Category Archives: acupuncture for psychological conditions

Acupuncture for Depression

A small study comparing outcomes for moderate to severe depression in three groups; standard care, counseling and acupuncture was published last this week in PLOS Medicine.

In this pragmatic randomised controlled trial conducted in the North of England, patients with depression were randomised to receive 12 weekly sessions of acupuncture plus usual care (302 patients), or 12 weekly sessions of counselling plus usual care (302 patients), or usual care alone (151 patients).

Both the acupuncture and the counseling groups resulted in significant improvement in depression scores over standard care alone. Improvements were stable at 3 months post treatment. All study groups continued with standard medical treatments such as antidepressants.

Commentary given considered the study as validating acupuncture as an evidence-based treatment for depression in an integrative environment.

A frequent side-benefit of acupuncture treatment for a variety of conditions is improved wellbeing. The study demonstrates this effect to be robust enough to improve moderate to severe depression scores. It seems reasonable to expect an even greater treatment effect in mild to moderate depression.

Clinically I have seen good success in managing bouts of mild to moderate depression combining acupuncture with an Albizzia based Chinese herbal formula.

http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pmed.1001518

 

Thomas Martin LAc.

 

Effectiveness of Depression Drugs Questioned

The discussion and links in this post are not meant to discourage anyone from listening to their healthcare provider or from taking medical drugs where deemed necessary. It does however serve to show how complex the mind/body is, how being informed and how conscientiousness and self-reliance are important no matter what treatment approach is followed

As to the much lauded effect of the best-selling antidepressant drugs turning out to be very little more than the depression alleviating effect of an inert placebo pill see Sharon Begley’s excellent expose from Newsweek

 …let me show you the studies on PubMed. It seems I am not alone in having moral qualms about blowing the whistle on antidepressants. That first analysis, in 1998, examined 38 manufacturer-sponsored studies involving just over 3,000 depressed patients. The authors, psychology researchers Irving Kirsch and Guy Sapirstein of the University of Connecticut, saw—as everyone else had—that patients did improve, often substantially, on SSRIs, tricyclics, and even MAO inhibitors, a class of antidepressants that dates from the 1950s. This improvement, demonstrated in scores of clinical trials, is the basis for the ubiquitous claim that antidepressants work. But when Kirsch compared the improvement in patients taking the drugs with the improvement in those taking dummy pills—clinical trials typically compare an experimental drug with a placebo—he saw that the difference was minuscule. Patients on a placebo improved about 75 percent as much as those on drugs. Put another way, three quarters of the benefit from antidepressants seems to be a placebo effect. “We wondered, what’s going on?” recalls Kirsch, who is now at the University of Hull in England. “These are supposed to be wonder drugs and have huge effects.”

The study’s impact? The number of Americans taking antidepressants doubled in a decade, from 13.3 million in 1996 to 27 million in 2005.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2010/01/28/the-depressing-news-about-antidepressants.html

For more on this subject see my post here – http://www.wellnessclarity.com/?p=89

 

See also Harriet Fraad’s article in The Guardian

So-called miracle drugs like Prozac are taken by 11% of the population – and Prozac is only one of the 30 available antidepressants on the market. …

Anti-psychotics drugs alone net the pharmaceutical industry at least $14.6bn dollars a year. Psycho-pharmaceuticals are the most profitable sector of the industry, which makes it one of the most profitable business sectors in the world. Americans are less than 5% of the world’s population, yet they consume 66% of the world’s psychological medications.

Do these psycho pharmaceuticals work to restore mental health? Actually, the evidence is overwhelming that they fail. Antidepressants, the most popular psycho-pharmaceuticals, work no better than placebos. They work 25% of the time and stop working when the user stops taking them. In addition, they may actually harm patients in the long run. They disrupt brain neurotransmitters and may usurp the brain’s organic soothing functions.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/mar/15/psychology-healthcare

Until quite recently there used to be a fairly clear demarcation between reactive sadness and major depression that is sustained and apparently without cause – a distinction going back as far as the ancient Greeks. In past years however this distinction has been confused and normal sadness that most people experience from time to time has been increasingly medicalized into a treatable disorder and actively marketed as such.

Here Gordon Parker in the British Medical Journal, discusses this increasing medicalization of sadness.

http://www.bmj.com/content/335/7615/328.full

Also on the over-diagnosis of depression from the Guardian

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2007/aug/17/world.health

 

Andrew Weil’s Integrative approach to improving Mood

See Andrew Weil’s (who has experienced bouts of depression life-long) book Spontaneous Happiness on the wholistic approach to emotional wellbeing. Weil also recommends acupuncture, exercise and meditation for this mood condition.

http://www.amazon.com/Spontaneous-Happiness-Andrew-Weil/dp/0316129445/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1326240423&sr=1-1

Exercise Improves Depression

The following study demonstrated exercise to be  equal to Zoloft in improving depression in older adults at 4 months of intervention.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?db=pubmed&cmd=Search&doptcmdl=Citation&defaultField=Title%20Word&term=Blumenthal%5Bauthor%5D%20AND%20Effects%20of%20exercise%20training%20on%20older%20patients%20with%20major%20depression.

 

Thomas Martin LAc

 

Acupuncture Reduces Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms

A pilot study using acupuncture to treat PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was published in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 2007 jun;195(6):504-13. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17568299

Acupuncture was compared with a no-treatment wait list and with treatment using cognitive-behavioral group therapy. Acupuncture resulted in significant symptom improvement comparable to the group therapy outcome. Results were measured by comparing self-reported symptom improvement before and after treatment and at a three month post treatment followup.

One of the most frequent effects of acupuncture experienced by clients and seen in the clinic is relaxation and improved sense of wellbeing. This is  often accompanied by an altered response to symptoms whereby they seem less to intrude on wellbeing. Realtime MRI studies often confirm such subjective changes objectively. Reduction of  sympathetic nervous system hypersensitivity (flight or fight reactivity) is also a proven acupuncture effect.

Though this small study  does suggest the usefulness of acupuncture for a difficult to treat condition, it is unlikely that PSTD could be cured by acupuncture treatment. It does support the adjunctive use of acupuncture which may well enable reduction of medication and so of side-effects and enhancement of other therapies. As with any chronic medical condition treatment would need to be intensive at the beginning, tapering off to every 2 or 3 weeks then perhaps with occasional booster treatments at larger intervals.

Thomas Martin LAc.