Neurochemical Research

, Volume 33, Issue 10, pp 2013–2022 | Cite as

Acupuncture for the Treatment of Drug Addiction

  • Cai-Lian CuiEmail author
  • Liu-Zhen Wu
  • Fei Luo
Review Article


Over the last three decades there has been an increasing interest in acupuncture treatment of substance abuse around the world. Three important steps can be identified in this field. Dr. Wen of Hong Kong was the first (1972) to report that acupuncture at 4 body points and 2 ear points combined with electrical stimulation can relieve opioid withdrawal signs in the addicts. The second major step was made by Dr. M. Smith in New York, the head of the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association (NADA) of the USA, who finalized a protocol (1985), using only ear points without electrical stimulation for the treatment of drug abuse. The recent advance in this field was made by Dr. Han of the Peking University, Beijing, who characterized a protocol (2005), using electrical stimulation of identified frequencies on body points to ameliorate heroin withdrawal signs and prevent relapse of heroin use. In this review, the efficacy of acupuncture and related techniques for the treatment of drug dependence in experimental settings and clinical practice will be reviewed, and the possible mechanisms underlying this effect be discussed.


Acupuncture Drug addiction Withdrawal syndrome Relapse 



This study was supported by the National Basic Research Program (G1999054000, 2003CB515407) and National Natural Science Foundation (30170814, 30370466 and 30770690) of China and NIH (P01 AT 002038), USA. We sincerely thank Professor JS Han for his critical review and in-depth comments in preparation of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Neuroscience Research InstitutePeking UniversityBeijingPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Department of Neurobiology, School of Basic Medical SciencesPeking UniversityBeijingPeople’s Republic of China
  3. 3.Key Lab for NeuroscienceThe Ministry of EducationBeijingPeople’s Republic of China
  4. 4.Key Lab for NeuroscienceThe Ministry of Public HealthBeijingPeople’s Republic of China
  5. 5.Key Laboratory of Mental Health, Institute of PsychologyChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina

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