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Int Rev Neurobiol. 2013;111:235-56. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-411545-3.00012-2.

Acupuncture for the treatment of drug addiction.

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Neuroscience Research Institute & Department of Neurobiology, School of Basic Medical Sciences, Peking University, Beijing, PR China; Key Laboratory for Neuroscience, Ministry of Education /National Health and Family Planning Commission, Peking University, Beijing, PR China. Electronic address:


Over the last four decades, there has been an increasing interest in acupuncture treatment of substance abuse around the world. Three important steps can be identified in this field. Dr. Wen of Hong Kong was the first (1972) to report that acupuncture at four body points and two ear points combined with electric stimulation can relieve opioid withdrawal signs in the addicts. The second major step was made by Dr. M. Smith in New York, the head of the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association (NADA) of the United States, who finalized a protocol (1985), using only ear points without electric stimulation for the treatment of cocaine dependence. The recent advance in this field was made by Dr. Han of the Peking University, Beijing, who characterized a protocol (2005), using electric stimulation of identified frequencies on body points to ameliorate heroin withdrawal signs and reduce relapse of heroin use. In this chapter, the efficacy of acupuncture and related techniques for the treatment of drug dependence in experimental settings and clinical practice will be reviewed, and the possible mechanisms underlying this effect be discussed.


Acupuncture; Drug addiction; Relapse; Withdrawal syndrome

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