Acupuncture has been used in the treatment of addiction in the West since an incidental observation in Hong Kong in 1973. Opium smokers who had been given electroacupuncture for pain relief claimed that their opiate withdrawal symptoms were less severe than they expected. Subsequently, various forms of needle or electrical stimulation have been used as a treatment for dependence on various addictive drugs, with the specific aim of reducing withdrawal symptoms and aiding cessation.
A large number of Western acupuncturists are using a variety of acupuncture techniques to treat obesity, smoking and hard drug addiction. There is some excellent physiological and clinical evidence to support the use of acupuncture in these areas. The withdrawal symptoms experienced by people giving up smoking, or drugs, can be alleviated by raising the levels of endorphins in the nervous system. Some people believe that the desire to eat is also mediated by the endorphin level in the brain. It is clear that endorphin levels throughout the nervous system can be increased by acupuncture. The techniques used to achieve an increase in endorphin levels center around the use of ear acupuncture; the ear may be electrically stimulated or a small staple or stud may be left in the ear for a week at a time. Pressing the indwelling needle seems to decrease the desire to smoke or eat, probably due to an increase in the endorphin level.
It must be stressed that acupuncture cannot replace willpower. It can only help the withdrawal symptoms, or hunger pains, experienced by those already motivated and committed to solving their particular problem.
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