Electroacupuncture Relieves Pain during Alcohol Withdrawal

Jiang Hong Ye, Wanhong Zuo, Jing Li, Rao Fu, Daniel J. Eloy, Alex Bekker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is one of the most prevalent chronic relapsing substance use disorders. The negative emotional state, including pain hypersensitivity that often occurs during abstinence, is believed to be a significant driving force for intensive seeking and relapse drinking. Studies have revealed that this may involve the inhibition of midbrain dopamine transmission and activation of the "antireward"system in the lateral habenula (LHb). Acupuncture has been proven effective in reducing pain and certain syndromes associated with AUD. There have been extensive studies conducted on acupuncture. However, the neuroanatomical basis behind acupuncture practice is still unclear. Objective: To briefly describe recent research about acupuncture on pain, particularly those related to AUD. Results: Preclinical studies found that electrostimulation of acupoints (electroacupuncture [EA]) effectively relieves hyperalgesia during withdrawal from chronic alcohol administration. This effect is mediated by the μ-opioid receptors in the LHb. Other studies revealed that the analgesic effect of EA could be mediated by mechanisms independent of the opioid system. Other evidence shows that acupuncture's strong anti-inflammatory effect also contributes to its analgesic effect. Conclusion: Acupuncture could alleviate pain, including the pain in alcoholics, through mechanisms either dependent or independent of the opioid system. Since alcohol abuse causes inflammation, which is also a significant cause of pain, the strong anti-inflammatory effect of acupuncture may also contribute to its analgesic effect. Thus, acupuncture is a nonaddictive therapeutic choice for pain related to substance use disorders, including alcohol.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)357-361
Number of pages5
JournalMedical Acupuncture
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Complementary and alternative medicine


  • alcohol
  • electroacupuncture
  • lateral habenula
  • pain
  • μ-opioid receptor


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