Researchers find acupuncture reduces alcohol withdrawal symptoms in rats

A team of researchers affiliated with several institutions in the Republic of Korea and one from the U.S., has found that using acupuncture on alcohol-dependent rats can reduce withdrawal symptoms. In their paper published in the journal Science Advances, the group describes their study of a certain type of acupuncture and its relation to withdrawal symptoms in rats, and what they found.

Alcohol is very addictive—those who become hooked on it find it very difficult to stop drinking. As the researchers note, relapse is very high, despite a host of current treatment options. Because of that, the team began looking into other treatment options that might reduce the numbers of people who go back to drinking after treatment. More specifically, they studied what they describe as withdrawal-associated impairment in β-endorphin neurotransmission in a part of the hypothalamus, and tested a treatment using acupuncture.

Acupuncture is, of course, an alternative type of integrative medicine that involves sticking needles into various parts of the body—its effectiveness is still debated. But prior research has shown that insertion of acupuncture needles at a certain point in the wrist (HT7) activates β-endorphin neurons in the hypothalamus—doing so releases what have become known as “feel-good” chemicals, which can help reduce pain. This is what led the researchers to consider it as a way to reduce alcohol symptoms.

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