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  • Christina

The NADA Acupuncture Protocol for Addiction and Trauma


Close-up of an ear of a person with dark brown skin.
The ear contains dozens of Acupuncture points, 5 of which make up the effective NADA protocol.


There are so many different styles, techniques, schools of thought, point combinations, and protocols within Acupuncture that a practitioner will never get bored with the endless tools at their disposal. Most treatments are tailored to an individual's specific pattern of symptoms and circumstances, but there are some combinations of points that become favorites - point prescriptions that just work so well for so many people that they become go-to treatments. The NADA protocol is one of those prescriptions that has taken on a life of its own and is perhaps the most used Acupuncture treatment in the country.


The NADA protocol is used to treat treat addiction, trauma, and many psychological issues. It consists of just five points needled on the ears which makes it very easy and safe to administer by trained professionals. Because of this it is widely used in detox centers, eating disorder clinics, VA clinics, and community acupuncture centers often as a complete acupuncture treatment. Practitioners in Acupuncturists Without Borders even travel to parts of the world after natural disasters have struck to provide treatment to people who have survived devastating incidents. It is a powerful and efficient tool to achieve a lot of good for the most people in a short amount of time.


Interestingly this treatment protocol got started in grassroots community clinics organized by the Young Lords with involvement from the Black Panthers in the 1970's. Both of these groups were active in organizing and running free healthcare clinics to serve their otherwise underserved communities. The Young Lords occupied a floor of Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx turning it into a free clinic for heroin detox starting in 1970 and lasting through much of the decade. Heroin use was at an all time high in the Bronx with treatment options relatively scarce. The NADA protocol was used to help get people actually clean while tapering down on methadone, rather than simply trading a heroin dependency for a methadone dependency indefinitely. The People's Clinic, as it was called, provided a service to the community that was otherwise sorely lacking. Unfortunately at the time and even decades later, many seem to be unable to accept the radical politics of these groups and a lot of this social good has been forgotten or erased. But the social and health programs of the Young Lords and Black Panthers have had lasting benefits and they deserve acknowledgement for their contributions. Until recently no credit was given to these groups for helping to develop and spread this widely used Acupuncture protocol. This history was not something I was taught in school even though it is a treatment I use almost daily.


Further reading below, since I have just barely scratched the surface here. I would also recommend the documentary Dope is Death by Mia Donovan which is all about the creation of the People's Clinic, later known as Lincoln Detox, and the involvement of the Young Lords and Black Panthers.

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Pretty decent article on Curbed about the Young Lords' creation of the Lincoln People's Clinic and use of Acupuncture - https://www.curbed.com/2021/10/young-lords-acupuncture-detox-bronx-lincoln-hospital.html


More information about the 5 point NADA protocol from Cleveland Clinic: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/nada-acupuncture-for-addiction/

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