Addictions present themselves in a variety of ways. For one person, a glass of wine with dinner is the perfect amount, while another person might not be able to stop until the entire bottle is finished. For some, inhaling tobacco is torturous on the lungs, in contrast to others who find an insatiable pleasure and satisfaction from smoking cigarettes. Fortunately, acupuncture and Oriental medicine is not only able to address the symptoms associated with addictions, but helps mitigate the psychological imbalances that have caused dependence in the first place.
An addiction to certain substances, such as heroin, cigarettes, or pharmaceutical drugs, often creates an excess of heat in the body, according to the theory of acupuncture and Oriental medicine. For example, a heroin-addicted patient diagnosed with an excess heat condition affecting the heart, may show signs of mood swings, insomnia, or have a red tip of the tongue. If these symptoms worsen and the patient experiences irrational behavior, tongue ulcers, or feelings of extreme heat in the body, the diagnosis would be called heart fire.
In this case, a practitioner of acupuncture and Oriental medicine would insert needles at acupuncture points that focus on releasing heat or draining the fire. Eliminating pathological heat from the body will also benefit the mind, allowing it to 'cool down,' thereby helping to bring about much needed emotional and mental balance.
To help promote a full recovery and prevent recidivism (a return to the addictive behavior), the fundamental craving must be rooted out. Addictions indicate that a person's shen, or spirit, is disturbed, as espoused by the theory of acupuncture and Oriental medicine. It is easy to recognize a person with a balanced shen, because the eyes will shine with vitality, and one can perform well under stress and possess the ability to maintain healthy, loving relationships. The shen resides in the heart and is prone to being harassed by heat.
When this 'harassment' occurs, the internal state of a person can degrade into negative feelings such as vulnerability, stress, or fear. Imagination and creativity may falter, as the personality succumbs to the demands of addiction. However, with the proper treatment, a practitioner of acupuncture and Oriental medicine can help revive the shen so the patient may recover the willpower needed to overcome the addiction.
A very promising study called the "Controlled Trial of Acupuncture for Severe Recidivist Alcoholism", published in the UK medical journal, The Lancet, Volume 333, revealed the potential for acupuncture as a tool to help those suffering from alcoholism. Eighty patients were divided into two groups--the treatment group received the appropriate acupuncture treatments and the control group received sham acupuncture. Sham acupuncture means the acupuncture points selected were not specific to treating their condition. At the end of the study, only 1 out of the 40 control group patients completed it, while 21 out of the 40 treatment group patients did. After a six-month follow-up, it was found that patients from the control group had over two times as many drinking incidents and visits to rehabilitation centers than did the patients from the treatment group. These results show a significant advantage for those using acupuncture to battle severe recidivist alcoholism.
Another advantage to utilizing acupuncture and Oriental medicine for addictions is the lack of stigma attached to the diagnosis. As in the case of a patient using heroin, the problem may simply be called heart fire, as there is no word for addiction in the Chinese medicine lexicon. This may prove to be a psychological advantage for the patient.
Sometimes even ordinary, healthy activities such as working, shopping, sexual intercourse, or eating can turn a dark corner and become compulsive behaviors, which may indicate an addiction. If you suffer from a dependence on a physical substance or suspect your behavior towards certain activities is obsessive and compulsive, contact your health care provider for a full evaluation.
Mental health issues are best managed when health professionals work together to meet the unique needs of each individual. Acupuncture and Oriental medicine are an excellent addition to any treatment plan as they are used to help the body restore balance, treating the root of the disorder, while also diminishing symptoms.
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About the Author: Vanessa Vogel Batt, L.Ac., MSTOM, studied at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, and practiced acupuncture and Oriental medicine in New York for several years. Vanessa enjoys traveling the world, and has published articles on acupuncture and Oriental medicine and related health topics for websites and publications in both the U.S. and abroad.