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How Does Acupuncture Work?

June 24th, 2010 – Posted by James W. West M.D. F.A.C.S. in Therapy


Question:  Will you say something about acupuncture.  I have heard that some people in treatment for alcoholism have benefited from it.  How does acupuncture work?

Answer:  Western medicine does not understand exactly how it works but it seems to have some effect on the natural pain-relieving endorphin system in the brain and spinal cord.  Acupuncture has been used for thousands of years in traditional Oriental medicine to relieve pain.  There are some documented reports about its effective use as an anesthetic for major surgical operations in China.  In terms of relieving addiction, acupuncture has been used to reduce the withdrawal symptoms of heroin and other opium addictions with some reported success.  There have been some attempts to treat alcoholism with insertion of the needles to a depth of 0.5 mm (millimeters) at three points in both ears (“lung,” “shen men,” and the “sympathetic point”).  This procedure was done over a period of several weeks both daily and at longer intervals.  Results indicated that over a six-month period some persons experienced a reduction in the number of drinking episodes.  At the present time, it appears that the possible beneficial use of acupuncture would be limited to the treatment of opiate withdrawal.  It is my opinion that it has no place in the treatment of alcoholism.

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