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Acupuncture treatment for cocaine dependency

NEW HAVEN, CONNECTICUT. Almost two million Americans now use cocaine and usage continues to grow especially among the 18- to 25-year age group. Conventional treatments for cocaine dependency are not very effective. This prompted researchers at the Yale University School of Medicine to evaluate acupuncture as a means of reducing the craving for cocaine. Their study involved 82 cocaine addicts who were on a stable dose of methadone. The participants were randomly assigned to one of three treatment groups. The first group received an auricular acupuncture treatment five times weekly for eight weeks. Four acupuncture needles were inserted in each ear at the sympathetic, lung, liver, and sen men points. The second group received "sham" acupuncture treatments where needles were inserted in "inactive" points on the ears. The third group was seated comfortably for 40 minutes each week day (5 days a week) and watched videos depicting relaxation strategies and relaxing nature scenes or listened to relaxing music. All participants provided urine samples three times a week; these were checked for cocaine metabolites.

In the final week of the study 54 per cent of the participants in group 1 (the real acupuncture group) provided three consecutive urine samples free of cocaine. Twenty-four per cent of the participants in the sham acupuncture group also provided three consecutive cocaine-free samples in the last week while only 9 per cent in the relaxation group did so. The researchers conclude that ear (auricular) acupuncture is effective in the treatment of cocaine addiction.
Avants, S. Kelly, et al. A randomized controlled trial of auricular acupuncture for cocaine dependence. Archives of Internal Medicine, Vol. 160, August 14/28, 2000, pp. 2305-12

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