Studying Acupuncture and Depression
Many illnesses like Crohn’s disease, Colitis, Diabetes, Heart Disease and the list goes on, can have an affect on our mood. Depression shows its ugly head sooner or later and how we deal with this condition will determine our overall health. Can acupuncture help?
The NIH Study at Tucson
A recent study on acupuncture and depression being piloted by psychologist John Allen of the University of Arizona in Tucson, along with acupuncturist Rosa Schnyer, indicates that depression may be able to be treated with acupuncture. Furthermore, these early study results suggest that acupuncture is as effective as traditional drug therapy and psychotherapy.
The eight week double-blind study marked the first scientifically controlled analysis of acupuncture and depression in the West. Allen and Schnyer’s study was sponsored by the National Institutes Health Office of Alternative Medicine and targeted symptoms of depression in women. The study group was broken into three groups. The first group was slated to receive acupuncture therapy specifically for their symptoms of depression. The second group received acupuncture treatments for symptoms not related to depression. In neither case were the acupuncturists delivering the treatments the ones who created the treatments. Finally, the third group was told they were put on a waiting list, leaving them to continue their current methods of treatment.
At the conclusion of the study, Dr. Allen found that the first group displayed significantly less symptoms of depression than the second group. Furthermore, the first group was found to have a trend toward reduced depression that was not displayed in the third group, indicating a potential that acupuncture could even surpass more accepted methods of treating depression. Dr. Allen and his group characterized this trend as “non-significant,” allowing that they could not rule out a chance occurrence based on only one study, but the implications for acupuncture and depression are still worth noting.
Following the treatment, the statistics were astounding. In the first group, Dr. Allen and his team noted a 43 percent drop in symptomatic depression versus only a 22 percent change in group two. In that first group, over half of the participants no longer met the clinical criteria for depression. In addition, only five individuals dropped out of the treatment, which is significantly lower than the rate of those who discontinue psychotherapy and drug treatment.
Advantages of Acupuncture
At a seminar held after the study, Dr. Allen told the National Depressive and Manic Depressive Association Conference that there were two distinct advantages of acupuncture over other methods of treatment. The first, he shared, was that there is no language barrier. Compared to psychotherapy, where discussion is a vital part of the therapy, acupuncture is free of a need for the therapist to speak the same language. Once the acupuncturist knows the problem, he or she can begin therapy. The second – and perhaps much more important to sufferers of depression – is the notably lower cost when comparing drugs and psychotherapy to acupuncture and depression.
It is essential, despite all of the positive data released in regards to acupuncture and depression, to consult with your doctor regarding any change or reduction in medication in conjunction with the use of acupuncture, much less altering any regimen of psychotherapy. It is, however, worth noting that a further advantage of acupuncture as an alternative treatment to medication and psychotherapy is that it can be pursued along side other treatments, as there risk of drug interaction nor a conflict between the tenants of psychotherapy and psychology.