Acupuncture for Substance Use Disorders
Mar 9, 2016
RAND researchers conducted a systematic review that synthesized evidence from randomized controlled trials of needle acupuncture — used adjunctively or as monotherapy — to provide estimates of its efficacy and safety for treating adults diagnosed with alcohol, opioid, stimulant, or cannabis use disorder.
A Systematic Review
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RAND researchers conducted a systematic review that synthesized evidence from randomized controlled trials of needle acupuncture — used adjunctively or as monotherapy — to provide estimates of its efficacy and safety for treating adults diagnosed with alcohol, opioid, stimulant, or cannabis use disorder. Outcomes of interest included relapse, frequency and quantity of substance use, withdrawal symptoms, treatment dropout, functional status, health-related quality of life, and adverse events. When possible, meta-analyses and meta-regressions were conducted using the Hartung-Knapp-Sidik-Jonkman method for random-effects models. Quality of evidence was assessed using the Grades of Recommendation, Assessment, Development, and Evaluation (GRADE) approach. Forty-one trials (reported in 48 publications) with 5,227 participants were included. The available evidence suggests no consistent effect of acupuncture versus comparator interventions on substance use outcomes. There were positive effects for withdrawal symptoms and anxiety, yet these results were based on low or very low quality of evidence. Meta-regressions indicated that treatment dropout results differed by substance targeted, and withdrawal/craving symptoms and treatment dropout differed by acupuncture type. We found no evidence to suggest that effects of needle acupuncture differed systematically by acupuncture when offered as adjunctive versus monotherapy or by type of comparator. Only 12 studies provided safety data, and these data suggest that acupuncture is not typically associated with serious adverse events. Given the quality of evidence, there is uncertainty with regard to the magnitude or stability of effect estimates.
Evidence Table of Included Studies
Cochrane Risk of Bias Criteria
Excluded Full-Text Articles
Additional Forest and Funnel Plots
This research was sponsored by the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury and conducted within the Forces and Resources Policy Center of the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies, and the defense Intelligence Community.
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