New research demonstrates that acupuncture reduces the incidence of cocaine related seizures and death. Seizures occur at a rate of approximately 2-10% of cocaine users. High doses of cocaine are lethal. In addition, cocaine use is linked to cardiac arrhythmias and cerebral hemorrhages.
Acupuncture has a long history in the successful treatment of epilepsy, which prompted researchers to investigate its potential to control cocaine induced seizures. Modern research suggests that this protective effect is due to acupuncture’s ability to increase concentrations of inhibitory amino acids to decrease nitric oxide levels in the central nervous system. The researchers were also interested in the effects of acupuncture based upon findings that acupuncture reduces symptoms associated with morphine and nicotine withdrawal. Specifically, acupuncture administered at acupoint HT7, located on the wrist crease, regulates dopamine releases in the brain via GABA receptors.
The study involved induction of cocaine induced seizures in mice needled at acupuncture points GV14 and GV20. The researchers found that mice receiving acupuncture had less seizures, “Pretreatment of animals with EA [electroacupuncture] (50 Hz) significantly reduced seizure incidence.” A study on the effects of high doses of acupuncture was also tested. Mortality rates dropped significantly in test groups receiving electroacupuncture (2 Hz) to acupuncture points GV14 and GV20. A sham study group receiving acupuncture at acupuncture point SI11 showed a minor decrease in the mortality rate but it did not rise to a statistically significant level. The control group that did not receive any acupuncture showed a significantly higher mortality rate. In an interesting finding, while 2 Hz electroacupuncture showed significant drops in mortality rates, electroacupuncture set to 100 Hz did not exhibit this protective effect. The researchers noted that 2 Hz electroacupuncture “reduced seizures and mortality induced by a high dose of cocaine.”
The investigators note that they have discovered that there is dopamine D3 receptor involvement in the anticonvulsant effects of electroacupuncture. The D3 receptor is a protein encoded by a gene that plays a role in cognitive and emotional functions. D3 agonists demonstrate antidepressant effects. Pharmaceutical drugs target the D3 receptor for the treatment of schizophrenia, drug addiction and Parkinson’s disease. In this research, it has been found that the beneficial effects of electroacupuncture are due, in part, to its regulatory actions on the dopamine D3 receptor. These findings are consistent with other recent research demonstrating that acupuncture enhances antidepressant drug therapy and that acupuncture combined with paroxetine (Paxil, Sereupin, Aropax) is more effective than paroxetine alone. In yet another study conducted at the University of Arizona (Tucson) researchers discovered that “acupuncture can provide significant symptom relief in depression, at rates comparable to those of psychotherapy or pharmacotherapy.” One common theme emerging is that the biochemical effects of acupuncture for the treatment of depression is similar to that of medications. Acupuncture has the ability to increase levels of monoamines. These include the neurotransmitters serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine.
Just recently, an investigation published in the Journal of Psychiatric And Mental Health Nursing discovered that ear acupuncture reduces anxiety and other symptoms brought on by drug and alcohol addiction. The researchers followed protocols established by NADA (National Acupuncture Detoxification Association) and found that subjects receiving acupuncture experienced increased relaxation and a sense of well-being. In another closely related study, researchers found that acupuncture applied to acupoints HT7 and P6 successfully controlled heroin withdrawal symptoms. Much of this research was prompted by a Yale University School of Medicine investigation on human subjects demonstrating that acupuncture is significantly effective in the treatment of cocaine addiction and that acupuncture treatment reduces recidivism.
Acupuncture Point Shop Talk
Let’s take a look at the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) usages of the acupuncture points used in the study. GV14 is located below the spinous process of C-7, approximately at the level of the shoulders. GV14 is the intersection point of all Yang meridians and functions to release exterior pathological conditions, open the Yang, clear the brain and calm the spirit (Shen). GV14 is commonly indicated for treating neck and shoulder rigidity, malaria, febrile diseases, seizures, epilepsy, tidal fevers, afternoon fevers, coughing and asthma.
GV20 is located on the head midline, 7 cun above the posterior hairline and approximately on the midpoint of the line connecting the apex of the auricles. GV20 is a Sea of Marrow point and functions to clear the senses, calm the spirit, extinguish Liver wind and stabilize the ascending Yang. GV20 is commonly indicated for the treatment of headaches, vertigo, dizziness, tinnitus, nasal congestion, coma, shock, mental disorders, prolapsed rectum and prolapsed uterus.
Chen, Yi-Hung, Boris Ivanic, Chieh-Min Chuang, Dah-Yuu Lu, and Jaung-Geng Lin. "Electroacupuncture reduces cocaine-induced seizures and mortality in mice."
Qu, Shan-Shan, et al. "A 6-week randomized controlled trial with 4-week follow-up of acupuncture combined with paroxetine in patients with major depressive disorder." Journal of Psychiatric Research (2013).
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Bergdahl, Lena, A. H. Berman, and Kristina Haglund. "Patients’ experience of auricular acupuncture during protracted withdrawal." Journal of psychiatric and mental health nursing (2013).
Journal of Acupuncture and Tuina Science. Volume 10, Number 3 (2012), 155-159. Therapeutic efficacy observation on acupuncture for post-withdrawal syndrome of heroin dependence. Yan Liang, Lei Zong, Yu Li, Bo Cheng, Jing Xu and Yue-lai Chen. Psychopharmacology. 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. 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. New Haven, Connecticut.