Acupuncture: An Alternative to Prescription Opioid Medications for Pain

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Opioid Medications have the same chemical properties as heroin. Prior to 1999 MDs prescribed them mostly for use in the hospital and acute pain conditions.

They are now used widely for many pain issues and found in commonly prescribed medications like codeine, fentanyl, hydrocodone, Vicodin, Lortab, Dilaudid, Demerol, OxyContin, Percocet.


“People take these medications for pain and become quickly hooked or addicted”   Dr. Debra Houry CDC

“In general, we do not have compelling evidence for the benefits of opioids that outweighs what we know now of their risks”   Dr. Deborah Dowell CDC

“Many of us were even taught – incorrectly – that opioids are not addictive when prescribed for legitimate pain”   Dr. Vivek Murthy, US Surgeon General

Sales and overdose deaths involving prescription opioids have quadrupled since 1999. At least half of all U.S. opioid overdose deaths involve a prescription opioid.
In 2014, more than 14,000 people died from overdoses involving prescription opioids. From the CDC:
  • Overdose rates were highest among people aged 25 - 54.
  • Overdose rates were higher among non-Hispanic whites and American Indian or Alaskan Natives, compared to non-Hispanic blacks and Hispanics.
  • Men were more likely to die from overdose, but the mortality gap between men and women is narrowing.
  • In 2014, almost 2 million Americans abused or were dependent on prescription opioids.
  • As many as 1 in 4 individuals who receive prescription opioids long term for non-cancer pain in primary care settings struggles with addiction.
  • Over 1,000 people are treated in emergency departments daily for misusing prescription opioids.

Jobs are lost, families are destroyed and communities decimated by addiction to narcotic pain killers. Communities and loved ones of addicts are seeking answers.

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Acupuncture is ...
  • A non-addictive adjunctive therapy for pain.
  • Acupuncture is well received, patient centered, safe and effective.
  • A 2012 British study found that one-third of total knee replacement candidates who received acupuncture instead of conventional treatment experienced long-term pain relief and were able to avoid surgery two years later, at a cost savings of $8,100 per patient.
  • Acupuncture is a low cost option: Massachusetts determined that it only cost $0.37 - $0.76 per person per month to cover acupuncture.In the U.S., where 719,000 knee replacement surgeries were performed in 2010, the savings could total $1.9 billion.
  • Many NFL teams use Acupuncture services to help their football players perform at their peak and help injuries heal faster.
  • Acupuncture services are helping U.S. servicemen and women on the battlefield as well as veterans at home.
  • The top 5 U.S. cancer centers, ranked by U.S. News and World Report, have licensed acupuncturists on staff and fund and conduct acupuncture and Oriental medicine research.
  • Acupuncture has been shown to be effective, sometimes more effective, than conventional care for the most common chronic pain conditions for which opioids are prescribed. Functional MRI has shown that the body releases endogenous opioid peptides (the body’s pain modulators) and anti-inflammatory agents.
Acupuncture Training and Scope of Practice in Minnesota
In Minnesota, acupuncturists must be licensed and national board-certified. They are identified by the professional designation “Licensed Acupuncturist” (L.Ac.). Their master’s degree training typically exceeds 3,000 hours, including more than 1,700 hours of didactic classroom instruction on acupuncture and Oriental medicine, over 500 hours of bioscience-related material, and 900 hours of clinical observation and experience.

Others who may perform acupuncture in Minnesota (e.g., physicians, chiropractors) have not undergone this level of acupuncture specialty training unless they also hold the designation L.Ac.


In Minnesota, the scope of practice of acupuncturists includes, but is not limited to:
  1. Using Oriental medical theory to assess and diagnose a patient.

  2. Using Oriental medical theory to develop a plan to treat a patient.










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