Auricular acupuncture for drug dependence: an open-label randomized investigation on clinical outcomes, health-related quality of life, and patient acceptability

Pei Lin Lua, Nor Samira Talib
Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine 2013, 19 (4): 28-42

CONTEXT: Substance abuse has been prevalent in Malaysia for many years and currently represents one of the main concerns to its society. The limitations of conventional therapies have resulted in efforts to explore the potentia of complementary therapies in the management of drug addiction. The evidence for auricular acupuncture (AA) as a potential complementary therapy for drug addiction is still limited and inconclusive.

OBJECTIVE: The study intended (1) to compare the clinical outcomes of methadone maintenance treatment (MMT) alone and MMT plus AA (MMT+AA) with regard to the daily methadone dose, number of cigarettes smoked/wk, relapse rates, and withdrawal symptoms; (2) to evaluate health-related quality of life (HR QoL) pre- and postintervention; and (3) to determine participants' acceptance of AA therapy.

DESIGN: The research team designed this study to be prospective, longitudinal, open-labeled, and randomized, with one intervention group (AA group) and one control group.

SETTING: The settings were three MMT centers in Terengganu, Malaysia: (1) the Methadone Maintenance Treatment (MMT) Center, Hospital Sultanah Nur Zahirah; (2) the MMT Center, Marang Health Clinic; and (3) the MMT Center, Seberang Takir Health Clinic.

PARTICIPANTS: Participants were individuals who were enrolled in the three MMT programs.

INTERVENTION: After randomization, the intervention group received MMT+AA while the control group received MMT only. Participants in the AA group underwent concurrent AA sessions for 8 wk.

OUTCOME MEASURES: All outcomes were evaluated using questionnaires that the research team developed and WHOQOL-BREF. Data were analysed employing descriptive and nonparametric statistics (SPSS v16).

RESULTS: A total of 97, eligible, male patients consented to participation (MMT = 42; MMT+AA = 55; median age = 36.0 y; Malay ethnicity = 97.9%). After screening for dropouts, the data from only 69 participants were considered for postintervention analysis (MMT = 40; MMT+AA = 29). At preintervention, participants differed significantly by HR QoL profile and the frequency of withdrawal symptoms (better for MMT participants). Postintervention, all groups reported significantly reduced numbers of cigarettes smoked and a reduced methadone dose (P < .05), whereas no significant difference was detected for other parameters. No difference for relapse rate was detected between the groups. On separate group analysis, only the number of cigarettes was significantly lower for MMT+AA participants, whereas apart from methadone dose, all other parameters had significantly improved over time in the MMT+AA cohort. The additional AA therapy also demonstrated favorable acceptance and tolerable side effects.

CONCLUSION: Findings implied that AA could be beneficial as an adjunct to MMT in managing addiction, but the effectiveness of AA still requires further extensive investigation.

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