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The NADA ear acupuncture protocol: Community acupuncture that packs a punch

Acupuncture is a vast medicine with a number of techniques, modalities, and theories all aiming to promote wellbeing for body, mind, and spirit. One such acupuncture subtype is auricular acupuncture, which is acupuncture where the ears are needled to influence certain aspects of physiology and mental health. One of the most widely used auricular techniques is a protocol called NADA, created by the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association. NADA is widely used to support people struggling with addictions, behavioral health, pain, and cancer (Bemis, 2013). This is the protocol most acupuncturists use in the context of community acupuncture. I offer it in my 30-minute mini sessions at Alexandria Massage Therapy ($65 per session). I'll also be offering it in a community context on October 24th in collaboration with The Garden Wellness Center, owned by Deanna Hopson, for $45 per person. Click here to sign up!

community acupuncture protocol ear demonstration needles

1) Stop addictions in their tracks

Reviews of the research on the NADA protocol support its use in programs for heroin, alcohol, cocaine, and nicotine addiction recovery (Bemis, 2013). NADA together with standard addictions care has been shown to have significantly better outcomes than standard addictions care alone (Bemis, 2013). If you’re looking to decrease your dependence on any particular thing, whether it’s caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, sugar, some other substance, or a behavior, NADA can help. The protocol includes 5 points on the ear which regulate the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system, promote detoxification through the Liver and Kidneys, and help people to feel more grounded in their bodies and minds. With this new awareness, in my experience, people feel better equipped to learn what prompts their use of a substance or behavior, and are able to break the cycle with greater ease.

addiction support therapy group meeting people hugging

2) Promote mental health and psychological well-being

NADA has been widely studied across a number of psychiatric settings and has been accepted within mainstream psychiatric settings as an adjunct therapy in the management of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), insomnia, depression, and physical pain linked to mental health concerns (Bemis, 2013). NADA and other ear-acupuncture protocols are widely used in the military to support individuals with acute and chronic trauma reactions. Whether you’re a veteran or not, NADA can support you with symptoms related to trauma and mental health concerns. I commonly place a take-home sticky magnet on an ear point that is part of the NADA protocol to help individuals struggling with sleep concerns. In my experience, as much as NADA can help with addictions to substances, it can serve in people who are struggling to stick to their commitment to change a behavior or thought pattern, and makes a great adjunct treatment for people already in psychological therapy.

person smiling outside wellbeing calm

3) Pain management

Study of the NADA protocol in an animal model suggests that this protocol may help with pain management by decreasing morphine tolerance and decreasing the risk of developing over-sensitivity to pain stimuli following use of pain medications (Kailasam, Anand, & Melyan, 2016). Many people who have been prescribed morphine as part of pain management experience some level of dependence. A subset of those experience something called hyperalgesia. In hyperalgesia, the body’s pain response becomes heightened to counteract the effect of the opioids being added to the system. These two problems limit the efficacy of opioids in pain management, and contribute heavily to the modern concern of the “opioid epidemic.” NADA has been shown to reduce these side-effects of morphine in an animal model, which suggests a promising future of adjunct care for pain where the NADA protocol is used to reduce the side-effects and increase the efficacy of morphine. People recovering from surgery, people in hospice, chronic pain patients, and many other opioid-dependent populations can benefit immensely from ear acupuncture.

Community Acupuncture Event Details

October 24th, 2023

5:00 PM - 8:00 PM

The Garden

112 S. Patrick Street

Alexandria, VA 22314


Bemis, R. (2013). Evidence for the NADA ear acupuncture protocol: Summary of research - a review of literature. National Acupuncture Detoxification Association.

Kailasam, V. K., Anand, P., and Melyan, Z., (2016). Establishing an animal model for National Acupuncture Detoxification Association (NADA) auricular acupuncture protocol. Neuroscience Letters, 624. doi:10.1016/j.noulet.2016.05.001


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