The most common question I get when promoting New Hampshire’s new ADS law is: “does acupuncture only treat addiction..”
Last year, I advocated for a law. It became the biggest acupuncture media campaign in New Hampshire’s history. (Feel free to fact check me, but I am confident.) Since then, I am reminded how little the public knows about acupuncture. It burst my little bubble. I work at a clinic that provides 25,000 low cost acupuncture treatments a year. Now I find myself starting from scratch.
I am not going to get into the details about how the HB 575 became a law. You can find that here and here. I also made a slideshow with my husband’s great photos. My biggest take away is that the public thinks very little about acupuncture. And why would they, if so many communities do not have easy access to it?
Before HB 575, my co-workers and I were already used to common questions from people who get acupuncture for the first time:
Did you have to go to school for this?
Yes, it’s way too long and way too expensive. Here is some info on POCA Tech.
Are you licensed to practice?
Yes, by law I am nationally certified and licensed by the state of New Hampshire.
How do you clean the needles?
We don’t. They are single use disposable needles. That’s what the biohazard containers are for.
The ADS law was signed into effect in July of 2017. However, ADSes could not legally practice until July of 2018. This was due to a long and drawn out rulemaking process.
An ADS (Acupuncture Detoxification Specialist) is not the same as licensed acupuncturist. An ADS is some other type of health professional, certified in an ear acupuncture protocol taught by The National Acupuncture Detoxification Association (NADA), or equivalent training. Half of the states in the US allow for some types of health professionals to practice the NADA protocol. The New Hampshire law is not limited to addiction recovery. ADSes can use the NADA protocol for behavioral health and PTSD. The supervision requirements in the NH law are minimal. That is a good thing. ADSes can also practice beyond structured programs. Also, a good thing. New Hampshire is heavily affected by the opioid epidemic. We are also seeing an increase in suicides, and sexual assault. My state needs help. Our communities need more tools for mental health.
Licensed Acupuncturists want the world to respect their Master's Degrees. The rest of the world has no idea that we even have Master’s Degrees. Why would anyone care about acupuncture if they don’t get acupuncture?
Since HB 575 became law, I continue to advocate. I volunteer at a local recovery community center providing NADA treatments. I attend monthly meetings with other healthcare providers. I make a point to talk to local officials whenever possible.
Confusion is out there. More people are learning about Ear Acupuncture as a treatment for substance use disorder (SUD). For many, this is their first time thinking about acupuncture. at. all.
For example, a local reporter interviewed me over the phone. He sent a photographer to the clinic to get some photos for the story. A regular patient volunteered for the photo. When I spoke with the reporter later that night, he asked “she’s not….an addict… is she?”
“No, Kevin. She uses acupuncture to cope with chronic back pain. As an acupuncturist, I treat all kinds of health issues. Pain is the biggest reason why people seek out acupuncture.”
That reporter still didn't get it. He opted to use a goofy photo of me and my patient’s bare legs. He thought he was protecting her from stigma.
Like I said, I am not going to get in to the details of how HB 575 became a law (now RSA something or other). I do want to comment on how opposing acupuncturists are willfully ignorant about NADA. Do I want jobs for acupuncturists? Of course I do. But even at the height of a substance abuse and mental health epidemic, jobs are not widely opening up for acupuncturists. A few acupuncturists may have some gigs. But not to an extent that would make a noticeable impact on the devastating situation that we are in right now.
I spend a lot of time sharing information with the recovery and mental health community about NADA and their legal right to practice it. I see genuine interest, but very little follow through at this point. It’s discouraging. The only thing that eases my “Post Legislative Stress Disorder” is to provide more treatments. On my day off, you can find me hanging out and needeling ears at Hope for NH Recovery. (Thank you, Hope for NH Recovery for helping me.)
The acupuncture profession is not cohesive or unified. NADA, as an organization, is held at an arm’s length by other acupuncture organizations. That is sad. There is a lot that acupuncturists can learn from NADA's history. There is a lot that the acupuncture profession can gain by collaborating with other types of providers who can, and should, be able to legally practice some acupuncture. Still, there is little interest or enthusiasm for collaboration among acupuncture “leaders.” That is a problem. It hurts everyone,especially the public.