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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 5, Issue 3, Pages 257-266

A Possible Mechanism Underlying the Effectiveness of Acupuncture in the Treatment of Drug Addiction

1Department of Physiology, College of Oriental Medicine, Daegu Haany University, 165 Sang-Dong, Suseong-Gu, Daegu, 706-828, Republic of Korea
2Department of Acupuncture, Moxibution and Acupointology, College of Oriental Medicine, Daegu Haany University, Daegu, 706-828, Republic of Korea

Received 1 November 2006; Accepted 6 June 2007

Copyright © 2008 Chae Ha Yang et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Clinical trials are currently underway to determine the effectiveness of acupuncture in the treatment of drug addiction. While there are still many unanswered questions about the basic mechanisms of acupuncture, some evidence exists to suggest that acupuncture can play an important role in reducing reinforcing effects of abused drugs. The purpose of this article is to critically review these data. The neurochemical and behavioral evidence showed that acupuncture's role in suppressing the reinforcing effects of abused drugs takes place by modulating mesolimbic dopamine neurons. Also, several brain neurotransmitter systems such as serotonin, opioid and amino acids including GABA have been implicated in the modulation of dopamine release by acupuncture. These results provided clear evidence for the biological effects of acupuncture that ultimately may help us to understand how acupuncture can be used to treat abused drugs. Additional research using animal models is of primary importance to understanding the basic mechanism underlying acupuncture's effectiveness in the treatment of drug addiction.