Auriculotherapy has been used to reduce withdrawal symptoms during drug detoxication. The purpose of this study was to review the results of the randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that examined the impact of auriculotherapy on addiction. This study aimed to find an effective protocol involving auricular acupuncture points, intervention duration and frequency, and stimulating methods.
We searched PubMed, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), and Medline for articles published between January 1, 1994, and March 31, 2021. The keywords used were auricular, acupuncture, addiction, substance misuse, smoking, randomized controlled trial, clinical trial, and human. Each RCT was evaluated for quality applying the risk of bias tool by the Cochrane group.
Effect size (Hedges’s g) was calculated using the mean values and standard deviation of the experimental and control groups. The risk for bias of these studies was moderate to high and only four studies (11.1%) earned scores of 6, indicating the lowest risk of bias and highest quality RCT. Out of 36 studies, 23 (64%) reported that auriculotherapy was effective for treating addiction such as opioids, cocaine, alcohol, heroin, nicotine, and gambling.
The most commonly used combination of acupuncture points (four of 36 studies) was shenmen, sympathetic, liver, lung, and kidney, which are called NADA protocol. The following most frequently used combination of acupressure points (four out of 36 studies) was shenmen, subcortex, heart, lung, and liver.
Acupressure could be considered to be used for the treatment of addiction.