Acupuncture Continuing Education

Acupuncture Ups Antidepressant Drug Therapy - New Discovery

A new study confirms that acupuncture enhances antidepressant drug therapy. Researchers discovered that acupuncture combined with paroxetine (Paxil, Sereupin, Aropax) is more effective than paroxetine alone. Researchers found that acupuncture accelerates clinical responses to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), a class of drugs used for the treatment of major depressive disorder. Further, the researchers concluded that acupuncture prevents the aggravation of depression.

Acupuncture is effective for depression. ElectroacupunctureThe researchers divided 160 randomly assigned patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) into three groups. The first group received only paroxetine. The second group received paroxetine with manual acupuncture and the third group received paroxetine with electroacupuncture. The groups receiving acupuncture and electroacupuncture with paroxetine showed significantly greater improvements than the drug only group. There was no increase in adverse reactions due to acupuncture or electroacupuncture. A four week follow-up showed that electroacupuncture demonstrated significantly greater improvements in the recovery from depression than the other groups.

Another recent study confirms these findings. Investigators concluded that acupuncture and electroacupuncture improved “the quality of life in depressed patients undergoing paroxetine treatment.” Once again, electroacupuncture therapy demonstrated greater clinical improvements over the manual acupuncture group. Acupuncture and electroacupuncture were applied to DU16, DU14, P6 and SP6 for patients taking paroxetine. Acupuncture treatments were administered three times per week for a total of six weeks. Acupuncture needle retention time was thirty minutes per office visit. The researchers concluded that electroacupuncture combined with paroxetine was more effective for the treatment of depression than manual acupuncture with paroxetine or paroxetine alone.

There has been a flurry of new findings demonstrating the effectiveness of acupuncture for the treatment of depression. One recent MRI study concluded that laser acupuncture stimulates areas of the brain necessary for the treatment of depression. Laser light stimulation was applied to acupuncture points LR14, LR8, REN14 and HT7. The MRI scanner recorded activation of the DMN (default mode network) by laser acupuncture. The DMN is activated in healthy individuals when the mind is at rest or when the brain is not performing task oriented procedures. The investigators proved that laser acupuncture has a modulatory response on the DMN suggesting an antidepressant effect on the brain’s neurophysiological functions.

These new studies point to the same results demonstrated by research at the University of Arizona, Tucson. Here, researchers discovered that “acupuncture can provide significant symptom relief in depression, at rates comparable to those of psychotherapy or pharmacotherapy.” One common theme emerging is that the biochemical effects of acupuncture for the treatment of depression is similar to that of medications. Acupuncture has the ability to increase levels of monoamines. These include the neurotransmitters serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine. Many antidepressant drugs increase monoamines and studies now show that acupuncture increases monoamine levels or affects monoamine receptor site sensitivity. The interesting aspect of the new research is that investigators now combine acupuncture with antidepressant medications and have discovered, in numerous studies, that the combination yields superior patient outcomes.

Qu, Shan-Shan, et al. "A 6-week randomized controlled trial with 4-week follow-up of acupuncture combined with paroxetine in patients with major depressive disorder." Journal of Psychiatric Research (2013).

Ma SH, Qu SS, Huang Y, Chen JQ, Lin RY, Wang CQ, Li GL, Zhao CH, Guo SC, Zhang ZJ. Improvement in quality of life in depressed patients following verum acupuncture or electroacupuncture plus paroxetine: a randomized controlled study of 157 cases. Neural Regen Res. 2012;7(27):2123-2129.

Im Quah-Smith, Chao Suo, Mark A. Williams, and Perminder S. Sachdev. Medical Acupuncture. -Not available-, ahead of print. doi:10.1089/acu.2012.0901.

Allen, John JB, Rosa N. Schnyer, and Sabrina K. Hitt. "The efficacy of acupuncture in the treatment of major depression in women." Psychological Science 9.5 (1998): 397-401.