Lawmakers are looking at an updated form of the ancient Chinese medical practice of acupuncture as a possible remedy for drug addiction.

A State Senate panel was told Friday that a modernized form of the technique known as electroacupuncture is gaining popularity among treatment professionals.Under the method, five needles are stuck in each ear and then electrified by a mild current. As the patient sits quietly for about an hour, the electrified needles calm the nervous system that has been disrupted by alcohol or drugs, according to therapists who have used the practice successfully.

"It appears to be an effective way of detoxifying without the anguish and pain seen in other methods," staff counsel Rod McAuley told the Senate Law and Justice Committee.

Sen. Gary Nelson, R-Edmonds, who chairs the committee, said he's been interested in the technique for several years, particularly as a way to help pregnant women addicted to drugs lessen their pain and the effects of drugs on their babies.

McAuley said the benefits of acupuncture in addiction treatment were discovered 15 years ago in Hong Kong. There, drug addicted patients who used acupuncture as an anesthetic during surgery said they lost their craving for drugs after the operation.