My Turn: Let addiction recovery workers practice ear acupuncture

For the Monitor
Published: 3/8/2017 12:10:06 AM

Living in Manchester, I have watched the drug addiction crisis run rampant. It’s out in the open and in your face.

The other night, I saw a young couple sit wasted in a parking lot, the driver slumped over the steering wheel of the car. On my walk to work, I’ve seen used heroin needles in gutters and snowbanks. I even found a syringe right in front of my house.

At least once a week I hear someone tell me how they have lost someone to addiction or that someone they love is struggling with addiction. Some of my closest friends are in recovery. It’s the biggest problem we face as a city and as a state, and I feel compelled to contribute to the solution.

People working in recovery and mental health need every tool at their disposal. I hope New Hampshire can make ear acupuncture one of those tools, but it’s going to require a change in state law.

That’s why I support House Bill 575 – “relative to the certification of acupuncture detoxification specialists.”

I am an acupuncturist. I stick tiny needles in people to help them feel better. That might sound strange, but it works. Acupuncture can be a safe, cheap and effective tool to help people in all stages of addiction recovery. It can help soothe the symptoms of withdrawal, reduce cravings, and ease anxiety or trauma that can lead people to use drugs in the first place. But I don’t expect addicts in the earliest stages of recovery will come seeking help at the clinic where I work. That’s where HB 575 comes in.

This bill would allow people who work in recovery and mental health to get trained and certified to practice the NADA ear acupuncture protocol. The protocol is a simple procedure that involves placing five tiny needles in specific points around the outer ear. NADA, or the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association, has trained more than 10,000 health professionals across the country in this practice.

The NADA procedure dates back to the 1970s, when heroin addiction ravaged the South Bronx and people wanted a non-addictive alternative to methadone.

In New York after 9/11, and in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, volunteers trained by NADA gave ear acupuncture to first responders and disaster relief workers to help cope with the devastation that surrounded them. With this procedure at their disposal, people are empowered to assist others in their community. This is the beauty of the NADA protocol.

Here, in New Hampshire, we should make the practice of ear acupuncture available to those who work in addiction recovery and mental health. The best people to treat those in early stages of recovery are other people who are in recovery. They know first-hand what getting clean is like and they are trained in trauma informed care. That is why I want to put the tools of my trade into their able hands.

Acupuncture school prepares acupuncturists for general practice. We treat pain, stress and a wide variety of other health issues. Acupuncture school, however, does not prepare acupuncturists to work in recovery settings. Furthermore, the opioid crisis in New Hampshire is larger than the pool of acupuncturists inclined to work in recovery settings. That is why I have been putting all of my spare time into HB 575.

The bill goes for a vote today, March 8, on the House floor with strong support from the executive departments and administration committee, which voted 19 to 1 on the motion that it “Ought to Pass” with amendment. With this crisis as out of control as it is, I hope this bill will get unanimous support from all 400 state representatives.

Can you help me to make it happen? If you are personally affected by the opioid crisis or if you can speak to the benefits of acupuncture, then I need your help.

Contact your state representatives and state senator. We need to share our stories with our legislators and tell them to support HB 575. New Hampshire is first-in-the-nation for death by fentanyl overdose. This is a problem that touches all of us. We need to open up as many pathways to recovery as possible. We are all in this together, and together we can get through this.

(Elizabeth Ropp lives in Manchester. She has been practicing acupuncture for 10 years and works at the Manchester Acupuncture Studio.)

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