Acupuncture's Role in the Opioid Epidemic
Acupuncture’s Role in Solving the Opioid Epidemic:
Evidence, Cost-Effectiveness, and Care Availability for Acupuncture as a
Primary, Non-Pharmacologic Method
for Pain Relief and Management
White Paper 2017
The American Society of Acupuncturists (ASA)
The American Alliance for Professional Acupuncture Safety (AAPAS) The Acupuncture Now Foundation (ANF)
The American TCM Association (ATCMA)
The American TCM Society (ATCMS)
National Federation of TCM Organizations (NFTCMO)
The United States is facing a national opioid epidemic, and medical systems are in need of non-pharmacologic strategies that can be employed to decrease the public’s opioid dependence. Acupuncture has emerged as a powerful, evidence-based, safe, cost-effective, and available treatment modality suitable to meeting this need. Acupuncture has been shown to be effective for the management of numerous types of pain, and mechanisms of action for acupuncture have been described and are understandable from biomedical, physiologic perspectives. Further, acupuncture’s cost-effectiveness could dramatically decrease health care expenditures, both from the standpoint of treating acute pain and through avoiding the development of opioid addiction that requires costly care, destroys quality of life, and can lead to fatal overdose. Numerous federal regulatory agencies have advised or mandated that healthcare systems and providers offer non-pharmacologic treatment options, and acupuncture stands as the most evidence-based, immediately available choice to fulfil these calls. Acupuncture can safely, easily, and cost-effectively be incorporated into hospital settings as diverse as the emergency department, labor and delivery suites, and neonatal intensive care units to treat a variety of pain seen commonly in hospitals. Acupuncture is already being successfully and meaningfully utilized by the Veterans Administration and various branches of the U.S. Military.
1. Effectiveness/Efficacy of acupuncture for different types of pain.
2. Safety and feasibility of acupuncture for pain management.
3. Cost-effectiveness of acupuncture for pain management.
4. Acupuncture’s analgesic mechanisms have been extensively researched and acupuncture can increase the production and release of endogenous opioids in animals and humans.
5. Acupuncture is effective for the treatment of chronic pain involving maladaptive neuroplasticity.
6. Acupuncture is a useful adjunctive therapy in opiate dependency and rehabilitation.
7. Acupuncture has been recommended as a first line non-pharmacologic therapy by the FDA, as well as the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in coping with the opioid crisis. The Joint Commission has also mandated that hospitals provide non-pharmacologic pain treatment modalities.
8. Among most non-pharmacological managements for pain relief now available, acupuncture therapy is the most effective and specific for opioid abuse and overuse.