Acupuncture vs Opioids for Chronic Pain

The use and abuse of opioids (prescription pain medications) is now responsible for an astonishing 44 deaths per day in America, surpassing auto accidents as the leading cause of accidental deaths in American adults. Despite this fact, sales of opioid medications keep rising as do the number of prescriptions each year.

At the same time, the use of acupuncture has dramatically increased over the last 20 years, with more patients than ever using acupuncture as an adjunct treatment for both acute and chronic pain conditions.

Acupuncture can reduce – or even eliminate – the need for opioids and non-opioid drugs by:

  • Stimulating the production of the body’s own “endogenous opioids”;
  • Stimulating the production of the body’s natural anti-inflammatory compounds;
  • Facilitating the body’s own natural chemistry creating the potential for similar – or sometimes better – benefits than synthetic drugs, without the risks of addiction or side effects.

Traditional Chinese medicine has been using medical cannabis and acupuncture together as part of their wellness and healing modalities for thousands of years.

Medical cannabis has a long history as a natural analgesic and is a powerful adjunct with TCM modalities such as acupuncture, Qigong, herbs and diet for treating addiction, depression, PTSD, anxiety, acute and chronic pain.

Ricardo B Serrano, R.Ac., registered acupuncturist, certified cannabis specialist and Qigong teacher.

North American Opioid Epidemic Campaign

A primary mission of the Acupuncture Now Foundation (ANF) is to educate not only the public but healthcare providers and health policymakers about the potential of acupuncture. In North America a great deal of concern has been raised over what is being called the “opioid epidemic.” Opioids are a class of pain relieving drugs that include codeine, morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, and some others under popular prescription names such as Vicodin, Percocet, Naloxone, etc. The use and abuse of these medications is now responsible for 44 deaths per day in America, surpassing auto accidents as the leading cause of accidental deaths in American adults.

Considering acupuncture’s stellar safety record and its ability to stimulate the production of the body’s own natural internal opioid chemistry, it is the position of the Acupuncture Now Foundation that acupuncture should be considered as a first choice non-opioid therapy for the treatment of any condition for which acupuncture has been found to be nearly as effective, as effective, or more effective than conventional care.

The ANF has teamed with the American Society of Acupuncturists to form the Joint Acupuncture Opioid Task Force. The Task Force submitted a packet of information including a great deal of research on acupuncture to the Centers for Disease Control. The CDC was soliciting public comments for the development of their new opioid prescribing guidelines and we are advocating for an expanded role for acupuncture in addressing this crisis. Our packet can be found below. Our thanks go to John McDonald for compiling the research and to the ASA’s David Miller and Jennifer Stone for their contributions to the packet.

The ANF also recently gave testimony in two states (California and Minnesota) where officials were calling for input into their policies. Copies of those letters are linked below. In Minnesota, their Health Services Advisory Council, a group of representatives consisting of doctors and health care providers, health insurance company representatives, and other officials, held a series of meetings to consider giving their recommendation to expand acupuncture services. After considering a good deal of information this advisory panel voted to recommend the state cover acupuncture services under their Medicaid system for the conditions listed below. We commend this panel for their willingness to make acupuncture more available to the citizens of their state and encourage drug-free therapy and thank those who presented information to that panel.

In our letter to the California Workers’ Compensation regulators, we detail studies showing acupuncture to be twice as effective as conventional care for treating chronic low back pain and further studies showing that this condition is the most common reason opioids are prescribed. After quoting their current guidelines that only allow for acupuncture to be used after drugs have been tried, the ANF called for these guidelines to be changed to allow acupuncture as a first choice treatment.

Conditions which acupuncture was recommended to be covered by the Minnesota Health Services Advisory Council:

  • Pain (all pain)
  • Insomnia
  • Smoking cessation
  • Nausea/Vomiting
  • Restless Legs
  • Depression
  • Schizophrenia
  • Anxiety
  • PTSD
  • Xerostomia (under active salivary glands)
  • Menstrual disorders

Source: North American Opioid Epidemic Campaign

Ricardo B Serrano, R.Ac. is a certified CBD professional graduate from CBD Training Academy


Medical Cannabis and Acupuncture work together

Traditional Chinese medicine has been using cannabis and acupuncture together as part of their wellness and healing modalities for thousands of years. While this concept is still fairly new to the Western world, holistic medical practice in the East has long been highly advanced. Eastern civilizations, primarily the Chinese, were well-versed in the use of herbs, tinctures, and knowledge of the human body.

It’s no surprise that cannabis and acupuncture has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine; these two, when used together, have shown to have synergistic effects for strengthening the immune system and addressing several different health ailments. In ancient Chinese literature, herbal historians used cannabis to treat more than 100 conditions including hemorrhages, digestive problems, rheumatism, parasitic infections, reproductive disorders in women, cognitive issues caused by age, pain, and much more.

Acupuncture is the ancient technique of inserting needles in key energy points, known as meridians, throughout the body. The objective of inserting needles below the surface of the skin is to remove obstructions in energy, referred to as “qi”. These buildups are believed to contribute to disease, pain, sluggishness, and imbalance manifested through many different symptoms.

Research shows that acupuncture, just like cannabis, works to help heal and regulate the endocannabinoid system and many of the body’s other systems. Not much has been thought about the possible links between acupuncture and cannabis until some researchers from Shanghai Jiao Tong University discovered it. The findings, which were published by the National Institutes of Health, revealed how electro-acupuncture (an electric form of traditional acupuncture) can increase the cannabinoid activity in the body, thereby making pain more tolerable.

In animal models of arthritis, the researchers discovered that repeated treatment using electro-acupuncture increased cannabinoid receptors in the striatum of the brain which is loaded with dopamine cells. The rat subjects showed signs of less pain after being treated with acupuncture. If cannabinoids are the reason why acupuncture works so well in dulling pain, then combining cannabis and acupuncture can be a possible cost-effective, safe, and natural solution for pain and other ailments.

Source: Cannabis and Acupuncture: Two-In-One Boost For Your Endocannabinoid System

– Cannabis and Acupuncture, page 100, Return to Oneness with Shiva

Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. – Buddha

See Pains and needles: brain scans point to hidden effects of acupuncture
Forms of Qi created in the body
Acupuncture meridians and points exist
Opioid Overdoses Now Cause The Nation’s Most Preventable Injury-Related Deaths

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See Doctors inadvertently turning patients into addicts
Cannabis: The exit drug

DISCLAIMER: The educational information in the website is for references only. Please consult your licensed physicians. The author will not be liable for the use of the information especially in the use of cannabis or herbs in this website.

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First published December 1, 2017 ©

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