The use of acupuncture to combat opiate addiction dates from 1972, when it was serendipitiously discovered to reduce the withdrawal symptoms of opium smokers during neurosurgery under acupuncture anaesthesia at the Kwong Wah Hospital in Hong Kong. Since then acupuncture has become popular in the treatment of a variety of addictions ranging from tobacco to benzodiazapines and over 20 controlled trials have been reported, although the success rates have varied considerably.
Suggested modes of action have included sympathetic inhibition, parasympathetic inhibition and endogenous opioid release. A possible site of action is the medullary locus caeruleus which affects fear and anxiety control.
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