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Acupuncture and Opioids:

by | Jan 21, 2019 | pain treatment

Patients in America suffer from chronic and acute pain in record numbers. Many were prescribed opioids to help manage their pain. As medical providers, patients, and as a country we are now facing the consequences of over-reliance on opioid medications. Addiction is an unfortunately common side effect of opioid use. We know now that the side effects of long term opioid abuse are tragic and often lead to death or serious health complications. In addition, the abuse of opioid medication, either due to addiction or unmindful prescribing, has an economic toll as well.

A study published in the journal Pain Medicine in 2011 estimated that health-care costs related to prescription opioid abuse amounted to twenty-five billion dollars, and criminal-justice-system costs to $5.1 billion.[1]

Probably the most tragic part of the opioid epidemic is: It doesn’t have to be this way! NMSAAM board member Lindsay Meade helped write and publish Acupuncture’s Role in Solving the Opioid Epidemic[2] Lindsay worked with colleagues from the American Society of Acupuncturists, The American Alliance for Professional Acupuncture Safety, The Acupuncture Now Foundation, The American TCM Association, The American TCM Society, National Federation of TCM Organizations, The National Acupuncture Detoxification Association, and other national organizations to present the latest research. Acupuncture is shown to be both safe and cost-effective in the treatment of pain. Further:

Acupuncture is an effective way to treat opioid addiction. There are more than 45 human and animal studies and clinical trials included in the PubMed database exploring acupuncture’s role in minimizing the usage of multiple drugs of potential abuse including opiates and methamphetamine.


See the link below for the full white paper. Here is the abstract:

The United States is facing a national opioid epidemic, and medical systems are in need of non-pharmacologic strategies that can be employed to decrease the public’s opioid dependence. Acupuncture has emerged as a powerful, evidence-based, safe, cost-effective, and available treatment modality suitable to meeting this need. Acupuncture has been shown to be effective for the management of numerous types of pain, and mechanisms of action for acupuncture have been described and are understandable from biomedical, physiologic perspectives. Further, acupuncture’s cost-effectiveness could dramatically decrease health care expenditures, both from the standpoint of treating acute pain and through avoiding the development of opioid addiction that requires costly care, destroys quality of life, and can lead to fatal overdose. Numerous federal regulatory agencies have advised or mandated that healthcare systems and providers offer non-pharmacologic treatment options, and acupuncture stands as the most evidence-based, immediately available choice to fulfil these calls. Acupuncture can safely, easily, and cost-effectively be incorporated into hospital settings as diverse as the emergency department, labor and delivery suites, and neonatal intensive care units to treat a variety of pain seen commonly in hospitals. Acupuncture is already being successfully and meaningfully utilized by the Veterans Administration and various branches of the U.S. Military.

[1]: The New Yorker Sept 18, 2017

[2]: Acupuncture’s Role in Solving the Opioid Epidemic