Many alternative treatments for addictions have shown great promise including two related Traditional Chinese Methods (TCM), acupuncture and auriculotherapy (ear acupuncture). These two treatments have been used for centuries to maintain and restore health. More recently, auriculotherapy has been used to treat modern drug addictions like cocaine, heroin, and crack as well as alcohol and cigarettes. Patients treated with this method often experience fewer relapses with no known negative side effects. It is interesting that we, in the Western World, think of Traditional Chinese Medicine as “alternative health” when it has been around for thousands of years!
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Auriculotherapy is the stimulation of the auricle of the external ear to diagnose and treat health conditions in other parts of the body. The auricle could be compared to an inverted fetus, with the head represented on the lower ear lobe, the feet at the top of the external ear, and the rest of the body in-between.
Modern applications of this method are based on the work of Dr. Paul Nogier from France who practiced in the 1950’s. In recognition of Nogier’s discoveries and research on the auricle, the Chinese Government honored him by awarding him a formal title “Father of Modern Auricular Therapy.”
Dr. Michael Smith is recognized internationally as the psychiatrist who pioneered the use of these procedures in the field of chemical dependency. He developed an accepted auricular therapy protocol at Lincoln Hospital, New York. In 1987, the program was redesigned to focus on court-related referrals. Based on the Lincoln Hospital model, Dr. Smith helped develop the Miami drug court treatment and court monitoring system and has advised numerous other programs around the country. Dr. Smith founded the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association.
Auricular Therapy and Addictions
In Auriculotherapy, addictions are treated by addressing the specific ear points that deal with dependencies using various tools such as needles, pellets/seeds, magnets, acupressure, electro-stimulation, or laser. It is conducted by a variety of practitioners, including acupuncturists, chiropractic doctors, medical doctors, naturopathic doctors, nurses, physical therapists, and psychotherapists.
One of the most important features of acupuncture or auriculotherapy is that they can be used safely with “high risk” patients. Pharmaceutical treatments are often limited by the patient’s physical conditions such as pregnancy or high blood pressure. These two methods can be administered across a wide range of people effectively and affordably.
The Western World was largely unaware of this procedure until the 1970s. In 1997, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) released a statement endorsing it for a variety of conditions. The World Health Organization has listed over 40 health conditions that acupuncture can improve including addictions.