Objective: The purpose of this study was to integrate acupuncture within the standard of care during outpatient opioid tapering and assess impact of this treatment on cumulative withdrawal symptoms, psychologic distress, and pain.
Methods: This prospective randomized controlled pilot study administered the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association protocol following monthly opioid tapering. A total of 9 participants were randomized into the intervention group and compared with 6 participants who underwent the standard of care for outpatient opioid tapering. All providers prescribing medication management to both groups were blinded. Psychologic distress was evaluated using the hospital anxiety and depression scale (HADS). The clinical institute narcotic assessment (CINA) measured subjective withdrawal symptoms and pain was assessed using the numerical rating scale (NRS).
Results: Overall anxiety appeared slightly higher in the acupuncture group (HADS 7.0 compared with 6.5), however, depression was lower when compared with the standard of care group (HADS 4.0 compared with 6.5). The standard of care group reported more intense withdrawal symptoms (CINA 9.0 compared with 3.5) as well as higher pain scores (NRS 6.5 compared with 5.0). There were no statistically significant differences among the standard of care and acupuncture groups.
Conclusions: This study suggests that auricular acupuncture may be implemented within the standard of care for patients undergoing outpatient opioid weaning regimens. Although results were not statistically significant, they support future research and reveal a promising expansion of treatment options for patients physically dependent on opioid medication. Clinical Trials.gov ID: NCT02882048.