MIDDLETOWN – Last month RECAP’s TRUST Center staff began incorporating acupuncture into treatment for clients in recovery from substance abuse. The Chinese medicinal therapy of stimulating energy centers in the body for healing has a history spanning over 2,000 years and the growing success of alternative methods in healthcare has made the practice more widespread in the treatment of addiction. Staff use auricular acupuncture, which focuses on points in the ear, to help clients with histories including addiction, trauma, psychological issues, and more. The TRUST Center, on Smith Street in Middletown, is one of two addiction treatment facilities operated by Regional Economic Community Action Program.
The one-hour elective treatments are conducted by AcuDetox Therapist Bradley Anderson and NYS Licensed Acupuncturist Santo Figueroa. The five needles used in the auricular treatments affect pressure points connected to the liver, lungs, and kidneys, the health of which are integral in detox and recovery. In treatment, the skin is swabbed with rubbing alcohol and sterile needles are inserted. The room is darkened and the group meditates to soft music, and the session ends with a “processing” discussion about the experience.
Participants can also elect the use of auricular magnet pellets, tiny beads that are attached to the back of the ear to provide continuous pressure until they’re either removed or fall off.
“I can sleep better, I’m calmer and more relaxed,” said participant Ricky B. who lives at New Life Manor residence in Newburgh and attends the TRUST Center’s day program. “The process helps with my anxiety, I can sleep without taking a sleeping pill. After meditation I feel warm and my blood flows better. I go through a lot at the house with all the personalities.”
“Treatments help with detoxification, withdrawal, and cravings. It’s important that participants are able to elect if they participate. It’s an empowering experience to actively choose to feel better,” said Anderson, a certified Therapeutic Recreational Therapist who learned the treatment modality in 2002 from Dr. Michael Smith who retired from the Lincoln Recovery Center in the Bronx. He has since been providing supervised treatments in recovery settings including nearby R.C. Ward Addiction Treatment Center.
Also participating is Eric M, another New Life Manor resident. “I’m a fidgety uptight person but when I get done with acupuncture, meditation and the beads I’m more relaxed. At first it was a little uncomfortable. Being with my own thoughts was hard for me. Sitting still for 5 minutes was strange, I always had to be doing something. When I was at the detox I couldn’t sleep. I was going absolutely crazy and told my counselor if I can’t sleep I’ve got to get out of here. She gave me a rock to put on my chest when I want to sleep and it worked. Is it the rock or the process? I don’t know. I was able to put my focus on the rock. That concept quieted my mind so I could sleep when my head hit the pillow.”
Santo Figueroa is a New York State Licensed Acupuncturist with a private practice in New Windsor where he does full body acupuncture, herbal medicine, and Tui Na, a form of acupressure massage. His goal with acupuncture in the recovery setting is to help clients develop practical mental tools to use in their recovery journey. “We’re strengthening areas of the brain. When you want to learn a musical instrument, you can think about it, but to hold it, to blow into it, move keys with your fingers, by doing that you’re training the brain,” he said.
“You can’t just get a gym membership and work out. I thought that would get me spiritually right,” said Eric after treatment. “This is a good way to connect the mind, body and spirit. The acupuncture, yoga, and meditation help focus my mind on something outside myself. It’s been one of the most important tools in my recovery.”