Licensed acupuncturist Marie Arnberg applies the NADA protocol to a veteran at the Bangor Veterans Acupuncture Project. BANGOR VETERANS ACUPUNCTURE PROJECT PHOTO

Acupuncture is one more weapon in battle against substance abuse

ELLSWORTH — The human body remembers. It holds on to trauma no matter its source. And then it releases the trauma in unpredictable and often harmful ways.

According to the National Institutes of Health, “Exposure to traumatic experiences, especially those occurring in childhood, has been linked to substance use disorders (SUDs), including abuse and dependence.”

Locally, Verona Island-based acupuncturist Marie Arnberg works with clients to help relieve the symptoms that come from trauma, whether it occurred in childhood, during specific events or through the experiences that come with active addiction. The goal is to help people in recovery and suffering from post-traumatic shock.

Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese practice dating back roughly 3,000 years. Acupuncture points on the human body are believed to stimulate the central nervous system, releasing chemicals into the muscles, spinal cord and brain that may stimulate the body’s natural healing abilities and promote physical and emotional well-being.

Arnberg, who owns and operates DownEast Community Acupuncture, has long advocated for a recently enacted state law that allows certain health professionals apart from acupuncturists to perform one protocol — acupuncture detoxification — aimed at people in recovery.

The acupuncture detoxification protocol started in the early 1970s, at Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx, as a heroin epidemic swept through New York City.

“It was actually the Young Lords and Black Panthers pushing for community health,” Arnberg said. “It was really led by the community. It was chaotic and loud, but people just kept coming, because it made them feel better and gave them hope.”

In the mid-1980s, psychiatrist Dr. Michael Smith founded NADA (National Acupuncture Detoxification Association) and the procedure became better known as the NADA protocol.

Forty years later, Hancock County residents can step into INSPIRE Recovery Center on Church Street in downtown Ellsworth to learn to use acupressure beads on the same ear points targeted by acupuncture needles.

Franklin resident Jean Guyette will offer classes in January for anyone interested in how to properly apply the beads. She became involved through her own experiences with acupuncture.

“Marie offered the NADA protocol on me, and I absolutely loved it,” Guyette said. So, when Arnberg was leaving town for a while, she showed Guyette how to use the beads. “I was like, why don’t people know about this? It’s so easy.”

And for those health professionals covered under the new law, in early 2022 Arnberg will repeat her introduction to the NADA protocol training offered at INSPIRE last November.

“Recovery looks different for everyone,” Healthy Acadia’s Recovery Program Volunteer Coordinator Beth Alteri said.

“There is no one-size-fits-all or even one-size-fits-most. Recovery is finding the path that works for you. Sometimes it is one tool such as NA [Narcotics Anonymous] or MAT [medically assisted treatment], but more often it is a combination of resources.”

The NADA protocol goes beyond helping with drug withdrawal symptoms and recovery support. It is known to help with post-traumatic stress and to support general well-being.

“It just helped my body relax and my mind slow down,” Jean said. “I’m more present, I’m able to focus.”

Arnberg has heard from her clients across the spectrum that they feel less anxious, sleep better, and feel more hopeful, she said. She used the NADA protocol as a volunteer and co-founder of nonprofit Bangor Veterans Acupuncture Project for years.

“You learn from your patients,” she said. “When I first went to work with the vets, I thought to myself, in the ear once a week, what difference is that going to make? I learned from them. They kept on coming back because it made them feel better.”

For more information on the trainings and other INSPIRE classes and offerings, visit

Anne Berleant

Anne Berleant

Reporter at The Ellsworth American
News Reporter Anne Berleant covers news and features in Ellsworth, Mariaville, Otis, Amherst, Aurora, Great Pond and Osborn. When not reporting, find her hiking local trails, reading or watching professional tennis. Email her at [email protected]

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