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Opioid Addiction: Natural Pain Relief Through Acupuncture

Acupuncture for Pain Relief by the U.S. Navy Cmdr. Yevsey Goldberg


This year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has revised its guidelines for prescribing opioid pain relief. In the US, opioid addiction has resulted in hundreds of thousands of people overdosing on prescription medication. The CDC has reported that deaths from prescription opioids quadrupled since 1999, resulting in 78 American deaths due to opioid overdose a day. The new guidelines from CDC seek to improve patient safety and address opioid misuse, which all too frequently leads to addiction and overdose-related deaths.

Responsibly reducing the distribution and administration of these potent and highly addictive medicines is one way to address the opioid addiction epidemic in our society. The problem, however, is that people who are most vulnerable to developing an addiction to prescription pain killers end up on that road because they are in pain. Revisions made to prescription guidelines may limit the potential for abuse or misuse, but the need for a different method of pain relief is absolutely necessary.

Acupuncture has been shown to be enormously effective for natural pain relief. This makes acupuncture an attractive alternative to opiate-based drug prescriptions, with no risk of addiction and other major adverse side effects such as those from opioids. The integration of acupuncture into treatment plans of those suffering from chronic or acute pain can significantly diminish the need for addictive medications, and ultimately promote a better quality of life.

A research study that was published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine looked at nearly 18,000 people who were treated with acupuncture for chronic pain. The results of 29 different Randomized Control Trials were analyzed, and the researchers concluded that acupuncture is in fact an effective treatment for chronic pain and is a viable treatment option across different pain conditions.

Acupuncture for natural pain relief is so effective that the US military has explored the use of acupuncture in the battlefield. Based upon the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating acute pain in soldiers and veterans, a $5.4 million dollar project was started in 2013 by the Department of Defense and Department of Veteran Affairs. The joint incentive fund, “Acupuncture Training Across Clinical Settings (ATACS)” was implemented to examine acupuncture’s impact on pain and reduction in opioid abuse.

Besides natural pain relief, acupuncture has been shown to effectively treat many different medical conditions. A comprehensive review published by the World Health Organization lists dozens of indications in which acupuncture is an effective method of treatment. Because acupuncture and Chinese medicine is a holistic system of medicine, the treatment of pain would include treating the whole body and the whole person. It is common for people under care with acupuncture and Chinese medicine to experience relief of symptoms related to other health concerns besides pain.

What about alternatives for those who may already be reliant on pain medication? In 2011, researchers conducted a study showing that acupuncture is effective in the treatment of opioid addiction. While they concluded that the lack of Randomized Control Trial studies means that work still needs to be done in order to concretize acupuncture’s efficacy for treating opiate addiction, the studies did prove that acupuncture is helpful in symptoms of withdrawal and caused relaxation in the patients.

The opioid addiction epidemic is widespread and devastating in its impact on communities across the United States. The Centers for Disease Control has recognized the need for raising awareness of the problem on all levels of healthcare and has responded with guidelines for injury prevention, encouraging providers to recommend nonpharmacologic therapies for pain. Acupuncture is an effective treatment method with little to no side effects that can provide natural pain relief, as well as helping to improve quality of life by reducing need for medication and increase relaxation.

If you have any questions about how acupuncture can help you or someone you love, please don’t hesitate to contact us at Evolve Health + Wellness, Chinese medicine and acupuncture clinic in NYC.