Acupuncture ineffective as stand-alone treatment of cocaine dependence

By Steven Reinberg

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Although other studies have shown that acupuncture is an effective method for treating cocaine dependence, a new study finds it to be of little or no value.

As reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association for January 2, Dr. Arthur Margolin from the Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut, and colleagues randomly assigned 620 cocaine-dependent adults to acupuncture, needle-insertion control, or relaxation control for 8 weeks. Patients received treatment 5 times per week and drug counseling was also offered.

Intent-to-treat urinalysis showed that cocaine use was significantly reduced during the trial (odds ratio 1.40, p = 0.002). However, the decrease in cocaine use was not tied to any of the treatments given (p = 0.90 for acupuncture versus both controls), the researchers found.

The various treatments had no effect on treatment retention, (44.1% to 45.8%), Dr. Margolin's team notes, and counseling sessions were poorly attended in all groups.

These findings contradict the those of a previous, similar study by Dr. Margolin (see Reuters Health August 2000.) "Although the studies were very similar, there were some differences in the study design that may account for the findings. It is also possible that this much larger study had a more reliable result," Dr. Margolin told Reuters Health.

"We cannot say on the basis of two studies that acupuncture is either an effective or ineffective treatment for cocaine addiction. What we are trying to do is more precisely define the conditions under which it is effective or ineffective," he commented.

"From this study we can conclude that when acupuncture is offered as a primary treatment or in conditions when patients do not receive much psychosocial treatment it is ineffective," Dr. Margolin said.

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