Background: In the United States, more than 14 million adults suffer from alcohol use disorder (AUD). We proposed a stress-free method of electroacupuncture (EA) using chronically implanted electrodes. We aimed to develop an effective method of EA for treating AUD by testing various stimulation locations and parameters, and then investigate the effects of the daily EA on alcohol consumption and withdrawal signs in rats. Materials and Methods: Sprague-Dawley rats were trained to voluntarily drink ethanol under the intermittent access two-bottle choice procedure. By the end of four weeks, rats with ethanol consumption ≥1.5 g/kg/24 h were considered alcohol-dependent and included in an acute and prolonged experiments. The acute study was designed to investigate the effects of EA with different parameters and at different locations. EA treatment was applied at bilateral ST36 alone or bilateral ST36 and HT7 acupoints for 30 minutes. We investigated the effects of EA on 24-hour alcohol consumption, preference ratio (alcohol drink vs. total drink), alcohol withdrawal signs (AWS), and prolonged alcohol consumption. Each animal served as its own control. Results: 1) By the end of week 4, 70% of rats became alcohol-dependent. 2) Following ethanol withdrawal, there was a gradual increase in AWS over time that peaked at two hours and dropped at six hours. Among the tested stimulation parameters and locations: 3) The best stimulation location was ST36 alone, and the best stimulation parameters were a combination of 100 and 2 Hz. EA at best stimulation location and parameters reduced ethanol intake by 27% (p < 0.05 vs. baseline) and marginally reduced preference ratio by 23% (p = 0.05 vs. baseline). 4) EA reduced AWS at two- and four-hours following ethanol withdrawal (p ≤ 0.03 each vs. no EA). 5) Daily EA (for five consecutive days) resulted in a substantial reduction in ethanol intake and preference ratio by 44% and 47%, respectively (p = 0.002 each). Conclusions: This work shows the potential of this novel method of EA for the treatment of AUD. Further studies are warranted to investigate the mechanisms through which EA exerts its effects.
- alcohol abuse
- alcohol use disorder
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Clinical Neurology
- Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine