September 25, 2013

Acupuncture for Depression


There is a new study that is being widely reported in the press regarding Acupuncture for Depression.  This is a great study by Dr  Hugh  MacPherson but its conclusions are being interpreted in some curious if not unexpected ways in the press.  You can see the study registration here and you can read an overview of the results here

The study set out to look if Acupuncture is useful in the treatment of depression and here is how they went about looking at this question.

They took a sample of the population of 755 people who all scored 20 or more on the Beck Depression Inventory BDI-II – which is widely used in depression studies and they randomly put them into 3 groups:

  • Acupuncture + usual care – 302
  • Counselling + usual care – 302
  • Usual care alone – 151

Then then looked at the depression scores at 3, 6, 9 and 12 months to see if there was any statistical difference between the three groups, that it to say a difference that is unlikely to happen by chance alone, and they found at the 3 and 6 month interval that there was a positive effect with the acupuncture and counselling group over usual care.  This means that the addition of acupuncture or counselling enhanced the effects of usual care.  At the 9 and 12 month mark there was no statistical difference between the three treatments.

So what does this mean?

The main conclusions that I take from this is that the the addition of either acupuncture or counselling to usual care gets better results in the first 6 months of treatment or to put it another way the addition of acupuncture or counselling enhances usual care.

So if you are suffering from Depression it may well be worth seeking either acupuncture or counselling as part of your care package however unless you have a particularly enlightened GP it is unlikely that you will get any acupuncture on the NHS

For more information on Acupuncture and Depression please see the British Acupuncture Councils fact sheet here