Acupuncture/ pressure

Acupuncture for opiate-withdrawal symptoms

 Researchers from Peking University in China reviewed the use of acupuncture combined with opioid receptor agonists for treating opiate-withdrawal symptoms.

First, the details.

  • English and Chinese databases were searched for studies comparing acupuncture + an opioid agonist vs opioid agonists alone for treating symptoms of opioid withdrawal.
  • The methodological quality of each study was assessed using Jadad’s scale.
  • The results from the studies were combined for a meta-analysis of withdrawal-symptoms, relapse rate, side effects, and medication dosage.

And, the results with combined treatment.

  • Lower symptom scores on withdrawal days 1, 7, 9, and 10.
  • Lower reported rates of side effects
  • Lower required dose of opioid agonists
  • No significant difference on relapse rate after 6 months

The bottom line?
Sounds good, but the authors also reported that a limitation of their meta-analysis was the “poor quality of the methodology of some included trials.”

If that’s true, then why not do the meta-analysis on just the high-quality studies?

Maybe there weren’t enough of them.

“High-quality studies,” say the authors, “are needed to confirm findings regarding the side effects and medication dosage.”

In a study of 83 drug “misusers” reported earlier this year, researchers from the UK concluded, “The failure to find any clinical gains from the adjunctive use of auricular acupuncture during detoxification from opiates raises concerns about the widespread acceptance of this intervention.”

12/26/08 19:16 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.