Addiction is rampant in our society. There are a host of addictions and new ones arising all the time: alcoholism, cocaine, over-the-counter pharmaceuticals, pain medication, eating disorders, gambling obsessions, compulsive spending, cigarettes and sex, to name a few. Millions of dollars and myriad studies conclude that addiction is a biological, pathological process in the brain. Similar to other illnesses, such as cancer and heart disease, addiction is classified as a chronic illness that causes long-term physical, psychological and social affects.
Addiction is one of the most overused, yet least understood words in our vocabulary, as its common use has been watered down to mean “something that someone likes to do a lot.” Most people are unaware that there are two distinct types of addiction: Substance Dependence and Behavioral Addiction. The definition for Substance Dependence is “a compulsive and psychological need for a habit-forming substance.” These substances (drugs, alcohol, tobacco) actually alter some of the body’s chemistry, though usually only temporarily.
The American Academy of Pain Medicine defines addiction as “A primary, chronic, neurobiological disease, with genetic, psychosocial, and environmental factors influencing its development and manifestations. It is characterized by behaviors that include one or more of the following: impaired control over drug use, compulsive use, continued use despite harm, and craving.”
Acupuncture is very helpful in treating all forms of addictions. Food, smoking, and medication addictions are the ones I see the most, with great results. With smoking, often only one treatment is needed! With medication addiction, a series of treatments over a short period of time is appropriate. With food, and appetite control, acupuncture can quickly help. The point sites vary a little from person to person, but ear points can always be included in the choice. A complete history and exam is always important to guide in the choice of point sites.