5000-Year-Old Medicine May Fight Crime and Addiction

       Acupuncture's a 5000-year-old Chinese medicinal practice that may be able to fight addiction and crime, according to a recent independent study focused in Baltimore.

       The Tai Sophia Institute of Columbia, Maryland has run a five-year pilot acupuncture program at the Penn North Community Clinic. For the past year, the Institute participated in a study that tracked people who voluntarily entered an addiction prevention program at the clinic.

       Results of the study, funded by a grant from the Open Society Institute, showed that one-third of the clients voluntarily stayed in the program and completed 40 acupuncture treatments.

       Many of the study participants were described in the report as being “...single fathers in their 30’s and 40’s who have urgent needs in the areas of employment, health, substance abuse, and criminality.” The participants had an average of 15 prior arrests.

       The study showed that arrest rates dropped significantly for the participants. Arrests dropped from an average of 4.31 to .37 per person per 1,000 days after coming to the Penn clinic.

       The treatment was also found to be relatively affordable. The Penn North clinic’s annual budget is $180,000 and is enough to cover 300 new admissions per year. With the acupuncture program, almost twice that number of clients can be treated. The report notes that the acupuncture program’s per-capita cost of about $336 per person annually “...could turn out to be a very inexpensive program by way of comparison.”

       Over two-thirds of the study participants were part of the “I Can’t, We Can” program, a self-help operation that provides housing for over 200 individuals in recovery and requires these residents to have regular acupuncture treatments.

       A recent state survey, performed after tracking the last three years of acupuncture treatment at detention facilities elsewhere in the state, found that there was an “...overall reduction in re-arrests, unsatisfactory case closings, offenders placed in long-term residential and intensive outpatient treatment, and non-graduates.”

       Says Robert Duggan, president and co-founder of the Tai Sophia Institute, “These results are preliminary and most of all give us the opportunity to fine-tune our treatment and create even closer working relationships with our clients. We are very pleased, though, that it appears less invasive and shows a comparatively good rate of success at lower cost.”

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This story was published on August 1, 2001.