In the continuing search for
an effective therapy for cocaine addiction, acupuncture, an ancient Chinese
therapy, combined with modern Western treatments, may hold promise.
In the August 14/28 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine,
researchers report that cocaine dependent patients who received a course of
auricular acupuncture (acupuncture needles inserted into four specific points
in the outer ear) were more likely to be free of cocaine during treatment than
those not receiving acupuncture.
"This study shows that there may be merit in using acupuncture in
combination with other therapies as a treatment for cocaine addiction," said
Dr. Alan I. Leshner, Director, National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
The research team led by Arthur Margolin, Ph.D., at Yale University School
of Medicine conducted a clinical trial enrolling 82 dually-addicted
participants. These individuals were being treated with methadone for their
heroin addiction and were referred to the study due to their unremitting
cocaine use. Participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups:
auricular acupuncture; "control" acupuncture (needles inserted into four ear
points not thought to have a treatment effect); or a relaxation group (in
which patients viewed commercially-available video-tapes, depicting relaxing
imagery such as nature scenes). The treatment sessions were provided five
times a week for eight weeks. Urine samples were taken three times a week to
assess cocaine use.
Findings showed that participants who received auricular acupuncture were
more likely to provide cocaine-negative urine screens over the course of the
study compared to participants in either control group. Among the participants
who completed the study, more than half of the acupuncture patients (53.8
percent) tested free of cocaine during the last week of treatment, compared to
23.5 percent of the control acupuncture group, and 9.1 percent of the
relaxation group. Treatment completers receiving acupuncture also had longer
periods of sustained abstinence compared to participants in the two control
Of the 82 participants who started the study, 63 percent completed the
eight-week trial. Thirteen of 28 (46 percent) completed auricular
acupuncture; 17 of 27 (63 percent) completed the needle insertion control; and
22 of 27 (81 percent) completed the relaxation control. Those who received
auricular acupuncture completed significantly fewer (5.2) treatment weeks
compared to 6.7 weeks for control acupuncture and 7 weeks for the relaxation
therapy control groups.
Dr. Margolin says, "This study provides support for the use of acupuncture
for the treatment of cocaine addiction. Further research is needed to
replicate these findings and to determine how acupuncture and other treatments
can be most effectively combined."