Auricular acupuncture as an adjunct to opiate detoxification treatment: effects on withdrawal symptoms

J Subst Abuse Treat. 2009 Apr;36(3):345-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jsat.2008.08.002. Epub 2008 Nov 12.


It was hypothesized that auricular acupuncture would lead to reduced severity of opiate withdrawal symptoms and craving when provided as an adjunct to methadone detoxification. The study used a randomized, placebo-controlled study design. The sample consisted of 83 drug misusers who met Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition criteria for opiate dependence. Daily measures of withdrawal severity and craving were taken using the Short Opiate Withdrawal Scale and an eight-item craving questionnaire. Urine screening was used as an objective assessment of treatment adherence. The study hypothesis was not confirmed. Auricular acupuncture had no effect upon withdrawal severity or craving when provided as an adjunct to a standard methadone detoxification treatment. The results are consistent with the findings of other studies that failed to find any effect of acupuncture in the treatment of drug dependence. The failure to find any clinical gains from the adjunctive use of auricular acupuncture during detoxification from opiates raises concerns about the widespread acceptance of this intervention.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture, Ear*
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Methadone / therapeutic use
  • Narcotics / therapeutic use
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / rehabilitation*
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / urine
  • Patient Compliance
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / psychology
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / therapy*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Narcotics
  • Methadone