What is the NADA Protocol?

What is the NADA Protocol?

The NADA Protocol is named after the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association, which first developed it in the 1970s to help with recovery from opiate addiction.  It has since been refined and its applications have broadened beyond its origins in addiction recovery.

The NADA Protocol is a form of “auricular acupuncture” – that is, acupuncture of the outer part of the ear that is called the auricle.  The ear is directly or indirectly connected with 12 meridians, which means that many conditions can be treated using auricular acupuncture.  There is a certain convenience factor with auricular acupuncture, as well.  A person can receive needles in the ear quickly and conveniently in pretty much any setting.  A place to sit quietly for 20-30 minutes is all that’s needed.  

If you are curious to learn about the history and current clinical applications of auricular acupuncture, read more here.

This combination of convenience and effectiveness has contributed to the NADA Protocol becoming internationally recognized for its utility in other situations besides addiction recovery support.  Because it is possible to treat many people in a community setting using the Protocol, its use has become widespread as an effective front-line treatment for first responders and people in communities hit by natural disasters and other traumatizing events.  For example, in the aftermath of 9/11, St. Vincent’s Hospital in Manhattan used the NADA protocol to alleviate insomnia and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affecting emergency relief workers. The NADA Protocol was offered 24 hours a day at Ground Zero for months.

Here is a list of the five points used in the NADA Protocol, and what happens when each is activated (by a needle or other means):

  1. The Autonomic Point, also know as Sympathetic Nervous System Point – Calms the nervous system; helps with overall relaxation
  2. Shen Men, or “Spirit Gate” – Reduces anxiety and nervousness
  3. Kidney Point – Calms fears, promotes healing of internal organs
  4. Lung Point – Promotes oxygenation, helps with letting go of grief
  5. Liver Point – For detoxification, blood purification, and to quell aggression
NADA Protocol Close Up.

The part of the needle that goes into the ear is cat-whisker thin. What’s most visible in this picture is the “handle” of the needle, which aids in its placement by the acupuncturist.

Charlotte Miller is CCHW's Office Manager