Acupuncture for depression – does it work?
There is now robust evidence from large scale clinical trials to support acupuncture as a beneficial treatment for depression – see for example MacPherson et al 2013. It makes perfect sense that acupuncture would help depression sufferers since the three main types of change that people with chronic illness notice with using acupuncture are all potentially of great value to anyone who experiences depression and anxiety. These are: changes in symptoms; changes in energy strength and relaxation, and changes in personal and social identity (Paterson and Britten 2004).
Acupuncture for pain and depression
The preparatory research that we conducted at York for the aforementioned study by MacPherson et al (which I undertook for my PhD) identified a number of patient groups who might be especially interested in acupuncture were it found to be effective. One of these patient groups was individuals with concomitent painful symptoms. The full scale clinical trial therefore included a secondary analysis where pain was explored as a co-variable in a comparison of acupuncture or counselling, both as adjuncts to usual care vs usual care alone. Findings were that acupuncture was superior to counselling in terms of alleviating pain and equal to it in terms of depression outcomes – see Hopton et al 2014.
Acupuncture as an extra support to come off medication
Many people using antidepressants would like to be medication free but find it hard to come off these drugs, even though they are not considered addictive. Discontinuation symptoms, although self limiting, can be distressing and unpredictable and it can be that the time to come off never seems quite right.
Our York research (see Schroer et al, 2009) had suggested that those coming off antidepressants would greatly value acupuncture as an extra support and I offer care that is bespoke and tailor made to suit an individuals needs should clients wish to have this extra support to come off anti depressant medication. Since I am not medically qualified I recommend that your GP is informed about your decision to come off medication to help with the discontinuation, so we can, if desired, work together as a team.
The discontinuation process will be done at your own pace and a three month follow up plan is recommended. Further treatment may be offered to prevent relapse.
It is worth remembering that acupuncture has been widely used in drug and alcohol projects throughout the UK to help substance users. I have a decade of experience working in such projects and have seen acupuncture assist patients to come off highly addictive drugs including heroin, where I have provided support for this.