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Morningside Recovery's A.S. Giltinan on Treating Addiction with Acupuncture

By: Acufinder Editorial Staff

Along with other holistic treatments, acupuncture is growing in popularity as a method to help in addiction recovery. Acupuncture for addiction often focuses on helping people cope with side effects of detox and other symptoms associated with addiction, like cravings, restlessness, irritability, and anxiety. A.S. ‘Sandy’ Giltinan L.Ac., an acupuncture therapist at Morningside Recovery and in private practice, discussed treating addiction with acupuncture with, reviewing acupuncture basics, how acupuncture helps those in recovery, and more.

How does acupuncture work, and how does it help treat addiction?
ASG: Acupuncture works by inserting acupuncture needles into the channels (meridians) through which the body’s qi energy flows. By selecting appropriate points to a patients’ specific condition the acupuncturist can facilitate the balanced flow of qi throughout the body and affected meridian thus promoting healing and wellness.

Can acupuncture be used to treat addiction exclusively, or should it be used in conjunction with other treatments?

ASG: When used during addiction recovery, acupuncture can work cooperatively with a variety of other treatments and therapies. A key element to addiction recovery is determining the right combination of therapies to best help the individual.

Can acupuncture be helpful during detox, or should all addictive substances be cleansed from the system before acupuncture treatments begin?
ASG: Acupuncture therapy is an excellent addition to the process of detoxification. Acupuncture is often incorporated in initial detox and continues throughout a patients clinical and outpatient treatment.

Walk us through what a typical acupuncture treatment session is like. How long is each session?
ASG: In our setting at Morningside Recovery we incorporate a group acupuncture model. Patients are treated in group, seated in a quiet room. Breathing meditation starts our session followed by acupuncture treatment incorporating a well established Auricular (ear) acupuncture protocol known as 5NP. This protocol has been incorporated in recovery programs for 30 years. As time permits additional points may be used to address individual concerns, for example insomnia, musculoskeletal pain and headaches. Needles are left in for thirty minutes.

How many needles are typically placed? What is the environment like?
ASG: Ten to twelve needles are typically used. The group treatment is carried out in a quiet room.

What are people’s biggest fears or hesitations about acupuncture, and how do you help them overcome them?
ASG: The biggest concern is “Does it hurt?” While patients may feel the initial needle insertion the discomfort is minimal and most often a result of the patients anticipation. Most find the therapy to be quite relaxing and some will fall asleep. The needle insertion sites are prepped according to clean needle technique standards; one-time-use, sterilized needles are used exclusively and disposed of in sharps containers.

If used as part of a recovery center rehabilitation, do most patients continue acupuncture treatments after completing their treatment? Are ongoing treatments necessary for maintaining sobriety?
ASG: I have seen many recovery patients in my private practice during and after completion of their intensive programs. Acupuncture is an excellent support of not only sobriety but health and wellness also.

What other information do you feel is important for people to know about treating addiction with acupuncture?
ASG: Although the results can be surprisingly powerful, even seeming magical to some patients, acupuncture isn’t a trick—it’s a useful tool to support a person’s recovery journey and sobriety.


Morningside Recovery is a world-class treatment center dedicated to providing the highest quality of care to those suffering from mental illness, chemical dependency, or co-occurring disorders. For more information about how acupuncture is incorporated into Morningside Recovery's addiction recovery program visit!


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