Acupuncture beats methadone maintenance treatment for opioid dependence

Objectives: Opioid dependence has been a threat to public health for hundreds of years. With the increasing number of studies on acupuncture-related therapies for opioid dependence patients receiving methadone maintenance treatment, its effect of acupuncture therapy in treating methadone maintenance treatment patients remains controversial. Therefore, we conducted a multiple-treatments meta-analysis, and incorporated both direct and indirect comparisons, in order to discover the most effective treatment for opioid dependence patients receiving methadone maintenance treatment. 

Methods: Five English databases and three Chinese databases were searched from its inception to August 20, 2020, in order to compare the effects of acupuncture-related therapies and methadone maintenance treatment, which was summarized as Western medicine in the following texts. The quality of studies was assessed according to Cochrane’s risk of bias tool 5.1.0, and a pair-wise meta-analysis, cumulative meta-analysis, and the network meta-analysis was performed using the R software (Version 3.6.1) and STATA (Version 14.0). The primary outcome was the effective rate, which was calculated by the ratio of detoxifying patients to the total. The secondary outcome was the Modified Himmelsbach Opiate Withdrawal Scale (MHOWS). 

Results: A total of 20 trials were included, which consisted of comparisons among western medicine, traditional Chinese medicine, and the four types of acupuncture, namely, manual acupuncture, electro-acupuncture, auricular acupuncture, and transcutaneous electrical acupoint stimulation. Though none of the trials were at low risk of bias. In the pair-wise meta-analysis, no statistically significant differences were observed in terms of the effective rate. Furthermore, MA was more efficacious than WM, EA, and TEAS in MHOWS, with mean differences (MDs) of (-8.59, 95% CI: -15.96 to -1.23, P < 0.01), (-6.15, 95% CI: -9.45 to -2.85, P < 0.05), and (-10.44, 95% CI: -16.11 to -4.77, P < 0.05), respectively.

In the network meta-analysis, manual acupuncture was more effective than western medicine (RR: 1.40, 95% CI: 1.05 to 1.99) on the effective rate, and (MD: -5.74, 95% CI: -11.60 to -0.10) on MHOWS. TEAS was more effective than WM (MD: -15.34, 95% CI: -27.34 to -3.46) on MHOWS. Synthetically, manual acupuncture had the highest probability to rank first in treating opioid dependence. 

Conclusions: The existing evidence shows that acupuncture related-therapies may effectively be used for treating patients receiving methadone maintenance treatment, and that manual acupuncture may be the best choice for opioid dependence among all kinds of acupuncture-related therapies.


Acupuncture Times Logo

Hi there!

Sign up to receive the latest research in acupuncture, cupping, moxibustion, Chinese herbal medicine and more, once a week.

About Attilio

Doctor of Chinese medicine, acupuncture expert and author of My Fertility Guide and My Pregnancy Guide.

Check Also

Pub Med

Acupuncture beats western medicine for depression

Introduction: Depression is a pervasive mental health challenge with substantial global ramifications. Contemporary therapeutic strategies predominantly …