Opioid abuse has become epidemic. Prescribed pharmaceuticals for pain relief have led countless people into drug addiction. Pain was the first thing which the AMA and WHO (World Health Organization) acknowledged that TCM excelled at treating. So why hasn’t it been fully utilized to prevent the tragedy of addiction? TCM and nutrition are powerful tools that can be used for easing people off of addictive drugs. By treating chronic pain, insomnia, depression, anxiety, and stress, and improving the body’s ability to detoxify, people can feel like themselves again. This can assist in their journey to reclaim their goals and place in society. Good nutrition is essential. Many addicts don’t have access to the proper foods necessary to provide the physical and mental stability required to overcome their habit. The healthy foods needed to heal have become too expensive compared to fast and prepared foods, which are laced with chemicals, hormones and antibiotics. These just add to the bodies toxic overload; making an addict’s recovery more difficult. If you’re inclined to help people begging on the street, rather than giving them money that might go towards alcohol or drugs, you might offer a piece of fruit. A warm beverage of choice is usually welcome in cold weather. On hot days a rehydrating drink, such as coconut water or Recharge is a considerate option. Recharge is the Health Food version of Gatorade. Or you might buy someone a meal. To really deal with the addiction crisis, recovery centers should incorporate TCM, offer nutritious food, and provide nutritional education as a part of their treatment plan. A common reason many people turn to drugs is what’s known as Liver Qi Stagnation in TCM theory. This manifests as a wound up feeling like a spring ready to be sprung. Insomnia where you can’t go to sleep, or wake between 1:00 and 3:00 AM and can’t get back to sleep because your mind is racing, is another example. Liver Qi Stagnation also has to do with stress. Projected outward stress manifests as anger or irritability; or projected inward, depression. Fluctuating between the two is common. Eventually people will try anything for relief; to just make it all stop, to be able to temporarily relax or sleep well. This is often when people turn to self-medicating with alcohol or drugs out of desperation. Candida is another common component of addiction. Candida creates intense cravings which demand consumption of alcohol or other sweets. The result can be mental fogginess, memory problems and lethargy. Stimulants, also known as uppers, are too often the remedy of choice when caffeine and sugar no longer provide the temporary mental clarity needed to function. Prescribed Chinese herbal formulas, Acupuncture and a change in diet can clear the Candida induced agitation, eliminate the fogginess, and improve memory. The best case scenario is to learn about these tools before addiction takes hold. Schools and colleges should educate young people about healthy alternatives to drugs and alcohol by making information on these topics readily available. Few kids leaving home for the first time understand enough about nutrition to make the healthy choices required for staying relaxed, mentally focused and depression free. This is often a time of life when drugs and alcohol become more readily available. A little knowledge can go a long way towards addiction prevention. No one can be mentally or physically stable while starving. Severe nutrient depletion can generate wild swings between aggressive agitation and depressive exhaustion. Creating the foundation of nutritional stability is an essential component of preventing and treating mental illness and addiction. That said, nothing will help an alcoholic or drug addict until they truly want to make the monumental effort to change. But knowing there’s something that will help them feel better will ease the steps toward recovery, making the journey more manageable. Giving people control over their lives provides an alternative to numbing themselves. Healthy food, nutritional education, Acupuncture, Chinese Herbal formulas and nutritional supplements can help give addicts the tools to reclaim their lives.

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Nancy Burton, L.Ac. is a Licensed Acupuncturist. She incorporates Acupuncture, Herbs, Tui Na (Chinese Medicinal Massage), Homeopathics, Nutritional Supplements, Muscle Testing, and Nutritional Counseling and Therapy in her practice. Her goal is to give patients the tools they need to achieve and maintain good health.

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