Addiction and Chinese medicine

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This article explains addiction from a Chinese medicine perspective, including the properties and pathologies of addictive substances, the basic patterns of addiction, treatment principles and examples of both herbal and acupuncture treatment methods. The author believes that the addict’s strong desire to use substances is caused by a spirit (shen) disturbance, and that the direct cause of this spirit problem is invisible phlegm. Addictive substances may be divided into two categories: stimulating (yang‑type) and sedative (yin‑type). Generally speaking, stimulating substances are acrid, warm and aromatic. They therefore move qi and blood, enhance physical strength, lift the spirit and relieve stress. Since they have no tonifying function, these effects are short‑lived. If overused, they can damage yin and blood, build up phlegm‑fire, disturb the spirit and lead to addiction. Sedative substances have cool or neutral properties. Their main function is to calm the spirit. They therefore relax the mind and body, relieving fatigue and pain. If overused, they may cause stagnation of qi and blood, the build up of phlegm, consequent misting of the spirit, and finally, addiction. To treat addiction, we must make a clear diagnosis by understanding what type of substances are being used. Addiction to stimulating substances may be treated by clearing heat, transforming phlegm, calming the spirit and nourishing yin and blood. Addiction to sedative substances may be treated by moving qi, transforming phlegm and opening the Heart orifices. Some useful herbal formulas and points are listed for reference.

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Author Yongping Jiang
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