The detox stage of addiction recovery is one of the most essential—a vital precursor to any forms of treatment that follow. This can be an intensely difficult process (for the person detoxing and the friends or family members helping them through the challenging period). Yet, the difficulty of this process can vary depending upon the individual and the details of their substance use disorder. While some patients can make it through detox with ease, others find this to be one of the most grueling and physically difficult stages of recovery.
Consequently, some individuals will need more support to get through detox than others. Some patients can benefit greatly from the use of temporary medications and other prescription treatments. Whenever possible, however, it’s best to support your detox with holistic treatments—one of those treatments is called acupuncture detoxification (also known as acudetox).
What Is Acudetox?
As the name “acupuncture detoxification” would imply, acudetox is a needling treatment developed specifically for individuals in recovery from drug or alcohol dependency. The treatment is believed to be a powerful method of stress relief, capable of instilling an easy sense of mental peace and calm into the patient.
The philosophy and methodology behind acudetox combine both modern medicine and ancient techniques—notably, the ancient technique of acupuncture.
At its core, acudetox is a relatively simple treatment; it involves a certified practitioner placing needles at points throughout the ear. Then, once the needles are all in place, the patient is allowed thirty to forty-five minutes of quiet relaxation time before the needles are removed.
Unlike many other supplementary treatments associated with detoxification and substance abuse treatment, acudetox has very few associated side effects. This means that it is a low-risk treatment option.
How Does Acudetox Work?
For those unfamiliar with traditional acupuncture, it might be unclear how acudetox could be an effective treatment. However, based on the research we have gathered so far, the current acudetox evidence looks extremely promising.
When the acudetox technique is used on humans, it can trigger numerous central nervous system responses. These responses can be sourced back to the anterior cingulate cortex, medial prefrontal cortex, hippocampus, hypothalamus, amygdala, basal ganglia, and cerebellum.
Several of these areas are associated with stress responses within the brain, supporting the treatment’s ability to reduce stress within the body and create an improved sense of calm for the patient.
Acupuncture’s effect on the central nervous system also seems to encourage the release of certain “feel good” chemicals within the brain, including dopamine and serotonin. One of the earliest studies performed relating to acudetox actually occurred in 1979.
Even these early findings seemed to be highly positive, with a detox program that was supported by acudetox treatments proving more effective than traditional treatments for heroin addiction. More precisely, those who utilized the acudetox augmented program found it easier to manage withdrawal symptoms. This is a major reason why acudetox treatments are so beneficial during the detoxification phase of rehab treatment.
The patients in this study who didn’t receive acudetox treatment were considerably more prone to using Valium as a way to deal with withdrawal-related pain. This isn’t ideal, as replacing one substance with another can potentially lead to new issues, should the patient become dependent upon the painkiller. However, the patients in this study who received acudetox were better able to manage withdrawals without the use of additional drugs or substances.
Who Should Use Acudetox?
Acudetox is specifically designed to treat individuals undergoing substance abuse recovery. Although it can be utilized by patients at any stage of recovery, it appears to be especially beneficial during the detoxification phase, given its ability to make withdrawals more manageable. However, all users of acudetox should keep in mind: While this is an effective supplementary treatment option, it isn’t a cure for addiction and shouldn’t be treated as such.
Nevertheless, acudetox can make addiction-related treatments more tolerable—this means that patients will be better motivated to push forward and continue with their recovery rather than give in to cravings and the desire to relapse. So, if you’re searching for a way to keep your treatment plan on track, then it is certainly worth it to bring acudetox into the picture.
Acudetox can help improve treatment outcomes, largely due to its ability to make withdrawals and other cravings more manageable. This effect can help patients to stay on track with their recovery, making the detoxification and recovery process more tolerable, both mentally and physically.
Simply put, acudetox is able to dull the experience of withdrawal symptoms and make them less painful. This is one of the greatest benefits of acupuncture treatments—their ability to help reduce pain. While the pain of withdrawals varies from patient to patient, in many cases, it will be an agonizing experience if supplementary treatments aren’t employed along the way. Pain reduction is one of the top ways to make this stage of recovery easier to get through without being drawn to relapse.
If you’re currently being treated for substance dependency, you’re likely searching for a new activity to give you that “good” feeling you’re now missing out on due to the absence of drugs or alcohol. This is a scenario in which incorporating acudetox into your treatment plan would make sense. Due to the calming effect of this supplementary treatment, it can be used as a healthy replacement for the easy-to-achieve, “good” feeling the patient would otherwise seek from drugs.
Further, since acudetox treatments have a strong tendency to calm and relax patients, this can impact their willingness to participate in counseling and therapy. Counseling is one of the core components of any successful rehabilitation program, although it is also an aspect that many individuals are initially resistant to. Early along in the rehab process, it isn’t uncommon for patients to struggle when it comes to actively participating in therapy and making the most out of their sessions.
A good deal of this resistance is the result of depression or anxiety. If the patient is feeling demotivated or too nervous to participate, then the whole of their treatment is going to be held back. With acudetox treatment, however, it is possible for much of this initial anxiety to be subdued or eliminated, making patients more willing to engage with therapy and counseling.
Acupuncture and the Ear
As was explained previously, acudetox is an acupuncture treatment that specifically targets points found on the ear. Once each of these trigger points is stimulated by needles, the patient will be on their way to experiencing both pain relief and relaxation. Are you interested in finding some of these acupuncture points on your own? Or maybe you wonder where the practitioner will actually be placing these needles during your treatment?
First, see if you can find the ovular dent toward the top of your ear. This is known as the “Shen Men” or “Spirit Gate” point, and you can activate it simply by applying gentle pressure. This is one of five total trigger points found throughout the ear, which will be activated during acudetox treatment.
Aside from the “Shen Men” point, your acupuncturist will also need to activate the “Liver,” “Kidney,” “Lung,” and “Sympathetic” points. For acudetox treatment to be at its most effective, each of these points will need to be stimulated simultaneously.
The History of Acudetox
As you might expect from a treatment that incorporates ancient medicine, the history of acudetox is robust. Acupuncture has been utilized for thousands of years as an important component of traditional Chinese medicine. Traditionally, the intent of acupuncture was to cultivate a sense of stillness and harmony in an individual. Acupuncture treatments have also been employed to relieve pain throughout the body, as well as treat various other ailments.
Acupuncture uses thin needles to activate different trigger points throughout the human body, with each point corresponding to a particular affliction or organ. Then, once these specific points have been stimulated, tradition states that this will help realign the flow of energy within a person’s body. This will then help to promote healing, both physically and emotionally.
Acudetox, in particular, was first developed in 1974. The treatment was created by a researcher named Dr. Michael Smith. Dr. Smith conceptualized this new treatment as a way to help treat drug and alcohol addiction through stimulating several traditional acupuncture points within the ear.
Maryland Recovery: Treating the Whole Person to Combat Addiction
To achieve lifelong sobriety, the treatment team at Maryland Recovery values holistic, whole-person approaches to recovery. One of the many ways we accomplish that goal is through offering acudetox treatment to our patients. Acudetox is a simple and effective way to reduce both stress and pain during addiction recovery, including throughout the strenuous detoxification phase. Through offering acudetox, we hope to continue improving treatment outcomes, giving our patients the resources they need to stay on track and succeed in their recovery.
Dr. Bhalavat is Board Certified in General Psychiatry and Addiction Medicine, and provides inpatient evaluation and consultation services at the University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Medical Center, University of Maryland Harford Memorial Hospital, Maryland Recovery Partners, and Citizens Care & Rehabilitation Center. Dr. Bhalavat’s background includes treatment of depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia spectrum disorders, bipolar disorder, substance abuse and dementia.