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Traditional Chinese medicine in treatment of opiate addiction


Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) includes Chinese medicine and acupuncture. Chinese medicine consists of natural products including plants, animals and minerals. TCM has been practiced in China for more than 2000 years, and for the past 200 years has been used in treatment of drug addiction. Ten Chinese medicines for the treatment of opiate addiction have been approved by the Chinese State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA), and at least 6 are in clinical trials. The general therapeutic principle of Chinese medicine developed was based on its unique theory of “reinforcing healthy Qi and resolving and removing effects of toxicity”. Acupuncture, another essential part of TCM, which was developed based on the principle that “functions of the human body are controlled by the ‘Jing-Luo’ and ‘Qi-Xue’ system”, has been used not only in China, but also in Europe, the USA and other countries, for controlling opiate addiction. There are some advantages in using TCM for opiate detoxification, including less harmful side effects, high safety and ideal effects in the inhibition of protracted withdrawal symptoms and relapse. Co-administration of TCM with modern medicine shows some synergistic effects in detoxification. Many TCM for detoxification also have efficacy in the rehabilitation of abnormal body functions induced by chronic drug use, including improving immune function, increasing working memory and preventing neurological disorder. Given that TCM is effective in the prevention of relapse and causes fewer side effects, it may be used widely in the treatment of opiate addiction.


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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Lin Lu.

Additional information

Project supported in part by grants from the Intramural Research Program of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health, USA and the 985 talent programs of Peking University (No 985-2-046-121 and 985-2-027-39 to Lin Lu), the National Basic Research Program of China (No 20003CB 515400 to Jie Shi and Lin Lu) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No 30000050 and 30570576 to Lin Lu).

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Shi, J., Liu, Yl., Fang, Yx. et al. Traditional Chinese medicine in treatment of opiate addiction. Acta Pharmacol Sin 27, 1303–1308 (2006).

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  • Chinese medicine
  • acupuncture
  • opiate addiction
  • withdrawal
  • relapse
  • treatment

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