Make Ear Acupuncture a tool for addiction recovery

I’m advocating at the State House to change the laws of my profession, and I can use your help.

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Stand up. Speak up. It’s your turn.

Living in Manchester, I enjoy walking to work and around town. A few years ago, I started finding drug needles laying in the gutter. I even found a syringe on the sidewalk in front of my house. The opioid epidemic is staring me in the face and I feel compelled to contribute to the solution. I have volunteered my time at a sober living house and at a respite care facility in Manchester. Now I’m advocating at the New Hampshire State House to change the laws of my profession, and I can use your help.

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.

While acupuncture can be a great tool to fight the state’s opioid crisis, the problem is much larger than the pool of acupuncturists inclined to work in the recovery setting. So I’m calling for change in New Hampshire’s acupuncture laws. I want to put the tools of my trade into the hands of people working in addiction recovery and mental health. That is why I support House Bill 575 Relative to the Certification of Acupuncture Detoxification Specialists.

Recovery and mental health workers need every tool at their disposal. We can make Ear Acupuncture one of those tools, but current laws don’t allow them to learn and practice this simple protocol without an acupuncture license, which requires lengthy and costly schooling. HB 575 would allow these health professionals to train and certify as Acupuncture Detoxification Specialists.

Some 28-day rehab programs in New Hampshire already use Ear Acupuncture, but maybe only once a week. 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.

Elizabeth Ropp outside the NH State House doing her thing.

This treatment is cost effective, but only in the hands of people who are already working in recovery settings. Take for example California and Oregon – states that once had successful Ear Acupuncture programs at drug treatment facilities. Those programs got cut because of shrinking budgets and the high cost to employ acupuncturists – a problem easily solved if other employees in the facility could learn and practice Ear Acupuncture.

The specific Ear Acupuncture treatment in HB 575 is 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-three other states already have laws that allow this. New Hampshire is long overdue for this legislation.

The NADA protocol dates back to the 1970s when the South Bronxwas ravaged by heroin addiction and people wanted a non-addictive 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.

Here, in New Hampshire, we should make the practice of Ear Acupuncture available to those who work in addiction recovery and mental health. The best people to treat those in early stages of recovery are people who have been through recovery themselves. They know first-hand what it’s like to get clean and they are trained in trauma informed care – things they don’t teach you at expensive acupuncture schools.

HB 575 passed the House of Representatives on a voice vote and it was supported 5-0 by the Senate Committee. Sen. Sharon Carson, R-Londonderry, introduced an amendment on the Senate floor that effectively cripples the bill. 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 contact Senator Carson and ask her to drop the amendment for HB575. She will be reconciling the bill in a Committee of Conference with House Legislators. The date is still to be determined. She needs to know that her amendment was a mistake. New Hampshire is First-in-the-Nation for death by fentanyl overdose. This is a problem that touches all of us. We need to open up as many pathways to recovery as possible. We are all in this together, and together we can get through this.

Elizabeth Ropp is an “acupunk” at the Manchester Acupuncture Studio and a member of the People’s Organization of Community Acupuncture.Make Ear Acupuncture a tool for addiction recovery.