Getting sober and staying sober can be hard work, but what happens during and after rehab for alcoholism is very important as well. Alternative therapies are gaining steam as a way to support individuals in recovery. Learn how acupuncture is being used to treat individuals with alcoholism in recovery and why it shows such promise as part of a comprehensive aftercare program.


Origins of Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a Chinese practice which dates back more than 2,000 years. With the arrival of western medicine in Asia, acupuncture went out of fashion for several hundred years before experiencing a resurgence in the 20th century. By 1973, the United States Internal Revenue Service (IRS) allowed taxpayers to write off acupuncture as a healthcare expense. Recognition by the IRS opened the door for acupuncture to be explored in a range of clinical settings including as part of a rehabilitation or aftercare plan for individuals in recovery from addiction or alcoholism.


How Acupuncture Helps

The practice of acupuncture uses thin needles, inserted into the skin at traditionally prescribed energy points. This is believed to help balance the individual’s chi, life force, which flows through 14 energy meridians. It is believed by placing needles strategically along the individual’s meridians, a person’s natural energy balance can be restored. Some specialists in western society believe the needles also stimulate muscles, nerves and other tissues which can increase blood flow and distribute natural pain killers throughout the body.



The release of pain killers and endorphins in the body can help individuals with alcoholism cope with natural calming agents. Withdrawal symptoms and cravings weaken and wane and specialists believe acupuncture has the potential to eliminate toxic build up from substance abuse. Synthetic drugs or treatments are, therefore, unnecessary when an acupuncturist is able to help an individual with alcoholism tap into one’s own natural pharmacy. Acupuncture is an ideal complement to rehabilitation.



Each individual acupuncturist has a method of treatment.  In spite of major differences in practice, sessions can last a few minutes up to an hour. The following methods may be used:



  • Puncturing: thin needles which do not cause acute pain are used
  • Manipulation: after needles are in place, acupuncturist may lightly twirl needles or apply heat
  • Removal: after prescribed time, needles are quickly and painlessly removed



An individual with alcoholism seeking acupuncture rehabilitation treatment must keep in mind that treatment does not work the same for all people. An open mind with realistic expectations is important. It may take a few sessions for an individual to see results or determine if this tool is valuable and worthwhile. It is not a panacea and is best utilized as part of a comprehensive treatment plan developed with professionals who oversee the rehabilitation process for each individual in treatment.


Alternative therapies including acupuncture have the ability to support natural healing for some individuals in rehabilitation. Call us to find out how we can help you get started on finding resources and tools to begin the rehab process for treatment of alcoholism.