There has been much in the press of late regarding the “Opioid Crisis”. The addiction rate to opioids is skyrocketing at such an alarming rate that it deserves the attention it is getting and more. According to the NIH and National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain relievers available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, morphine, and many others.” Because of the euphoric feeling commonly associated with these pain killers, they are easy to get addicted to. This addiction leads to accidental overdose, and even death. But what else can you do for pain?
Acupuncture! Research on acupuncture shows consistently that it is a viable choice for reducing pain, instead of taking heavy drugs. Although acupuncture has only been in the United States since 1971, it dates back thousands of years. It has really withstood the test of time! As old as it is, we are just now beginning to understand how it works. Most of the attention has been on its effect on pain.
Acupuncture triggers the body’s natural opioids (i.e. Endorphins) and other neuro-hormones. Acupuncture also works by activating the body’s own innate self-healing systems. We understand quite well how it works on several of these systems, others are still minimally understood, but acknowledged that it works. An advocate of using acupuncture to help reduce the opioid issues, Houman Danesh, MD, Director of Integrative Pain Management at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital says “Acupuncture has good evidence [supporting it]. Just because we can’t necessarily explain it down to the molecular level doesn’t mean we need to abandon it.”
Acupuncture is considered a “simple, non-pharmacological way to manage pain” according to Mary Stoker-Smith, a reporter for Fox 6 News Milwaukee. They did a story on a hospital, Aurora West Allis Medical Center, where acupuncture is being used in the Emergency Department to help with pain management. As part of their concern over the opioid issues, and recognizing the effectiveness of acupuncture, they have, for just under 2 years been offering acupuncture in the Emergency Room to patients in pain. They say that half of those offered acupuncture are accepting the treatment in the ER. The program has been going well.
Many come to my practice looking for an alternative to opioids and are loving that the acupuncture is really helping their pain. I find few that really want to be on drugs. Most do whatever is necessary to not be dependent on drugs, especially narcotics. Then they get a bonus – Acupuncturists rarely work on pain only. By treating the whole body, we take care of other things going awry at the same time. We work on the whole person, with a non-drug, healthy approach. Our patients are witness to how effective it is for them!
©2019 Holly A. Carling, O.M.D., L.Ac., Ph.D.