Addiction affects nearly everyone through their own struggles or the addiction of a loved one. Whether to alcohol, drugs, sugar, nicotine or any other harmful substance, addiction is ubiquitous. One of the leading complementary treatments for addiction recovery is acupuncture.
Addiction is a complex brain disease where the addict compulsively uses a substance, even when it adversely affects their wellbeing. Typically, addiction is developed with substances that alter the mind state such as alcohol, nicotine, sugar, and chemical substances. Addiction can take over a person’s life and render them powerless to stop using.
Over time, addiction can change how the brain functions. Judgment and memory are typically impaired. Even though the user may be cognizant of their addiction, the wiring of the brain has already changed. Essentially, the more a substance is introduced to the body, the more the brain craves it. So the cravings become more intense, and for the user, it may seem almost impossible to stop.
The symptoms of an addiction will vary based on the substance in use and the person in question. Below you’ll find a list of common symptoms we see with addictions in general.
- Denial: they are either not aware or refusing to acknowledge the problem
- Disease and illness linked to the addiction
- Financial issues: substance users may often spend their money on the substance instead of basic needs
- Inability to stop using
- Increased risk-taking: driving drunk, promiscuity, theft, and even driving fast
- Secrecy and hiding the substance and usage
- Self-medicating: the user feels or acts as if they need the substance to function or deal with their problems
- Social and recreational changes: due to the need for the substance, the person may seek out the substance at the risk of social and recreational commitments
- Withdrawal when they stop using: emotional disturbance, inability to focus, trembling, vomiting, seizures, hallucinations
Our society often stigmatizes those with addiction as being weak or having some kind of moral failing, although the disease model of addiction has improved how people view addiction. But it is true that some people may be more prone to addiction than others. Research suggests that a large portion of the cause of addiction is genetic and can stem from secondary issues such as depression or anxiety.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, we believe that addiction stems from an imbalance in the body. A person with addiction uses substances to try to address that imbalance and relieve their symptoms. Through TCM, we aim to understand why the imbalance is there in the first place, and we try to bring balance back into the system.
We believe it’s important to approach addiction with compassion and understanding, rather than with judgment and assumptions.
Acupuncture is a useful tool in dealing with addiction. It can reduce cravings, ease unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, and help to regulate moods and sleep. Simply, acupuncture works by pinpointing the root of the issue — the imbalance of energy in the body.
We may suggest other forms of treatment based on a patient’s usage history.