Acupuncture — A Solution for Opioid Addiction

There’s an opioid and heroin epidemic sweeping across the nation. It’s claimed too many lives in both urban and rural communities. It can strike alarmingly close to your home.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports over 28,000 overdose-related deaths in 2014. Half or more of these are due to prescription opioids.

There’s never been an epidemic like this before in America.

To address this epidemic and put a stop to the tragic loss of life, organizations ranging from government departments to privately owned hospitals are seeking ways to reduce the use of prescription pain medications and help people recover from drug addiction.

At Aurora Health Care, we’ve taken a number of steps to educate our physicians, our caregivers and our patients about the dangers of prescription painkillers. We’ve also implemented a number of programs or initiatives to help people in need.

  • Developed comprehensive guidelines for prescribing narcotic pain medicines — More than two years ago, Aurora implemented pain medication procedures. We also provide pain management training to our 2,000+ physicians across eastern Wisconsin and northern Illinois.
  • Implemented mandatory policies — The rules outline how physicians should treat patients who are showing signs of addiction to narcotic pain medications.
  • Initiated training for internal medicine and family practice physicians — Our comprehensive program for effective pain management emphasizes non-narcotic treatment.

To help curb the opioid epidemic, we’re also working to identify and put alternative pain management methods into action.

Acupuncture Can Save Lives

Acupuncture shows great promise as an effective tool to manage pain — helping break the addiction cycle and stop the opioid abuse epidemic.

With a proven track record in pain management dating back thousands of years, and the recent acceptance in U.S. military pain-management programs, acupuncture is a therapy that we know is safe and it works.

At its core acupuncture increases circulation, decreases inflammation and increases the release of hormones that help a person feel good, reduce stress and control pain. In addition to these benefits, acupuncture also has a powerful effect on the addiction centers of the brain. Acupuncture can be used to wean a patient off opioids, control urges and ease withdrawal symptoms. These attributes make acupuncture a powerful tool in the recovery process. The combination of benefits puts acupuncture on the front lines in the fight against this devastating epidemic.

How Does Acupuncture Work?

Acupuncture works by sending messages from certain parts of the body like the arms, legs and core through the nervous system to the brain. During a session, patients experience a deep sense of relaxation and their body breaks the pain-inflammation-pain cycle, allowing it to begin healing.

The efficacy of acupuncture is now widely acknowledged and accepted by medical professionals at organizations such as Aurora Health Care. The National Institutes of Health and the World Health Organization recognize acupuncture as a viable therapy to reduce and manage pain.

The number of licensed acupuncturists continues to rise making this therapy more accessible than ever before. Currently there are 12,000 licensed or certified acupuncturists in practice in the U.S. This year the Bureau of Health Statistics formally recognized acupuncture as a profession, which is a direct reflection of how the field is growing.

Currently 43 states regulate acupuncture. Requirements for practice vary by state. The National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) is the regulating board that provides national certification. If you plan to use acupuncture to help manage pain or prevent or reduce opioid use, you can verify your practitioner’s credentials and education by checking with the state you live in and the NCCAOM.

Acupuncturists work in a variety of facilities including private practice, physical therapy and chiropractic offices and hospitals. Visit with your health care provider about how acupuncture might help you manage pain.

 If you have questions about use of pain medications by someone you care about or yourself, it’s vital that you discuss your concerns with your health care provider or a behavioral health professional.

Meet the Author

Heather Henry Peterman, CAc., Dipl.Ac is a Wisconsin certified and nationally board certified acupuncturist at Aurora Sinai Medical Center in Milwaukee and Kenosha Cancer Center.

Read more posts from this author

The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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