What are we treating exactly?
Although there is a multitude of health issues associated with addiction, what we are primarily treating, in terms of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), is Kidney Yin XU (Kidney Yin Deficiency) caused by chemical dependency.
Yin and Yang
We unwittingly experience and conform to Yin and Yang every day. Yin and Yang is all about opposites that naturally work together – Male & Female, Hot & Cold, Night & Day, Interior & Exterior, Summer & Winter – one cannot exist without the other. For example, when we are hot we try to cool down, when we are cold we try to warm up, thus restoring and maintaining the homeostasis and Yin Yang balance.In TCM terms, what we quite often see in substance misuse is a syndrome called Kidney Yin Deficiency with Empty Fire Blazing; this can be compared to or looked at in western medicine terms as cravings and withdrawals.
When Yin (Water) and Yang (Fire) are in balance they can support each other, Yin will nourish Yang and Yang will protect Yin. When Water and Fire are in balance, they create harmony, homeostasis and good health.
Water and Fire can be out of balance in two ways, both of which can create ill health.
Too much Water puts the Fire out (creates cold damp conditions)
Too much Fire can evaporate the Water (creates hot dry conditions
When Kidney Yin becomes deficient, Yang rises up out of control and creates Empty Fire Blazing, causing physical symptoms of; evaporation of Yin fluids, night sweating, dry mouth, thirst, poor memory, deafness, sore back, dizziness, tinnitus, aching of the bones, nocturnal emissions, constipation, and scant dark urine; and emotional symptoms of fear, paranoia, low self-esteem, a lack of confidence and willpower.
Empty Fire Blazing is not a syndrome in its self but a symptom of Kidney Yin deficiency, Empty Fire cannot exist on its own – only when Yin is deficient can Yang rise out of control and create Empty Fire. Yin Deficiency then is the cause and the Empty Fire is the symptom.
We see the same Kidney Yin deficiencies in drug and alcohol users who need to control their habit by daily self-medication but, when the effects of the drugs or alcohol consumed start to wear off, Empty Fire starts to burn up again, with the consequent return of their cravings and withdrawal symptoms; they will have to use again to subdue those symptoms. As an addict’s habit becomes more severe, they often have to increase drug or alcohol use to subdue the Empty Fire or cravings and withdrawal.
Drugs, alcohol and prescribed medication can all force Empty Fire back towards balance to create a false balance or a reduction of cravings and withdrawal symptoms but, symptoms will return.
With heroin, for instance, addicts may be prescribed Methadone as part of their treatment, which will sedate cravings and withdrawal for a period of time, but as it wears off, symptoms increase and the cycle continues (Empty Fire). Whilst Methadone can help stabilise an addict’s addiction, if it is not used in a controlled way, it can create just as much damage. Therefore, treating an addictive drug like heroin with another addictive drug such as Methadone to control cravings and withdrawal, in terms of TCM, does nothing to change the physical dependency and can actually damage kidney energy just as much as heroin.
The problem lies in our drug policies; programs are designed to treat clients cravings and withdrawal symptoms in the hope of reducing crime but, we have forgotten to treat the cause, instead we continue to treat the symptoms.
Treating the symptoms (symptomatic treatment) rather than the cause can lead to symptoms persisting for many years, which is why clients on maintenance programs can be on Methadone for many years.
The difference between treating addicts with Methadone as opposed to Acu-detox is that,
Methadone sedates the symptoms of withdrawal but, with serious side effects;
Acu-detox treats the cause of the symptoms (Kidney Yin Deficiency) with no side effects.
Nicotine addiction is very much the same, as nicotine wears off, the craving (Empty fire) rises up and the need for more nicotine increases. Smokers will smoke a cigarette to subdue their nicotine craving (Empty Fire) in much the same way as a drug addict.
How can Acu-detox help?
In TCM, the kidneys open out into the ears. The placement of small needles into specific points on the ears has a direct strengthening affect on the kidneys.
Acu-detox treatments can help to boost Kidney Yin (Water): as Water strengthens it can rise and subdue the Fire (Yang) in a natural non-toxic way to reduce cravings, withdrawal and promotes a healthy Yin Yang balance. Acu-detox aids detoxification and is very effective at reducing stress, anxiety, anger, depression and paranoia. Acu-detox also helps to balance the autonomic nervous system, made up of the Sympathetic and the Para-sympathetic, by reducing agitation and promoting calmness. In addiction clients are constantly stuck in a Sympathetic (Yang) state, unable to sleep, relax or calm the mind. Acu-detox treatments help to calm the mind and body and allows the client to move into a calmer Para-sympathetic (Yin) state. This calmness helps the client to engage in the program more, be more open to the counselling process and making the transition into recovery far easier.
The more frequent Acu-detox treatments are given, the quicker cravings and withdrawal symptoms are reduced.
Acu-detox can be used as an opportunity for clients to attend the program without pressure or commitment. As the client becomes more relaxed and stable and has been attending the program and acu-detox group for a certain length of time, it is then possible start looking at a reduction of prescribed medication over a set period until the client is drug or alcohol free.
Acu-detox is no miracle cure; acu-detox has a cumulative effect and needs to be given at least three to five times a week over a period of time depending on the addiction. Each treatment typically lasts for 45 minutes and can be used in conjunction with meditation or relaxation.