NEW HAVEN, Conn. - Acupuncture is an effective treatment for those addicted to cocaine, Yale researchers found.
A study published in Monday's Archives of Internal Medicine reports that patients who received therapeutic acupuncture treatments, along with counseling, were more likely to have cocaine-negative tests than those who didn't.
''Our study shows that that alternative therapies can be combined with the arsenal of Western treatments for fighting addiction,'' said Yale Medical School researcher Arthur Margolin.
Of the patients studied, 53.8 percent of those receiving the acupuncture technique tested free of cocaine during the last week of the treatment, compared with 23.5 percent and 9.1 percent in the two control groups.
Those who completed the acupuncture treatment also had longer periods of sustained abstinence than participants in either control group.
The eight-week study involved 82 participants who were addicted to heroin and cocaine. They received methadone for their heroin addiction, but no medication for their cocaine addiction.
All participants received individual and group counseling. They were divided into three groups.
One group received auricular acupuncture, in which needles are inserted into specific places in the outer ear thought to be associated with addiction.
A second control group received acupuncture in other points along the outer ear believed to have no treatment effect.
The third group was shown videotapes depicting relaxing images, such as nature scenes.
While the scientific basis for acupuncture is unknown, the results are indisputable, said Daniel Iead, clinical coordinator for the Grant Street Partnership, a New Haven addiction services agency.
''We've been doing it here for years and it works,'' said Iead. ''The results are fantastic. Some of our most difficult cases have turned their lives around because of it.''
Margolin said the findings also were encouraging because acupuncture has fewer side effects and is relatively low-cost. He said the results suggest the need for increased study of acupuncture and other forms of alternative medicine.
''Controlled clinical research of acupuncture is in its infancy, and while our positive findings are gratifying, further research is needed to replicate the results and to better understand how to combine acupuncture with existing treatments for addiction,'' Margolin said.