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

Download Joint Acupuncture Opioid Task Force CDC Submission (PDF)
Download Full Letter to the Department of Workers' Compensation (PDF)
Download Full Letter to the Minnesota Department of Human Services (PDF)

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