Use of acupressure beads in the treatment of ADHD


Michael O. Smith




Lincoln Hospital (Bronx, NY) has used ear acupuncture as a treatment for drug and alcohol abuse for the past 25 years. In 1997 we began to expand our clinical horizon to include the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) on a pilot basis. We have used a type of acupressure bead (called 'ear magnet seeds' in Chinese_ which is easily applicable to the surface of the ear by adhesive tape. The bead is a round metallic object which is coated with gold. It is somewhat larger than most acupressure devices. There is often a clear sensation of qi when this bead is applied. We use a treatment location on the posterior surface of the external ear which is opposite the 'shemmen' location on the anterior surface. This location is above the superior end of the 'depressive groove'. One can frequently observe distended veins, moderate erythemia and poor skin tone at this location, suggesting a need for tonification treatment. These beads merely rest in place; they do not need to be pressed or manipulated. The beads must be replaced whenever the adhesiveness of the tape becomes inadequate. Treatment is more-or-less continuous for the duration of the patient's problem.

We have trained colleagues in several clinics to use this technique on a pilot basis. Most of the ADHD patients come to use when they are taking medication, yet continue to have very significant symptoms. We never suggest that medication should be changed when the beads are applied. Medication should only be changed by the primary prescribing physician on the basis of clear changes in the clinical picture. The following colleagues contributed to this report: Cindy Walsh-Briolat LPN, Memphis, MI; Rene Valentin, Lincoln Hospital, Bronx, NY; Joyce Hartsfield MD, Detroit, MI; Karen Boyd L.Ac, Everett, WA; and Jo Ann Lenney, Lincoln Hospital, Bronx, NY.

Many of the anecdotal results have been impressive.


1. DB was place on Ritalin 30 mg/day at age 4. He was an angry child, destroying anything in his way, with an attention span of less that 5 seconds. On daytime medication, DB sat unproductively most of the day. In the evenings he was restless, tearful and hyperactive. By age 14, DB was taking Dexedrine, Lithium and Catapres as well as Ritalin. His blood pressure was 150/90. He remained either somnolent or hyperactive, unable to have a productive life on any dose of medication. His parents had tried numerous additional remedies to no avail. At age 14 (in 1996) DB responded immediately to his first ear acupuncture treatment. Sympathetic, shenmen and lung were used. His sleep and activity patterns normalized within a week. His blood pressure and symptoms of depression subsided within weeks. Soon DB was using acupressure seeds and beads on a regular basis. His school performance improved steadily even as the Dexedrine was being discontinued. Presently (in 1998) DB is taking driver education, rides horses, has a part-time job, mentors kindergarten children, and is able to study for hours at a time. He is a charming, relaxed young adult who is quite aware of his educational deficits and is seeking to improve himself on a daily basis. DB is able to tell his mother when he needs to have follow-up acupressure bead treatment. This now occurs only on a monthly basis.


2. GH is a 5-year-old boy living in a therapeutic residence because of his mother's clinical status. GH would stomp frequently and required seven 'time-outs' per day for social management. After 1 week of acupressure bead placement, GH could sit calmly and no longer required 'time-outs' for social control. His teacher says he completes his homework and 'now he learns so fast'. The beads 'make me happy' GH says.


3. DK was abandoned at the age of 2 and entered foster care. He was developmentally delayed and placed on Ritalin and Ativan. At age 12 (1998) DK was living with his aunt and doing poorly even in special education classes. After the acupressure beads were applied in May, 1998 DK was able to focus in school and his bouts of anger decreased. Soon DK began to talk about his mother in a hopeful manner. He visited her each weekend over the summer and now will be able to live with her in a constructive manner. DK no longer takes medication and is able to ask for acupressure beads whenever he feels it is necessary.


4. Often our youthful patients ask that their parents have the same acupressure treatment. Here is a report by the mother of AT: 'The beads have helped tremendously. I have been able to stay focused and my mind has stopped spinning. My son has been able to stop being so wild. He has calmed down a hundred percent'.


Most of the ADHD children have responded favorable to this treatment within the first week of bead placement. Their response seems independent of the family's motivation or other psychosocial variations. Treatment effects also seem to not be related to the use of medication. Obviously a controlled, randomized outcome study would help us clarify the potential value of this treatment. Furthermore, it should be noted that we have only used one point location and one method of stimulation. Results might be improved by using different clinical procedures.

This report is a preliminary anecdotal finding. Nevertheless it is quite encouraging to see apparently unmanageable chronic patients respond favorably to a safe inexpensive treatment.




Michael O. Smith MD

Lincoln Hospital Recovery Center

349 East 140th Street

Bronx, NY 10454 USA

Tel: +1 (718) 993 3100

Fax: +1 (718) 292 6138


Dr. Smith has been the director of Lincoln Hospital Acupuncture and Substance Abuse Program for the past 25 years. More that 1000 treatment programs worldwide use the Lincoln Hospital model for addiction treatment. Dr. Smith is NCCA and ASAM certified and is the author of several textbook chapters. He has provided a weekly AIDS clinic using acupuncture for many years.


Clinical Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (1999) 1, 31-32 1999 Harcourt Publishers Ltd