The National Acupuncture Detoxification Association (NADA) has a protocol known as “battlefield acupuncture,” a type of auricular acupuncture that is widely used to treat various addictions. The ear is a microcosm of the whole body, thus you can efficiently treat a multitude of syndromes from acupuncture points on the ear alone. The NADA protocol can be used for treating people with alcohol, drug, and smoking addictions, and can be modified for trauma as well.
Its history begins in the 1970s, when Dr. Wen, a neurosurgeon in Hong Kong, was working on a clinical trial for postsurgical pain. He discovered that providing electrical stimulation on the auricular point that corresponds to the lungs provided relief from opiate withdrawal symptoms. At that time, two detoxification centers, one in the Bronx and the other in San Francisco, learned of Dr. Wen’s results and were eager to test the procedure.
The trials were very different. In San Francisco, funding was attained and the patients were given private rooms where full-body acupuncture was utilized in conjunction with auricular acupuncture for detoxification. Funding in the Bronx was limited and thus did not allow for full-body acupuncture. Instead, it was determined that they had to simultaneously treat numerous patients in a group setting for methadone detoxification, so they utilized auricular acupuncture alone. The protocol was proven effective in both situations.
Interestingly enough, in addition to the acupuncture points themselves, the participants in the group settings also benefited from being amongst others who understood the tribulations and impact their addiction had on their lives. It was from here that the NADA auricular protocol first earned its popularity in working with addiction, as well as being utilized in the army and on the battlefield. There are currently over 800 NADA clinics in the U.S. alone.
In my practice, where I am fortunate to be able to provide care to patients in a private setting, I treat a multitude of symptoms and illnesses. I always speak to a new patient and review their current ailments before booking the patient for an initial treatment. I am direct and forthcoming about what their expectations should be. It is impossible for me to guarantee how quickly someone will have results, as no two individuals are alike. However, I can usually ascertain an approximation based upon other patients I have treated for similar circumstances. For example, if someone is suffering from sciatic back pain, I feel comfortable saying that they may have improvement after two treatments, with complete alleviation of symptoms expected after six to ten treatments.
When I am approached by a new patient who suffers from an addiction, it is quite different. I feel that I am the one conducting the interview. I do not take every patient who calls me for these types of protocols. The person has to want to stop. They have to be at the point in their lives that they want it badly, they welcome the change, understand the hard work that will ensue, and are seeking a method that will assist them.
I recently had a conversation with a potential new patient who was a chronic smoker. I explained the protocol and how he needed to be committed to the plan. I was about to book the patient’s first appointment when he said, “So I get to keep smoking until the last session, right?” I gently explained to the gentleman that I didn’t feel he was ready. He should think about if he really wanted this. When ready to quit and put in the hard work–hopefully in the near future–he should please contact me so I can help him on his journey. I wouldn’t book him at that juncture.
A close friend of mine approached me, asking for help to stop smoking. He had been smoking for over 20 years. Most recently he was up to two packs a day. The chronic cough, expectoration, and fatigue that he experienced were debilitating. He was unable to exercise or even walk up a flight of steps without losing his breath. He certainly didn’t enjoy the added expense of the cigarettes. He had tried to quit smoking numerous times over the years, including his own withdrawal attempts, hypnosis, over-the-counter patches, gum, etc. Some of his previous attempts had worked at temporarily subduing the nicotine craving. However, they left him angry and curt. His family and coworkers did not want to be around him when he was so irate and agitated. Thus he had not previously succeeded in sticking with it. When he approached me, he had already concluded that if he didn’t quit smoking, it would kill him and he wouldn’t be much good for his family.
I didn’t allow him into my practice right away. He needed to understand that this was something he wanted, that the onus or responsibility was not on me alone. That he needed to be ready to put in the hard work, despite daily family and work stress. I wanted to make sure that he would not succumb to sneaking a cigarette when a business deal fell through or a teenager was acting out, trying his patience. Because we have a lot of mutual friends, I was reluctant to try helping him with this. I remember saying, “You are going to make me look bad!”
We finally came to an agreement: We would book biweekly treatments for two to three weeks during which I would work on relieving his underlying stress and anxiety. If he did not miss his appointments, I would determine that he was committed and ready to begin. He showed up on time to every appointment and was feeling much calmer. So I agreed to start the protocol.
He has not had a cigarette from that first day. It has been about four months, but he knows the exact date he quit. He is proud he has made it through the challenges. It has not been easy. Life’s stresses get in the way. People with a challenge of addiction know how quickly you can regress into your old habits when things go awry. I am proud to have been able to help my friend. He knows and tells everyone how the acupuncture treatments changed him. The nicotine addiction was gone almost immediately. The anger management and frustration levels took more time, but with his commitment we got there. He also knows that if he ever starts smoking again he will ruin my reputation!
Acupuncture can help you with various addictions, including smoking, but it is a partnership. You have to be willing to go the extra mile and put in the hard work. Decide today if you are ready to commit to change your path for a healthier future. It is a journey I am happy to accompany you on.
Deborah Rothman is a licensed acupuncturist and a diplomate of acupuncture with a private practice in Woodmere. Comments and questions are welcome. She can be reached at 516-203-4500 or deborah@AcuZen.com. Please visit www.AcuZen.com and follow Acuâ€‘Zen on Facebook.