What Really Works in Drug Detox

Maureen MurdockAddiction9 Comments

I have been writing about the heroin epidemic in our country for the last couple of blog posts. As you know, the increase in deaths from drug overdoses is driven by an increase in addiction to both prescription painkillers like OxyCondin,Vicodin and Percocet as well as fentanyl and heroin. Police departments and homeless advocates across the nation are instituting programs to address these overdose deaths. However, one of the little known approaches to heroin detox and relapse prevention which has been demonstrated to be very effective is the NADA protocol which uses acupuncture points on the ears for detox.

The original protocol, discovered by H. L. Wen, a surgeon in Hong Kong, consisted of electrical stimulation on the Lung point of a patient’s ear and Shen Men, a well-known ear point that produces a sensation of relaxation. In the mid-1970s, Dr. Michael Smith and his colleagues at Lincoln Hospital in the South Bronx, modified the existing system of electro-ear acupuncture into a simple 3-5 point technique adding sympathetic kidney and liver points. These organs are instrumental in eliminating toxins from the body and helping symptomatic patients avoid getting violently ill during withdrawal. This became the NADA protocol (NADA, which is Spanish for “nothing” is the acronym for the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association). It has also been used with people suffering with PTSD to re-regulate all of their systems.

Dr. Ruth Ackerman started Project Recovery in Santa Barbara in 1988 to provide barrier free outpatient detox for any opiate, cocaine, alcohol, or tobacco user who wanted to kick their habit. There was no fee, and no restrictions, and no blame for users who came back after losing sobriety. The NADA protocol uses needles or beads on 5 points placed on the ear. The beads are small and sit on a piece of adhesive, which sticks to the ear like any other bandage.

Unlike other treatments like methadone, the NADA protocol is immune to abuse. It is an evidence-based treatment; no drug company is paying for research so there is no PR, no advertising and nobody is making any money. Which is why you and I haven’t heard of it.

At the present, there are few NADA programs in California whereas in Colorado, licensed counselors can be trained; in Ohio, nurses can be trained; and New Mexico, which has one of the highest death rates from heroin overdoses, non-professionals who work in addiction treatment settings can do the NADA protocol. Because of the relief addicts feel from the detox, they return for treatment to relieve the anxiety from kicking their habit. Dozens of studies have documented the effectiveness of the NADA protocol. Among the benefits reported by patients and health care providers are improved retention in drug treatment programs, more optimistic attitudes about detoxification and recovery, reductions in cravings and anxiety, fewer episodes of sleep disturbance and reduced need for pharmaceuticals.

Dr. Ackerman implores the addiction community to expand the availability of this life-saving protocol. For more information and to contact trainers in your area contact www.acudetox.com. 888-765-6232 NADA) or nadaoffice@acudetox.com

See the following video about the NADA protocol: https://vimeo.com/157358037


9 Comments on “What Really Works in Drug Detox”

  1. Such an interesting blog.I knew nothing about the ear acupuncture protocol.Seems to make a lot of sense and is not a drug.Our area has been badly hit with heroin overdoses and quite a few deaths in the last few months.Guess that is nationwide.Keep up the good work.

  2. WOW, what a shame this treatment regimen is not more widely available and in use, particularly in California. I guess it is another example of the power of the medical/pharmaceutical industry. With methadone, naloxone, etc, income/profits can be made by the manufacturer (a pharma company), the distributors (pharma sales reps), the dispensers (clinics and doctors), rehab “resorts”, and advertising agencies. They would all be cut out, except the dispensers, with the NADA treatment. So, who cares about the patients when there is money to be made up and down the line with something that is less effective? Everyone always wants to protect their turf!

  3. Great information for any program of abstinence. Hopefully there will be minimum business blow back from those in alternative or Eastern medicine. Having used acupuncture and acupressure to successfully address injuries as well as addiction and anxiety with some considerable expense involved, as it is a long term issue, it would have been great to have the information and taken the time to train myself.

    1. Thanks for your response. Dr. Ruth still wants as many people as possible to learn the protocol with beads; she can train you.

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