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Acupuncture Today – June, 2004, Vol. 05, Issue 06

Much Ado About NADA

By Marilyn Allen, Editor-at-Large

It was another beautiful and cold but sunny morning in Pueblo, Colorado. Being a native of southern California, I found the 42-degree day quite a change from home. Pueblo is a wonderful city, but I wasn't there on vacation.

I went there to sit in on a program being held by NADA (the national Acupuncture Detoxification Association) in nearby Denver.

The group of attendees and teachers that gathered from across the country brought with them a wide variety of specialties and backgrounds. The classes began with a basic understanding of addiction and addiction theory. I appreciated the "baby steps" we took in the learning experience; for someone who doesn't practice acupuncture, the information was quite helpful. During the first day of training, the attendees were given their first treatments by the instructors. All in all, it was a great experience. How often do you get to sit down with needles in your ears, and just relax, meditate, and "be" for three-quarters of an hour?

One of the first speakers was Libby Souvt, a medical doctor from the Colorado Mental Institute. She shared statistics on how people felt about tobacco after going through the program. She is a strong supporter that acupuncture seems to help with relaxation and cravings, and that there are no side-effects from treatment. There seems to be no downside. By the end of the morning session, I found my beliefs about acupuncture being reinforced in that it really does work.

The program included a brief history of NADA, followed by a discussion of the NADA protocol and its benefits. It seems that a doctor in Hong Kong was treating patients experiencing postsurgical pain with a similar protocol. An individual at the Lincoln Memorial Hospital in the South Bronx area of New York read about the study, and asked several Chinese doctors in the New York area to see if the protocol really worked, then returned to the hospital and formulated a treatment protocol, using five needles in each ear. At that time, heroin was the drug of choice for most of the drug patients at Lincoln, followed by alcohol. In the early 1980s, cocaine and crack cocaine hit the streets and made their way into society. The hospital began using the treatment protocol, and it showed tremendous signs of success.

The protocol is not about the substance, but about the person being treated. The five ear points are only part of the entire NADA protocol. Other parts include the following:

  1. The central premise is that it is client-centered/patient-centered.
  2. The protocol takes the client wherever he or she is, and helps that person to get clean.
  3. The protocol has been created to be barrier-free: there is no barrier from money, no fear of the patient of being turned into the authorities, and no barriers with regard to time, space or child care.
  4. In the beginning, the treatment protocol is in a non-verbal setting.
  5. There is a group experience in the setting, but not a group intervention. Patients do not have to talk or give reasons as to why they are taking the treatment.
  6. It is about being part of a healthy community.
  7. The person inserting the needles is a facilitator. The protocol is to treat and then get out of the way.
  8. There can be frequent, even daily, urine testing if it is desired or needed.
  9. Daily treatment is available.
  10. The NADA protocol is in concert with Western medicine protocols.
  11. NADA is integrated into other psychosocial interventions.
  12. NADA provides supportive information for the clients.

The addition of acupuncture into the treatment for addiction seems to be very beneficial, and almost the single ingredient that helps the protocol succeed. There are numerous benefits for patients by using this protocol:

  1. The protocol is calming.
  2. The patients are more receptive to leaning.
  3. It seems to clear the mind. It centers one's attention and allows patients to complete tasks.
  4. It helps to reduces cravings.
  5. It diminishes symptoms of withdrawal.
  6. It helps to retain people in the treatment process.
  7. Sleep is improved.
  8. A person changes and becomes more comfortable with himself (or herself).
  9. It improves the internal space of a person.
  10. This treatment supports the recovery process.

The NADA protocol is simple, yet quite effective. It seems to be effective not only in treating drug addiction, but also for reducing stress. As a person who is interested in marketing and public relations, I found myself looking for ways to use the protocol and spread the word about acupuncture.

One of the ways this protocol could be used in marketing is to have a group class for stress reduction. This could be done in your office or at an employer's location. Almost everyone in this country can use some intervention for stress reduction. Using the NADA protocol where there is no barrier for entry, the paperwork you hand to the group would include consent to treat, so that while people may come for stress reduction, they could receive other benefits. On the way out, you could give each person more information regarding acupuncture and Oriental medicine, as well as the other conditions that can be treated. You could provide services to the group for free, or you could charge a small amount per person. This is a good way to provide community service and begin educating others to the healing benefits of acupuncture.

Drug, alcohol and tobacco addictions are major problems that affect tens of millions of people in America. This is not just a problem in America, but something that is occurring worldwide. There is a group in northern Ireland using the NADA protocol as well as groups in Great Britain and Nigeria. There is also a group in Budapest, Hungary.

Just imagine the impact the Oriental medicine profession could make on the health of the American public if every licensed practitioner would make a habit to donate just one hour per week to helping people with addictions. What a wonderful way to give back. In addition to helping people, the profession would receive public relations coverage that would have far-reaching affects.

If you are licensed but not trained in the NADA protocol, I suggest you take this specialized training. Find an existing program and volunteer. Figure out how to start a program in your community. Get involved in a drug court program in your community. Taking these steps will help you find a place where you can donate your services to help the people in your community to reach a new level of health.

Click here for more information about Marilyn Allen, Editor-at-Large.

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