Journal of Experimental Criminology

, Volume 2, Issue 1, pp 45-65

First online:

Acupuncture in drug treatment: Exploring its role and impact on participant behavior in the drug court setting

  • Michael D. WhiteAffiliated withDepartment of Law, Police Science and Criminal Justice Administration, John Jay College of Criminal Justice Email author 
  • , John S. GoldkampAffiliated withDepartment of Criminal Justice, Temple University
  • , Jennifer B. RobinsonAffiliated withCollege of Criminal Justice, Northeastern University

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The originators of the Miami drug court incorporated acupuncture into the substance abuse treatment regimen that has been widely imitated in hundreds of drug courts since 1989. Although there is some evidence to suggest that acupuncture may be an effective adjunct to treatment more generally, research has not yet examined its role and impact in the drug court setting. This paper describes an effort to study the impact of acupuncture on offender behavior and progress in treatment in the Clark County, (Las Vegas) Nevada Drug Court using a prospective modified experiment, where 336 new participants were randomly assigned to acupuncture and no-acupuncture conditions. However, significant treatment contamination hindered straightforward analysis, as nearly 40% of the control group received at least some acupuncture. To compensate for the treatment compliance problem, two-stage least-squares (2SLS) regression is employed with original group assignment as an instrumental variable and acupuncture exposure as a predictor. Results indicate no significant difference along a range of criminal justice and treatment outcomes, with the exception of one measure of treatment progress. The paper concludes with a discussion of the implications of the findings and the need to design studies that are better able to separate the effects of acupuncture from other treatment and court interventions.

Key words

acupuncture drug court drug treatment