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Am J Chin Med. 2013;41(1):43-57. doi: 10.1142/S0192415X13500043.

Effects of Tai Chi on the protracted abstinence syndrome: a time trial analysis.

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Yunnan Police Officer Academy, Kunming, Yunnan 650223, China.


While exercise has been shown to reduce the negative effects of substance withdrawal symptoms, no research has investigated if Tai Chi, a traditional Chinese exercise, has similar effects. Here, we observed the physiological effects of Tai Chi on protracted abstinence syndrome (PAS) in female heroin addicts by comprehensively inspecting their immune system function, complete blood count, hepatic function and renal function. To determine the psychological effects, we used the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HRSD) and the rating scale of heroin withdrawal symptoms. We recruited 70 heroin-addicted young women beginning to undergo withdrawal and randomly assigned them into two groups: one group received one-hour Tai Chi exercise every two days (Tai Chi group, n = 36) and the other group did not (control group, n = 34). Thirty-three patients finished this six-month trial. Numerous significant physiological differences were observed between all heroin-addicted subjects (n = 70) and age-matched healthy individuals (n = 18), suggesting a deleterious effect of drug addiction. There were improvements for certain physical parameters between the Tai Chi group (n = 17) and the control group (n = 16), although the differences were not statistically significant. We observed a small significant difference in psychological effects near the 60-day mark between the two groups. Taken together, our results suggest that Tai Chi might have a positive effect on PAS, which future studies can confirm by using an expanded sample size, longer trial time, and more sensitive and specific indicators of psychological and physiological health.

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