I just love this study. It is a study done in South Korea in conjunction with Brigham Young University published in Alcohol Clinical Experimental Research. 2010 Sep 2. The title of the study is “Acupuncture Inhibits GABA Neuron Activity in the Ventral Tegmental Area and Reduces Ethanol Self-Administration.” (But I thought Mormon’s didn’t drink? I kid.)
They used one single acupuncture point, Heart 7, and found that needling this point decreased the rats’ self administration of alcohol. Their conclusions were “These findings suggest that DOR-mediated opioid modulation of VTA GABA neurons may mediate acupuncture’s role in modulating mesolimbic DA release and suppressing the reinforcing effects of ethanol.”

They did look at the ventral tegmental area GABA neuron firing rate. I only have access to the abstract, so do not know how they managed all of it, but it tells me something that I’ve certainly seen clinically. That is that acupuncture can help to decrease alcohol intake. Now I know why. A hearty “thank you” to the researchers and rats involved in this really interesting experiment. Now I know how to explain this to my patients! It’s their ventral tegmental area GABA neuron firing that was modified!