National Acupuncture Detoxification Association (NADA) treatment is a simple standardised five-point auricular needling protocol that originated as a grassroots response to opiate addiction in the 1970s. It is increasingly recognised as a nonspecific behavioural health intervention of notable utility in a wide variety of other psychiatric settings and conditions.
Acupuncture has been used as an adjunct to conventional therapy because it reduces cravings and withdrawal symptoms associated with addictive substance use and contributes to improved treatment engagement and treatment retention. NADA acupuncture is simple; it is commonly referred as acudetox, acupuncture detoxification, five-point ear acupuncture protocol and five-point protocol.
A pilot study was conducted to examine seven common behavioral health symptoms in a population of patients with substance use disorder diagnoses and to explore whether or not NADA acupuncture plus conventional treatment is helpful for alleviating symptoms measured.
The study participants were residents of the highly structured Mecklenburg Country Substance Abuse Services Centre (SASC). All 167 patients treated in a SASC’s 28-day treatment programme between March 2008 and June 2008 were included in this study. Each patient had the option of self-selecting conventional treatment only or conventional treatment plus NADA acupuncture. Conventional treatment included intake assessment, physician physical examination, nursing and nurse-practitioner care, administration of prescription medication, urgent and emergency medical (including psychiatric) services as needed, educational groups, individual and group counseling, nightly 12 step meetings, dual-diagnosis group, aftercare planning and referral, and a daily study hall.
One hundred and three patients received NADA acupuncture plus conventional treatment programme. Patients were needled at five bilateral auricular acupuncture points while seated together in a large group of up to 20 patients per treatment session. Needles were inserted at the beginning of the treatment hour and generally remained in place for 30-45 minutes.
Both the NADA-acupuncture-plus-conventional-treatment group and the conventional-treatment-only group were offered sessions twice weekly.
NADA acupuncture-plus-conventional-treatment group scores, measured as percentage change from baseline, decreased significantly from pre to post treatment for all seven measures. When comparing the NADA-acupuncture-plus conventional-treatment group to the conventional-treatment only group there was a statistically significant difference for all seven measures as described below.
The results in this study showed that patients had symptom reduction across all seven common behavioral health symptoms measures. Patients with substance use disorder diagnoses clearly struggle with common physical cognitive, and emotional behavioral health symptoms that may interfere with their ability to receive optimal benefit from conventional treatment. These results suggest that NADA acupuncture is a simple and inexpensive treatment that may help alleviate some of the behavioral health symptoms that can affect individuals with a diagnosis of substance use disorder.