Ear acupuncture for addiction treatment: Now that we have legislation, we need your help

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Courtesy/National Acupuncture Detoxification Association

In the last year,  I have volunteered my time at a sober living house, a respite care facility, and a recovery community center in Manchester. Throughout 2017, I organized a grassroots effort to advocate at the New Hampshire State House to change the laws of my profession.  I am an acupuncturist.  I stick tiny needles in people to help them feel better.  That might sound strange, but it works.  Ear Acupuncture can be a safe, cheap, and effective tool to help people in all stages of addiction recovery.  It can help soothe the symptoms of withdrawal, reduce cravings, and ease anxiety or trauma that can lead people to use drugs in the first place.  

Many people, from a wide variety of backgrounds, testified with me at hearings and submitted letters of testimony. I am pleased to say that our effort has paid off.  I am proud that HB 575 passed the House and the Senate with unanimous support from our legislators.

But passing a bill to expand treatment options for addiction and mental health is just one step.  Making sure that the new law reaches its fullest potential is the next step.  That is where you come in.

The new law makes available a specific procedure called the “NADA Ear Acupuncture Protocol.”  The protocol is a simple procedure that involves placing five tiny needles in specific points around the outer ear.  NADA, or The National Acupuncture Detoxification Association, has trained more than 10,000 health professionals across the country in this practice.  Twenty-five other states already have laws that allow this.  New Hampshire is long overdue for this legislation.

I have seen for myself what ear acupuncture can do for someone who is struggling with the symptoms of acute withdrawal. Making Ear Acupuncture accessible is a complete game changer in recovery process.  Imagine if this treatment were available to anyone in our state who has felt the effects of addiction or trauma. With the passage of this bill, it can be. Now that the law is on the books, I hope you will join me in spreading the word about it.

Recovery and mental health workers need every tool at their disposal. Some 28-day rehab programs in New Hampshire already use acupuncture, but maybe only once a week and only for a limited number of people.  For Ear Acupuncture to be most effective, a person in early recovery should get the treatment every day until they test drug-free for 7-10 days. A person, thereafter, should continue treatment as needed to prevent relapse.  This tool will work best if it is as accessible as possible. We need this treatment available in Safe Stations, respite care centers, 28 day rehabs, recovery community centers, home visitation programs, sober living houses, jails and prisons, recovery meetings, and peer support programs.

This treatment is cost-effective, but only in the hands of people who are already working in recovery settings. Now that the law has passed, each recovery and mental health program can have their staffed trained through the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association. But even better, each recovery and mental health program can have their staff become the trainers of Ear Acupuncture for future staff members. This will only work if the recovery community is willing to embrace this new law and utilize it to it’s fullest potential.  

The NADA protocol dates back to the 1970s, when heroin addiction ravaged the South Bronx. People who were struggling with addiction wanted an alternative to methadone.  In New York, after 9-11, and in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, volunteers, trained by NADA, gave ear acupuncture to first responders and disaster relief workers to help cope with the devastation that surrounded them.  In the coming weeks, there will be pop-up clinics in hurricane devastated parts of Texas and Florida offering ear acupuncture. This tool is useful to help people integrate the crisis they have just endured and be able to rebuild themselves and the community around them.  

If you are personally affected by the opioid crisis or if you can speak to the benefits of acupuncture, then I need your help. Please share this information with anyone that you know who works in the recovery and mental health field.  We are currently in a state of emergency, but now, there is more hope than ever.  We are in this together, and together we can get through this.

To learn more about Ear Acupuncture, please go to www.acudetox.com.  The National Acupuncture Detoxification Association will be hosting a two-day conference in Manchester on November 4 and 5.  We hope more people from New Hampshire’s recovery and mental health communities can join us.

Elizabeth Ropp is an “acupunk” based in Manchester.  She works at Manchester Acupuncture Studio and is an active member of the People’s Organization of Community Acupuncture

About this Author

Elizabeth Ropp

Elizabeth Ropp lives in Manchester with her husband Eric and their two cats. She practices Community Acupuncture, drinks a lot of coffee and tries to make a difference.