New research investigated the ability of acupuncture to prevent the relapse of cocaine addiction. A study of cocaine addicted lab rats discovered that those receiving acupuncture at acupoint HT7 (Shenmen) had a “markedly reduced reinstatement of cocaine-seeking” with an 86.5 percent successful inhibition rate.
The researchers note that, “acupuncture reduces drug self-administration and dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens (NAc), a brain structure implicated in stress-induced reinstatement of drug-seeking behavior.” The NAc is an area of the brain important to motor function, rewards and emotions. Dopamine, glucocorticoids, GABA and serotonin play important roles in the NAc.
Using footshock stress to re-stimulate cocaine addiction behavior, researchers applied acupuncture to acupoint HT7 (Shenmen) for one minute following footshock stress to a control group and an acupuncture group. For the control group, footshock stress reinstated cocaine addiction behaviors. In the acupuncture group, there was an 86.5 percent inhibition rate of cocaine addiction. As a result of biochemical measurements taken during the study, the researchers note that the mechanism by which acupuncture prevents cocaine addiction relapse may be due to the ability of acupuncture to regulate “neuronal activation in the NAc shell.”
A mounting body of evidence supports this new research. A great deal of interest was stimulated twelve years ago when Yale University researchers concluded that auricular acupuncture was effective in the treatment of cocaine addiction. The results of the study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, showed that the acupuncture group tested 54.8 percent free of cocaine while the two control groups were 23.5 percent and 9.1 percent free of cocaine at the end of the study. In addition, a lower recidivism rate was measured in the acupuncture group.
Psychopharmacology. 2012, DOI: 10.1007/s00213-012-2683-3. Effects of acupuncture on stress-induced relapse to cocaine-seeking in rats. Seong Shoon Yoon, Eun Jin Yang, Bong Hyo Lee, Eun Young Jang, Hee Young Kim, Sun-Mi Choi, Scott C. Steffensen and Chae Ha Yang.
Arch Intern Med. 2000;160(15):2305-2312. doi:10.1001/archinte.160.15.2305. Randomized Controlled Trial of Auricular Acupuncture for Cocaine Dependence. S. Kelly Avants, PhD; Arthur Margolin, PhD; Theodore R. Holford, PhD; Thomas R. Kosten, MD. Yale University School of Medicine and Department of Psychiatry, Veterans Affairs Connecticut Healthcare Center (Dr Kosten), New Haven, Connecticut.