County told acupuncture aids addicts

From The Oregonian – February 15, 1988

Acupuncture treatments appear to have slashed the recidivism rates of alcoholics and drug addicts passing through Multnomah County detoxification programs in the last six months.



Normally, 20 percent to 25 percent of those participating in the county’s alcohol and drug detox programs fail to complete them and return to their addiction, the County Board of Commissioners was told last week.

When acupuncture has been used, the recidivism rate drops to 5 percent, based on data collected by the Hooper Center since July.

“This is one of the most encouraging things I’ve seen since I’ve been here,” County Commissioner Pauline Anderson commented.

Dr. David Eisen, 33, director of acupuncture services at the Hooper Center, said the 95 percent rate of success was based on the number of patients who hadn’t returned to Hooper since receiving acupuncture.

Acupuncture itself doesn’t cure alcoholism and drug addiction. What it does do is help individuals going through withdrawal by reducing their craving for drugs or alcohol and calming them down.

Going through detoxification for drugs such as cocaine is “hell,” a very anguishing experience far more difficult than recovering from a hangover from drinking, Eisen explained. Acupuncture greatly reduces this agony or makes it bearable, he said.

Operating on a $59,000 annual budget, which finances the operation of five clinics, Eisen said acupuncture was offered on both an inpatient and outpatient basis.

Inpatient treatment involves a five-day stay for alcohol detox, seven days for drug detox, he said.

Outpatient treatment, costing the county about $1 per patient to provide, is available free to addicts. Experience has shown that three acupuncture treatments provide the best help as patients complete the transition from alcohol or drug dependency, he said.

In the outpatient treatment, patients sit in a group with sterilized stainless steel needles attached to their earlobes for about an hour’s time. The group provides a support atmosphere, he said.

About one patient in every 2,500 treated with acupuncture will have an adverse reaction, turning clammy and sweaty, Eisen said.

In those cases, the needles are detached and the patient lies down, suffering no lingering effects from the treatment, he said.

Those seeking information and assistance can contact either the Hooper Center, 20 N.E. Union Ave., or the Project for Community Recovery, 3924 N. Williams Ave., between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Prior appointments are not required to participate in outpatient acupuncture treatment, Eisen said.

The Portland acupuncture program is similar to those developed in New York, Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis and Los Angeles under the auspices of the National Acupuncture Detox Association. Eisen is one of the association’s founders.