Opioid abuse is recognized as a disaster by the State of Alaska. For many, addiction often starts with an injury and a prescription. A new study says a combination of acetaminophen and ibuprofen can be better than opioids in some cases.

KTVA looked into another alternative -- some licensed acupuncturists say their profession, at times, is often overlooked during this opioid crisis. Practitioners like Lamar Gunter, an acupuncturist at the Oriental Healing Arts Center in midtown say they not only treat you for pain, but can also treat alcohol and drug addiction as well.

"I think more physicians are opting to refer patients for acupuncture. Now, I get a lot of referrals from doctors," said Gunter.

Treating pain with acupuncture is nothing new. Gunter says the practice of using tiny needles to fight all sorts of ailments is thousands of years old.

While millions of people depend on the procedure to manage their pain, others rely on powerful opioids. Some with deadly consequences.

Gunter explains why a lot of people won't visit an acupuncturist.

"The idea of sticking a needle in the body can be a little creepy to some people," she said.

She goes on to say, finding the source of her patient's pain helps her design a treatment plan to ease that pain. A treatment with very little side effects if any.

"With some wonderful points on the ear, that stimulate natural endorphins which is your pleasure response to pain, cause you can't feel both at the same time," said Gunter.

Practitioners want one thing to be clear, acupuncture is not for just pain treatment.

"We do auricular treatments in the ear which is, that's been going on since the '70s in this country," she said. "Very successfully treating heroin addiction, treating smoking, nicotine addiction. Addictions of all kinds."

Traditional doctors like emergency physician Anne Zink say more research still needs to be done on acupuncture, but she supports the practice as a non-opioid alternative.

"I think there's good evidence now, that particularly for long-term and chronic pain that acupuncture can work well," said Dr. Zink.

Acupuncture is giving patients more options that are safer and has no chance of becoming addictive.

Click on this link to learn more about acupuncture, or to even find a list of local practitioners.