While prescription painkillers may seem harmless, they often become a pathway to addiction. Data shows that 80 percent of heroin users started with prescription medications given to treat an injury or post-surgery pain. And as the opioid epidemic rages on, medical professionals are looking for painkiller alternatives. According to a 2017 study published by the Medical Journal of Australia, acupuncture could be the holistic addiction treatment practice they have been searching for.
For those unfamiliar with how the Chinese medical treatment works to reverse pain, experts place acupuncture needles on up to 350 strategic points on the client’s body. When these areas are stimulated, blood flow increases, and the body produces natural painkillers.
The Medical Journal of Australia study, which was conducted over a period of two years, was designed to test whether the analgesia provided by acupuncture was comparable to that of painkillers. The 1,964 patients treated were chosen at random from four different emergency rooms in Australia. They came in with acute lower back pain, migraines, or sprained ankles, and claimed a pain level of at least a four on a 10-point scale. Patients were given one of three treatments: painkillers, acupuncture and painkillers, or acupuncture alone. According to the published report, the effectiveness of acupuncture proved to be comparable to that of painkillers. Almost 83 percent of the patients who received acupuncture-only treatment said that they would chose that treatment again.
Marc Cohen, leader of the study, said, “While acupuncture is widely used by practitioners in community settings for treating pain, it is rarely used in hospital emergency departments.” And while the use of powerful painkillers will not be eradicated from emergency rooms overnight, the study gives hope that we will see a decline in the number of opioid prescriptions as alternatives appear.