The Role of Acupuncture in Treating a Patient with a Gambling Disorder

Yolanda Teja, Irma Nareswari, Christina L. Simadibrata

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Addiction is a chronic/relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive seeking and continuous involvement despite dangerous consequences. It causes long-term changes in the brain. Gambling disorder is a nonsubstance behavioral addiction. An important feature of gambling disorder is maladaptive gambling behavior that is persistent and repetitive, and interferes with patients' personal lives, families, and/or activities. Acupuncture is a nonpharmacologic therapeutic modality for managing addiction, with good results. Case: A 32-year-old man with a gambling disorder was referred from a psychiatry department. The patient had a history of gambling since high school. He began to gamble in larger amounts in 2019. The patient got antiseizure, antidepressant, and antipsychotic medications, and cognitive behavioral therapy in the psychiatry department. Manual acupuncture therapy was performed at GV 20, Ex-HN 1, Ex-HN 3, PC 6, ST 40, and LR 3. Electroacupuncture was performed at LI 4, LI 11, ST 36, SP 6, and ST 25. Laser acupuncture was performed at NADA protocol bilateral ear points. The patient also received scalp acupuncture for extrapyramidal symptoms After this combination of acupuncture therapy for 8 sessions, with pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy, the patient's condition improved. Conclusions: Acupuncture produces positive results in patient with gambling disorders. It helps regulate the reward system; stimulates release of neurotransmitters in the brain; produces neuroprotective effects; and activates certain brain areas to suppress impulsivity and craving and to balance emotions. Acupuncture is thought to be related to increased blood flow in the frontal lobe, thereby increasing nerve metabolism, as well as regulating dopamine in the basal ganglia. A combination of acupuncture, pharmacologic agents, and psychotherapy has a positive synergistic effect in patients with gambling disorder.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)331-336
Number of pages6
JournalMedical Acupuncture
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2022


  • acupuncture
  • addiction
  • craving
  • gambling disorder
  • NADA protocol
  • psychiatric disorders


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