IMH using acupuncture to fight various addictions

IMH using acupuncture to fight various addictions
IMH patient Annie Lim (not her real name) receiving acupuncture to help with her alcohol addiction. The pilot service is now being offered at the hospital on top of regular Western-based treatment.

The Institute of Mental Health (IMH) has become the first health-care provider here to start using acupuncture to help addicts break their drug, drink or gambling habits.

The psychiatric hospital offers an optional pilot service that can be tried on top of regular Western-based treatment that includes medication and counselling.

Patients pay $200 for 10 acupuncture sessions, each lasting about 30 minutes, twice a week.

The Straits Times understands that no major scientific studies have been published on using acupuncture for behavioural addictions but the ancient method has developed in recent years outside of China as part of a combined approach to curb such disorders.

Acupuncture can enhance the standard mode of treatment, said Associate Professor Wong Kim Eng, clinical director of IMH's National Addictions Management Service, which runs the new acupuncture clinic.

It can help to relieve withdrawal symptoms, pain and cravings, as well as anxiety, he added, noting: "So far, there is no single medication that can cure addiction, or a perfect treatment programme. As an Asian society, we sought to borrow some age-old wisdom to improve treatment for our patients."

The initiative, which is backed by the Ministry of Health, follows a sharp rise in the number of people seeking help for addiction in recent years.

The IMH recorded 1,419 outpatient cases in the 12 months to March this year, up 55 per cent from the same period three years earlier.

Alcohol addiction notched the most drastic rise during this period, up almost 75 per cent.

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