More on treatment options at
Acupuncture is commonly used as a
complementary therapy in the substance use
field. But how effective is it, asks Natalie Davies
placebos were ultimately a lie.
Not coming down so harshly on
placebos, the NHS website at one time
reminded readers in the context of
alternative and complementary
therapies that ‘for many health
conditions, there are treatments that
work better than placebos […and by
choosing] a treatment that only
provides a placebo effect, [the patient]
will miss out on the benefit that a
better treatment would provide’.
However, it stated ‘improvement in a
health condition due to the placebo
effect is still improvement, and that is
always welcome’. Interestingly, in the
last few months these comments
appear to have been removed.
specifically has drawn
protestations of ‘sham
‘theatrical placebo’, it
has also been able to
elicit a certain
generosity of hope of the type that may
be reserved for interventions of a
transcendental nature. Furthermore, as
it has fallen between the gaps of
alternative and conventional therapies
for treating health conditions, whether
delivered in a high street clinic or
cues of the
and culture may
at once seems
an ancient form
mainstream healthcare space, patients absorbing the cues of the environment and
culture may have found themselves yielding to something which at once seems a
legitimate medical treatment and an ancient form of healing.
Shu-Ming Wang and colleagues wrote in Anesthesia and Analgesia that ‘Instead
of criticizing [the] ancient art [of acupuncture] with arguments culled from
modern medicine and science, physicians and scientists should try to integrate
current knowledge into this ancient, yet ever-evolving practice so it may be used
to treat conditions for which pharmaceutical interventions are ineffective and/or
potentially dangerous’ 3 .
erhaps instead of removing acupuncture from the ambit of science
as this comment suggested, it could be incorporated within the
‘common factors’ framework as a vehicle for delivering the essence
of an effective psychosocial therapy – a credible procedure which
offers an explanation for the patient’s condition and a credible
remedy that the patient believes in, delivered in a context which
gives it the aura of a bona fide clinical treatment.
If there is not so much a ‘lie’ as a false impression at the heart of acupuncture, it
may be that it is presented as a physical treatment rather than vehicle for the
common factors found in psychosocial therapies. But without that sincerely held
conviction, those common factors would be undermined and with them any
benefit to be gained.
Natalie Davies is co-editor of Drug and Alcohol Findings
https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD005192.pub2 Gates, S. (2006). Auricular
acupuncture for cocaine dependence. The Cochrane Library.
https://doi.org/10.1080/15265160903234078 Braillon, A. (2009). Placebo Is Far From
Benign: It Is Disease-Mongering. The American Journal of Bioethics.
http://w ww.dcscience.net/Wang-acupunc-A&A-2013.pdf Wang, SM. (2013).
Acupuncture in 21st Century Anesthesia: Is There a Needle in the Haystack?
Anesthesia and Analgesia.
July/August 2018 | drinkanddrugsnews | 9