Acupuncture Treatment Expands Across the U.S. to Tackle Opioid Crisis
Acupuncture has been used in China for thousands of years as a natural pain relief treatment. But now, access to acupuncture is expanding across the U.S. to give people a safer, low-risk, non-addictive alternative to opioids for pain relief. In the U.S., acupuncture is considered an alternative approach to chronic pain since the country lacks scientific data proving this centuries-old treatment is effective.
What is Acupuncture, and How Does it Work?
Acupuncture involves inserting thin, tiny needles into specific points on the body to restore the body’s flow of energy called qi. Restoring qi promotes natural healing and relieves pain by correcting imbalances affecting hormones, brain neurotransmitters, and the immune system. People who use acupuncture for pain relief report that the therapy reduces pain for up to several days at a time.
Results from several studies reveal that acupuncture can relieve chronic pain in the lower back, neck, and knees, and may also prevent migraine headaches. Acupuncture may also be able to reduce the severity of hot flashes caused by menopause, and reduce the level of pain associated with cancer treatment. But many U.S. doctors continue to argue that acupuncture is ineffective, mainly because federal institutions lack the scientific evidence needed to convince people about the efficacy of this safe, minimally invasive pain treatment.
Expanding Access to Acupuncture Across the U.S.
The popularity of acupuncture as a pain treatment has been growing steadily in the U.S. for the last 10 years. One in 67 U.S. adults report receiving acupuncture every year, while this rate was only one in 91 adults 10 years ago. Reports show that only one-fourth of adults receiving acupuncture had the treatment covered by medical insurance.
Medicare and Tricare do not currently pay for acupuncture, but VA facilities cover the cost of acupuncture with co-pay. A recent study shows that two-thirds of military hospitals are now offering acupuncture to military personnel as a non-drug alternative to chronic pain treatment. Meanwhile, other states are ramping up acupuncture coverage through insurers and Medicaid programs, including California, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. Some states are even using acupuncture to treat people with substance use disorders.
Acupuncture treatment costs an average of $65 to $125 per session, and is not usually covered by private health insurers, Medicare, and Medicaid. But if the rate of opioid addiction in the U.S. continues to grow, acupuncture could become more widely used as a chronic pain treatment to reduce the number of nationwide drug overdose deaths. Opioid overdoses caused more than 53,000 deaths in 2016.
Safe Ways to Treat Opioid Addiction
Failing to get help for opioid addiction increases your risk for a deadly overdose due to the way these drugs alter brain function. Opioids flood the brain with dopamine — a brain chemical associated with feelings of pleasure and reward. Those who become physically dependent on opioids are driven to keep using these drugs despite negative consequences, and face a higher risk for an unintentional overdose.
Opioid addiction can be dangerous to treat on your own cold turkey or with an at-home detox kit, since opioid withdrawal symptoms can be severe enough to cause relapse. Many opioid users who try quitting on their own will often resume drug use just to avoid withdrawal symptoms like nausea, vomiting, insomnia, and bone pain. But getting help at a drug detox center can help you overcome these symptoms with minimal or no discomfort.
Opioid detox treatments often involve the use of medications that relieve all opioid withdrawal symptoms so you experience a safer, more comfortable recovery. Look for a drug detox center that offers a medical detox or medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction, since these treatments can help you overcome opioid dependence and lower your risk for relapse and an overdose.
If you need help fighting opioid addiction, call our 24/7 confidential helpline at 800-483-2193. Our caring drug abuse counselors will discuss your treatment options, and help you find the nearest drug detox center ready to help you achieve sobriety.