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Substance Abuse and Addiction Health Center

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Acupuncture Cuts Cocaine Addiction


Michael O. Smith, MD, the director of substance abuse for Lincoln Hospital in the South Bronx, New York, has been using acupuncture on patients and teaching it to health care providers for more than a quarter century. "It involves putting three to five needle on the outside of the ear and leaving them in place for 45 minutes," says Smith, noting that it is used in conjunction with counseling -- both individual and group therapy -- and medication.

"It isn't just a question of relaxation and sedation," Smith says of acupuncture's effects. "It is a question of the mind not being scattered and disjointed ... If you have a person coming in on crack cocaine and they are bouncing off the walls, it's not easy to think they would be relaxed and alert. If a person is able to listen, that means they are not so distractible, they are not so needy, they can take things in and they have an easier internal mental process. And it is valuable as part of a treatment package."

"The drug abuse field is not an easy field to find solutions, and numbers like 54% are not numbers you give too often," says Smith, taking a glass-half-full view of acupuncture's success rate in the study. "This is a chronic relapsing condition; there are lots of reasons people become addicts, and acupuncture helps the person help themselves."

"This is by no means the last word on the subject, but it suggests promising findings for acupuncture. We need more research on it," says Margolin. "It also suggests we can conduct rigorous trials of complementary medicine that will be published in reputable medical journals and that subjecting these treatments to [rigorous medical studies] does not necessarily place them at a disadvantage, as some practitioners may feel."



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