The increasing prevalence of HIV infection among injection drug users mandates the development of innovative treatments. While extensive clinical experience suggests that acupuncture detoxification is both safe and acceptable to those in withdrawal, little research has been conducted to assess its efficacy as a treatment modality. In this first controlled study of acupuncture heroin detoxification, 100 addicted persons were randomly assigned, in a single-blind design, to the standard auricular acupuncture treatment used for addiction or to a "sham" treatment that used points that were geographically close to the standard points. Attrition was high for both groups, but subjects assigned to the standard treatment attended the acupuncture clinic more days and stayed in treatment longer than those assigned to the sham condition. Additionally, attendance varied inversely with self-reports of frequency of drug use, suggesting that those with lighter habits found the treatment modality more helpful. Limitations of the study are discussed.