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Original Investigation
August 14/28, 2000

A Randomized Controlled Trial of Auricular Acupuncture for Cocaine Dependence

Author Affiliations

From the Division of Substance Abuse, Department of Psychiatry (Drs Avants, Margolin, and Kosten), and Division of Biostatistics, School of Epidemiology and Public Health (Dr Holford), Yale University School of Medicine, and Department of Psychiatry, Veterans Affairs Connecticut Healthcare Center (Dr Kosten), New Haven.

Arch Intern Med. 2000;160(15):2305-2312. doi:10.1001/archinte.160.15.2305

Background  Partly because of a lack of a conventional, effective treatment for cocaine addiction, auricular acupuncture is used to treat this disorder in numerous drug treatment facilities across the country for both primary cocaine-dependent and opiate-dependent populations.

Objective  To evaluate the effectiveness of auricular acupuncture for the treatment of cocaine addiction.

Methods  Eighty-two cocaine-dependent, methadone-maintained patients were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 conditions: auricular acupuncture, a needle-insertion control condition, or a no-needle relaxation control. Treatment sessions were provided 5 times weekly for 8 weeks. The primary outcome was cocaine use assessed by 3-times-weekly urine toxicology screens.

Results  Longitudinal analysis of the urine data for the intent-to-treat sample showed that patients assigned to acupuncture were significantly more likely to provide cocaine-negative urine samples relative to both the relaxation control (odds ratio, 3.41; 95% confidence interval, 1.33-8.72; P = .01) and the needle-insertion control (odds ratio, 2.40; 95% confidence interval, 1.00-5.75; P = .05).

Conclusions  Findings from the current study suggest that acupuncture shows promise for the treatment of cocaine dependence. Further investigation of this treatment modality appears to be warranted.