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The Effectiveness Of Auricular Acupuncture For Drug Addiction: A Review Of Research Evidence From Clinical Trials

Pei Lin Lua, Nor Samira Talib


Objectives: This review aims to compile and evaluate all available randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of auricular acupuncture (AA) treatment in drug addiction population with emphasis on the length of treatment course, needlepoints, outcome measures, reported side-effects and overall outcomes. Methods: Science Direct, Medline and EBSCOhost databases were searched. From the year 1990 until 2010, only full-length English articles incorporating RCTs related to AA studies (needle-based only) in drug addiction such as heroin, morphine, methamphetamine and cocaine were included. Studies involving the usage of various methods of electro-acupuncture and investigations relating to cigarettesmoking or alcohol addiction were excluded. Results: Eight RCTs met all inclusion criteria comprising of 1,594 respondents (age = 19 - 46 years; male = 57% - 76%). Most were involved in cocaine addiction. Overall, trials were designed with brief periods of treatment course and utilised three to five standard National Acupuncture Detoxification Association (NADA) points (Sympathetic, Lung, Liver, Kidney and Shen men), but inconsistent sham points. All trials included urine toxicology test as the main outcome measure while data on side-effects incidence was insufficient. Conclusions: Overall, four of the RCTs reported positive outcomes although at this point, AA’s effectiveness and safety could not be substantially confirmed. For the future, high-quality RCTs of AA are urgently required to provide a clearer understanding on the usefulness of this complementary therapy in drug addiction treatment. ASEAN Journal of Psychiatry, Vol.13(1), January - June 2012: XX XX