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Patients’ experience of auricular acupuncture during protracted withdrawal



Accessible summary

  • Interest has grown in complementary treatment methods such as acupuncture. In addiction treatment auricular acupuncture has been used to relieve difficult abstinence symptoms. The specific protocol used follows the definition used by the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association (NADA).
  • The report describes 15 patients’ experiences of receiving auricular acupuncture during the abstinence period after elimination of problematic alcohol and illicit drug use.
  • The patients in the study mainly experienced positive effects of receiving NADA. The greatest gains were a reinforced sense of relaxation and well-being, peacefulness and harmony, and new behaviours. The treatment supported some of the respondents in staying away from alcohol and drugs and it ameliorated their abstinence symptoms. No one experienced any negative side-effects.


Over the last decades interest in using auricular acupuncture for substance dependence care has increased. The specific auricular acupuncture protocol used follows the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association (NADA) definition. This paper describes patients’ experiences of receiving auricular acupuncture during protracted withdrawal. Interviews were conducted with 15 patients treated at an outpatient clinic for substance dependence. Content analysis was used to analyse the interviews. The analysis resulted in seven categories of positive experiences and seven categories of negative experiences. The positive experiences were: Relaxation and well-being, Peacefulness and harmony, New behaviours, Positive physical impact, Importance of context, Anxiety reduction and Reduced drug and alcohol consumption. The negative experiences were: Nothing negative, Disturbing context, Short-term effect, Depending on someone else, Time-consuming, Physical distractions and Remaining cravings. The conclusion of this study is that all respondents appreciated NADA treatment. This study supports further research on using NADA in addiction treatment to reduce suffering during protracted withdrawal and in other contexts.