Valerie Wilkerson, a former New York crack addict admitted she would have never tried acupuncture had she not wanted her kids back. Despite constantly committing herself to rehab and giving birth to six children whom she adored, Wilkerson’s problem was that she just could not simply stop her habit. Her crack addiction started when she a teen. According to her, she tried all approaches and possibilities to break the vey powerful hold crack have had on her life, but all of them failed miserably. Acupuncture therapy was her last chance to escape her own personal hell and prevent the inevitable loss of her children.
It seems that many drug addicts must reach a point in which they need to change their lives or lose the ones who mean so much to them. And this is the point where Valerie’s life has taken her. The New York child welfare authorities took her children and had them live in foster homes. Valerie would never see her children again if she can’t escape the substance that all but destroyed her life.
Wilkerson appealed to the court to return her children to her custody. The court told her that the only way she was going to get back her children was to stop taking crack. A list of rehab programs that included acupuncture therapy at Lincoln Hospital was given to Valerie. She didn’t know anything about acupuncture but it sounded good to her. She had needles stuck in her ear at Lincoln. The outcome was amazing. For a couple of years now, she had no drug cravings. Her life changed and she felt happy once more. She got her kids back and for two years has held a good job – in the Lincoln Hospital.
Valerie Wilkerson is a prime example of the devastating effects of drug addiction in a person’s life. She also is a poster child of how powerful needle therapy is in the cure of long-term drug addiction. Wilkerson does outreach to crack addicts in her job at Lincoln, which consists of telling her own personal story to new patents and providing them with information about the hospital’s acupuncture therapy program.
The Archives of Internal Medicine published a recent study that attempted to explain why acupuncture has the ability to overcome crack addiction.
It was in the middle of the 1970s when acupuncture began to be used as a treatment for addiction in the United States. This was the time Lincoln Hospital integrated the treatment in its battle against drug addiction. Presently, the number of facilities the hospital has is in the several hundreds. However, there are a few physicians who reject acupuncture as a valid was for treating drug addiction. Their reason is that some studies show ambiguous results that contradict acupuncture’s therapeutic claims. Some studies show no results while some indicate positive outcomes. One important Yale University study seems likely to bring acupuncture closer to mainstream medicine. This study, which is by far, the most scientifically rigorous and the largest, demonstrates that acupuncture, combined with a comprehensive therapy program, to be extremely successful in treating cocaine addiction
This relatively recent study is welcome news and is a sign that Western medicine’s disregard for acupuncture is finally reaching its end. An emerging body of scientific evidence points to acupuncture’s effectiveness for the treatment of several health issues including PMS, back pain, fibromyalgia, hives, obesity, and even diabetes. Recently, the NIH (National Institutes of Health) endorsed the integration of traditional Chinese acupuncture into Western conventional medicine.
Lincoln Hospital’s substance abuse rehabilitation program director Michael Smith states that “This study has further validated what many in the hospital’s drug rehab department have been doing for decades.”
The study’s principal investigator and Yale department of psychiatry researcher Arthur Margolin, Ph.D. noted that “Truly effective therapies for cocaine addiction aren’t that many, and besides its efficacy, acupuncture has none or very few side effects. It’s an inexpensive treatment to boot.”
Margolin notes that in his years of using acupuncture, besides reducing withdrawal symptoms and cravings,, the treatment also provides that patient with longstanding benefits. Those who avail of it tend to stay in treatment longer, which makes them highly unlikely to become recidivists.
Another study involving 82 cocaine and heroin addicts studied the effects of acupuncture in the treatment of addiction to both those drugs. Each patient received counseling and was treated with methadone for their heroin addiction. Besides that, they were divided into three groups. One group viewed relaxing videos about nature. Another group was treated with a fake type of acupuncture treatment (sham acupuncture) where needles are inserted into non-acupoints around the ears, while the last group was administered with real acupuncture in which four acupoints on the ears were needled.
All the subjects underwent 45 minutes of their own specific treatment for eight weeks, five sessions a week. Their urine was analyzed thrice a week for presence of cocaine.
After the study ended, the researchers compared the results of the three groups. The real acupuncture group had urine samples that were 54.8% cocaine-free. This was greater than the 9.1% of the nature video group and the 23.5% of the sham acupuncture group.
Hennepin County Medical Center alternative medicine division acupuncturist Patricia Culliton noted that acupuncture may not respond to every person with a drug addiction problem, although a lot of them do. Culliton was involved in some of acupuncture therapy for drug addiction’s earliest studies, which was more than a decade ago. She said, that “regardless of drugs, be it Valium and other prescription durgs, methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, and alcohol, or regardless of ethnicity, race, age, and sex, we’ve had good results with acupuncture.” She added the “acupuncture is inexpensive and very safe compared to the other treatments.”
Acupuncture’s use for the treatment of drug addiction was initiated in the early 1970s by Hong Kong neurosurgeon, Dr. H.L. Wen. He chose acupuncture treatment for the relief of postsurgical pain in a man who also happened to be having heroin withdrawal symptoms. He observed that the withdrawal symptoms of the man disappeared after receiving acupuncture. After that, Dr. Wen started using acupuncture for narcotic addiction. The success of his treatment reached Lincoln Hospital director, Michael Smith, who then tried the treatment in the hospital and met with the same success. The use of acupuncture for the treatment of drug addiction has since then spread to hundreds of drug-rehab programs the world over.
Smith says “There is no clear explanation why acupuncture works for drug addiction.” Most studies show that it is because the treatment releases the body’s own natural painkilling chemicals, endorphins. In my opinion, endorphins tell only part of the story. Some patient’s feel that acupuncture makes them more alert which is definitely not one would effect from endorphins. I agree with the viewpoint of the Chinese that addiction is the result of the body being out of balance and acupuncture is used to bring back that balance.”
Culliton states that “We still don’t fully know how acupuncture works since studies involving it still in its infancy. The treatment also alters levels of liver enzymes and hormones, besides releasing endorphins. Acupuncture’s complicated. In my opinion, it enhances the body’s own capacity to heal.”
In the United States, Chinese-Americans have utilized acupuncture ever since the first Chinese immigrants came to this country. Only during the dawn of the 1970s when non-Chinese people began to know what this needle treatment was all about. Acupuncture became a fixture in the minds of Americans after a New York Times columnist by the name of James Reston wrote about an emergency appendectomy he underwent while in China. Instead of anesthesia, the Chinese doctors used acupuncture to kill the pain. Reston was fully conscious while he was being operated on and he never felt any pain during the entire procedure. What’s more, he opted for acupuncture instead of painkillers to manage his postoperative pain. Because of his amazing story and his high praise for acupuncture, this needle therapy spurred tremendous interest among Americans.
Most Chinese historians believe that acupuncture originated as far back as the Neolithic Age (6,000 B.C to 2,000 B.C.) There are a few relics of stones dating back to that age that were believed used as primitive acupuncture needles. One legend tells of an ancient soldier of China who was overcome by a certain illness that doctors could not cure. He was shot with an arrow in battle causing a superficial wound. His wound eventually healed and so did his illness which somewhat intrigued his doctors. The doctors then began recording the regions or “points” around the body where stabbing wounds resulted in unlikely healing. Their reviews led to acupuncture and its branches: reflexology (acupressure of the hands or feet), shiatsu (Japanese massage on acupoints), and acupressure (instead of needles, manual pressure is used to simulate acupoints.
According to Chinese medicine, acupuncture is designed to bring back the healthy flow of vital energy known as qi or chi. This qi is invisible to the eye and moves around the body along meandering energy channels known as meridians. The meridians are also invisible and cannot be seen even by dissection. An illness can lead to a blockage of qi and, conversely, a blockage of qi flow can result in illness. Whatever its cause, the illness is resolved when acupuncture needles are inserted into the correct acupuncture points leading to the removal of the blockage and the restoration of health.
This explanation does not go well with Western medical critics. For them, the existence of invisible qi and meridians are bunk and defy well-established Western scientific paradigms. At best, they say acupuncture’s nothing more than a placebo effect; at worst, they say, it’s a primitive form of superstition. According to neurosurgery professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, Dr. Robert J. White, “Essentially, acupuncture has the same scientific validity as alchemy or astrology,”
Advocates of this ancient needle therapy such as acupuncture researcher at the University of Missouri, School of Medicine, Dr. George A. Ulett says that “acupuncture is neither placebo not alchemy. In about a third of those who use them, placebos produce certain health benefits, in most well-designed acupuncture studies for the relief of pain. The rate of effectiveness is about 55% to 85%.”
Ulett explains that acupuncture works in the realm of neuroelectricity as gleaned from a number of careful studies. He believes that the energy channels (meridians) are not invisible per se. They are instead attached to the major muscle groups which he names as motor nerves. Ulett explains that “by stimulating the acupuncture points, you are altering the movement of bioelectrical energy along these motor nerves which sets of the release of neurotransmitters such as endorphins and enkephalns that in turn, leads to its therapeutic effects.”
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