The 5 Needle Protocol (5NP)

by Ariel Stimson

The 5NP or 5 needle protocol, is an acupuncture protocol using points in the ear to treat a variety of mental health related issues. Some examples include addiction and detox, depression, anxiety, PTSD and more. The 5 Needle Protocol originated in the 1970’s with the help of Michael Smith, as a way to treat drug and alcohol detox in the Bronx. NADA, or the National Acupuncture Detox Association was born out of this time, and now 5NP and the NADA protocol are interchangeable terms. NADA is now a certifying organization, training people, not limited to acupuncturists, to offer this protocol to a wide variety of people in all sorts of settings.

Why do we need it?

As the incidence of natural disasters has risen, and many have been displaced from their homes, the need to address trauma has risen as well. Our country has some of the highest rates of depression and anxiety in the world, and addiction has a long and continuous history as well, spanning all socioeconomic classes, races, religions and sexual orientations.  The 5NP can be used as a stand-alone acupuncture treatment in a group setting, allowing for people to feel supported in community as they heal. The 5NP can also be used during an individual setting, as part of a full-body acupuncture treatment by a licensed acupuncturist.

How does it work?

The ear contains an external branch of the vagus nerve, a nerve which innervates many of our vital organs such as the heart, liver, lungs and kidneys. It also has a strong effect on our parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for all of our automatic “rest and digest” functions such as relaxed breathing, and opposes our “fight or flight” response. This “fight or flight” response is a very common state for people to be in after facing trauma, or dealing with chronic anxiety, and helping people come out of this state can significantly improve their quality of life. Calming the entire system, slowing the heart rate and aiding the liver to detox and process our emotions are just a few things that the 5NP can do, both short and long-term. This treatment protocol is such a valuable tool not just for acupuncturists, but anyone who wants to make a difference in the world of mental health and healing.

For more information about Ariel Stimson, click to see her Bio page! 

NADA. National Acupuncture Detoxification Association. Published August 16, 2018. Accessed August 9, 2019.