At Joanne Vidich Chinese Medicine, we offer a complete Chinese medicine treatment program for treating alcohol dependency. Our alcohol withdrawal acupuncture protocols significantly reduce cravings, as well as physical and emotional symptoms. At our Williamstown clinic, clients receive individually tailored acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine therapies. We aim to support the emotional and physical wellbeing of the clients during the detoxification and rehabilitation stage, at the same time achieving a sustainable treatment outcome.
What is alcohol withdrawal?
Alcoholism is the most prevalent substance use disorder in Australia. The harmful consequences associated with excessive alcohol consumption include risks of developing cancer, cardiovascular diseases and liver disease. Alcohol abuse also causes brain dysfunction, as people who suffer from alcoholism frequently experience difficulties with cognitive functioning and impaired working memory.
Alcohol withdrawal are a group of symptoms that occur when a heavy drinker suddenly stops drinking alcohol, or significantly reduce his or her alcohol intake.
Signs and symptoms of alcohol withdrawal
The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal begin to occur within 48 hours of a person stop drinking alcohol, and include at least 2 of the followings:
- Panic attacks
- High blood pressure
Acute alcohol withdrawal symptoms are dominated by tremors and autonomous nervous system hyperactivity. These physiological symptoms usually peak around 24 hours, and include an increased in heart beat and blood pressure, difficulty in regulating body temperature, profuse sweating, and gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea and vomiting. Some people develop extreme deliriums tremens (DT) which typically peaks around 72 hours. DT is characterised by symptoms of seizures and/or hallucinations.
The psychological symptoms during alcohol withdrawal persist after physical symptoms have peaked. The psychological symptoms include elevated anxiety, depression, insomnia, and a profound state of unease and dissatisfaction. These symptoms generally resolve within 3 to 6 weeks, but play a prominent role in increasing the risk of relapse to unsafe drinking habits.
The causes of alcohol dependence
Alcohol abuse in Chinese medicine theory is a type of coping mechanism, where people attempt to correct their internal imbalances through self-medicating. We believe that the root of any form of addiction is in the constitution of each person. In other words, a genetic predisposition combined with post-natal influences such as upbringing and lifestyle issues, are important contributing factors to a person developing a dependence on alcohol use.
FAQ: Can acupuncture treat alcohol addiction?
Acupuncture treats alcohol addiction by rebooting the sympathetic nervous system, helping people get out of the ‘fight or flight’ response, calming the escalating anxiety and stress levels during acute alcohol withdrawal stage. From our experience, Chinese medicine therapies tailored to individual needs and circumstances are the most effective, because these therapies produce a synergistic effect that helps with the physical and emotional recovery from excessive alcohol use.
- Acupuncture treat alcohol withdrawal symptoms, both physical and emotional, during detox
Research evidence found significant effect of acupuncture in reducing alcohol cravings and moderate alcohol use behaviour. Acupuncture can also relieve acute withdrawal symptoms which include nausea, vomiting, poor appetite, insomnia, anxiety, irritability and fever.
- Enable a person to stop drinking during rehabilitation
The physical withdrawal symptoms may take weeks to fully resolve. Continuing acupuncture treatments can reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms. Acupuncture has a calming effect on the nervous system and release the person from a ‘fight or flight’ mode, effectively preventing a relapse.
Chinese herbal treatments are recommended, to be taken between acupuncture treatments, to treat the liver and expedite cleansing. Certain herbs which reduce alcohol cravings are added to the formula.
Chinese medicine and acupuncture treatment protocol for alcohol dependency
At Joanne Vidich Chinese Medicine, we use the NADA (National Acupuncture Detoxification Association) protocol, in combination with Chinese medicine therapies to help our clients who are undergoing alcohol detox. Our individually tailored therapies effectively treat alcohol withdrawal symptoms, and strengthen the mental capacity of clients in order to combat the tendency of relapse.
FAQ: Who benefits from Chinese medicine and acupuncture treatment program for alcohol withdrawal?
- Social drinkers who has low level of alcohol dependency and want to reduce alcohol use
- Social drinkers who has moderate level of alcohol dependency and want to stop drinking
- Anyone who want to gain control over their drinking habit and alcohol use
FAQ: What are the treatment methods used for alcohol dependency?
- Auricular acupuncture (NADA protocol) – proven effective for addiction and substance abuse
- Acupuncture (meridian style) – treats physical and emotional symptoms
- Acupuncture (esoteric concepts) – balance the chakra system and finer energies, raise the consciousness level to empower the psyche in combating addiction
- Herbal medicine prescriptions – individually formulated in granule form; can be prepared in capsule form (at extra cost)
The NADA protocol for alcohol addiction
The NADA protocol has been proven effective and is widely used in drug and alcohol rehabilitation program in Australia and other parts of the world. The protocol consists of the insertion of small, stainless steel, disposable needles into five specific acupuncture points on the outer surface of the patient’s ear. These five auricular points are Sympathetic, Shen Men (Spirit Gate), Kidney, Liver and Lung. The needles retention duration is between 30 to 45 minutes.
Patients generally report a sense of being ‘relaxed’, ‘lighter’ and ‘energised’ after an acupuncture session using the NADA protocol. The improved mental state helps the patients to overcome cravings, at the same time having an optimistic outlook hence able to persevere in the detoxification program.
Acupuncture for alcohol withdrawal symptoms
Alcohol dependency is a chronic relapsing condition. The first stage in the recovery from alcohol dependency is detoxification. The detox process eliminates toxin from the body while managing the withdrawal symptoms. Physically withdrawal symptoms take a few weeks to fully resolve. Emotional withdrawal symptoms last much longer and may challenge the client’s mental power during the rehabilitation process.
During the initial stage of alcohol detoxification, acupuncture treatments in addition to the NADA protocol are often needed to combat the severe physical withdrawal symptoms. Acupuncture points on the body are used to balance energies flows within the meridians in order to relieve nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, anxiety, insomnia, hypertension and fever. When the acute physical symptoms have subsided, we use esoteric acupuncture protocols which target the psyche of the clients, to reduce negative thoughts, cravings and the risk of relapse.
Chinese medicine to support safe drinking habits
Post-rehabilitation, ongoing support using Chinese medicine treatment programs tailored to the individual constitution or body type are essential. At this stage, insignificant challenges can provoke negativity and cravings, causing a client to resume alcohol use.
The best way to prevent a relapse in excessive alcohol use is by treating the root cause of addiction. Acupuncture balances the chakra system and cuts the emotional ties to alcohol. Maintenance treatments for alcohol dependency include acupuncture sessions using esoteric concepts to stimulate physical and emotional self-healing. Chinese herbal medicine can be taken long term to protect the liver and keep the physical body healthy.
FAQ: What is the Chinese medicine treatment plan for alcohol dependency?
The recommended treatment plan for alcohol dependency is 6 months.
- Initial consultation – assessment of presenting problems and setting of treatment goals.
- Weeks 1 to 2 – manage withdrawal symptoms – acupuncture (30-minute sessions) 3 times per week for 2 weeks.
- Weeks 3 to 12 – acupuncture (60-minute session) once per week plus herbal medicine for 10 days use every 2 weeks.
- Week 13 onwards – acupuncture (60-minute session) once every 2 weeks or acupuncture (90-minute session) once per month; herbal medicine 10 days every 2 weeks until completion of treatment program.