By ANGELA HOWELL
Acupuncture will soon be used to treat drug offenders at Salt Lake County Drug Court.
Doug Bunker, treatment coordinator for Salt Lake County Drug Court, said $12,000 has been granted for treating addicts with acupuncture at the drug court.
The acupuncture treatment “should be starting in about a week,” Bunker said. “At this point, we’re probably going to make (the treatment) voluntary and not require it, but we might change our approach after we see what the response is.”
Third District Judge Dennis Fuchs said, “We’ve been wanting to do this for about a year, and we had to put it out to public bid as per all county procurements.”
To be assigned to the drug court, “they have to be individuals who are presently charged with a felony drug charge,” Fuchs said. “Right now we’ve limited it down to either third or second-degree felonies, and they have to have at least one prior drug conviction on their record. So, we’re dealing mostly with the hard-core drug offenders (and) long-time addicts.”
Flo McNeely, acupuncture detoxification specialist, has treated drug addicts with acupuncture. She said an auricular formula is used, which means needles are placed at points in the ear. A five-point combination is used for drug rehabilitation clients.
McNeely said people have reported the treatment is better than the drugs.
According to Bunker, the treatments have been reported to help alleviate withdrawal symptoms such as depression, anxiety, insomnia, cravings, body aches, headaches, nausea, sweating and muscle cramping.
The treatment is “going to be available to all of our drug court clients, and the length of the program is a minimum of one year,” Bunker said.
The majority of the clients “are going to use it the most early on in their recovery because that is when the cravings are the worst and that’s when they go through a lot of the physical withdrawal symptoms,” Bunker said. However, “people also use it for when they’re in kind of a fragile condition” during a relapse.
McNeely said some of her clients look forward to the treatment because they get to enjoy an hour of “peace.” The treatments are designed to be a relaxing experience. Some people who are at first nervous, she said, end up looking forward to the sessions because they know the treatments make them feel better.