Acupuncture helps drug addicts in Ohio recover

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As the man with the handful of tiny needles approached, Sarah Downs’ nervousness increased with every step. She rocked back and forth in her plastic chair. She fidgeted. She bounced a leg.

She was there voluntarily in the Pickaway Area Recovery Services (PARS) meeting room, but she still wasn’t sure what her friends had told her: that the acupuncture she was about to undergo would alleviate the anxiety and fear that gnaws at her spirit as she recovers from her heroin and methamphetamine addictions.

Kenneth “Jimmy” Laux, a Circleville chiropractor and certified acupuncturist, knelt down next to Downs and pierced each of his ears with five needles. As he did, he explained where the specific needle prick hit and how it would help. Some spots calm nerves and control anger, others deal with sadness and depression. Even more affect a person’s “fight or flight” response and willpower.

Downs, 38, hoped the treatment was working. Celebrating three months of sobriety this time around, she still tries to control her feelings without using drugs.

“You feel really anxious all the time, just nervous. It’s a scary time,” she said. “This time I’m trying everything possible to stay clean.”

She was one of eight women who sat for 30 minutes with the needles poked out of their ears on Wednesday, all part of a new program that includes Laux and her acupuncture as one of the weapons in the fight against addiction .

This is because Pickaway County Common Pleas Judge P. Randall Knece heard earlier this year about auricular acupuncture (using only external auditory points) at a convalescent home where he sometimes sends defendants in his court. He asked Laux if it was true that this practice could help those who were overcoming addictions. Laux said yes. He is certified by the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association and uses his method.

Knece said after nearly a quarter of a century on the bench, he never thought he would talk about using acupuncture to help drug addicts who came before him. But nothing is set in stone, and he says he now sees it as a challenge to find new ways to balance justice and fix society.

“You can’t just lock people up and expect them to change. You have to do something,” he said. “We just can’t do like we always have.”

Knece pledged nearly $13,000 to help cover the $55 per treatment cost for recovering people who don’t have Medicaid or private insurance. The money will come from $434,000 he received from the state to set up innovative justice programs to help keep low-level nonviolent offenders out of prison.

Knece had acupuncture himself because he wanted to see what it felt like. He grimaced a little when the first two needles entered and laughed as he told the eight women gathered around the tables – some of whom he had previously sent to jail or county jail – that they had lied to him saying that This was not the case. to injure. He decided that the stick looks a bit like a bee sting.

Since mid-April, Laux has been going to PARS twice a week and has given 35 treatments to 15 people.

Tiera Rapp, 43, is recovering from an addiction to painkillers and heroin. She’s had four treatments and is among those who told Downs how much they’ve helped her.

“I’m much softer,” Rapp said of the effects of acupuncture. “It helps get me out of my head.”

That’s the key, said Barry Bennett, executive director of PARS.

“There’s a certain relaxation and a sense of peace,” Bennett said. “And these people need that.”

This is not a one-person treatment, but simply part of a continuum of care that includes cognitive behavioral therapy, Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, counseling sessions and all which accompanies successful sobriety.

In fact, auricular acupuncture in this model is non-verbal, which means that apart from a basic explanation of what he is doing, Laux has no interaction with patients: he does not assess them, do not advise them, report to anyone about them, or get to know them at all.

“I don’t give them any wooey-wowie. I stick them and I’m off,” Laux said.

Part of the idea is that in a group setting, as clients sit for 30 minutes with the needles in their ears, the shared experience will also be helpful.

Bennett said he’s read research that shows recovering people who undergo acupuncture stay clean at a higher rate than those who don’t. Some drug courts, for example, report that the rates of re-using offenders dropped by 10% when acupuncture was part of that treatment. That was enough for him.

“We can get them off drugs, sure, but we also have to get them somewhere,” Bennett said. “If it helps us do it, amen.”

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