that acupuncture dumps natural, non-addictive, endorphins and enkephalins into the body alleviating pain and thus eliminating the need for the dangerous medication.

The next few paragraphs explain endorphins and enkephalins from www.Encyclopedia.com:


Medical Discoveries

COPYRIGHT 1997 Thomson Gale

Endorphin and enkephalin

Endorphin and enkephalin are the body's natural painkillers. When a person is injured, pain impulses travel up the spinal cord to the brain. The brain then releases endorphins and enkephalins. Enkephalins block pain signals in the spinal cord. Endorphins are thought to block pain principally at the brain stem. Both are morphine-like substances whose functions are similar to those of opium-based drugs.

Today, the word "endorphin" is used generically to describe both groups of painkillers. These naturally occurring opiates include enkephalins (methionine and leucine), endorphins (alpha, beta, gamma, and delta) and a growing number of synthetic (artificial) compounds.


In the mid-1960s scientists proposed theories that the opiate narcotics (opium, heroin, morphine) mimic the actions of naturally occurring chemicals within the brain. They believed that these narcotics act as painkillers by manipulating the brain's receivers for those naturally occurring substances.

In the late 1970s researchers learned that there are specific areas in the brain that control pain. It is those areas that opiates attach themselves to in order to perform their functions. It was only then that researchers were able to identify the two naturally occurring pain killers, endorphins and enkephalins. This offered opportunities for developing drugs similar in structure to the natural pain-killing substances.*

The psychiatry department at Yale recommends acupuncture for addiction recovery: https://medicine.yale.edu/psychiatry/newsandevents/cmhcacupuncture.aspx

Acupuncture analgesia: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18711761

Acupuncture and Endorphins a compelling reason to use acupuncture when opioid medications are no longer an options: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15135942

If you read one article about opioid addiction and it's solutions, this is the one to ready. A comprehensive review and treatment solutions for the opioid epidemic written by a writer for my alma mater, Pacific College of Oriental Medicine: https://www.pacificcollege.edu/news/blog/2018/02/06/acupunctures-impact-opioid-addictions-and-pain-management. This article is thorough, backed by studies and has real options for doctors to refer out and patients to ease their suffering.

Acupuncture has been proven to address pain of any nature, curb cravings, insomnia, anxiety, depression, neuropathy, post-operative pain, sports injury pain, work injury pain, headache pain, menstrual pain and even pain from cancer.

Love evidence? Need proof it works. Here's a great article showing lots of proof of how acupuncture works, particularly the NADA protocol, which is only one tool we use to help resolve addiction, pain and get patients off opioid medication. https://acudetox.com/phocadownload/Research_Summary_2013%20(2).pdf

The best way to find an acupuncturist who can help you or your patients get off pain medication or help with any addiction be it prescription medication, food, alcohol or sugar? Google acupuncture near your city. Read their reviews on google and facebook. Read their website. Here is my website to give you an idea of what a comprehensive and experienced acupuncturist may include: real names and photos on their testimonials, articles written, and share where they studied. Choose an Acupuncturist who is "Licensed" or has the credentials "L.Ac." as they have the most comprehensive training usually around 4 years of graduate school. Certified Acupuncturists or C.Ac. are obtained by Chiropractors, Naturopaths, and M.D.'s but are not nearly as experienced as "L.Ac." and typically only have a few weekend courses in acupuncture.

The Author: Kristen Burris, L.Ac, M.S.T.O.M. has treated tens of thousands of patients over 20 years at her alma mater Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, in her private practice, at San Diego Hospice, UCSD Dental Analgesia and Acupuncture Clinic, and UCSD Free Medical Clinic in San Diego, California

*"Endorphin and Enkephalin." Medical Discoveries. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 Aug. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

Colin Eggleston