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Acupuncture May Treat Depression, Study

Update Date: Sep 25, 2013 03:23 PM EDT

Acupuncture may be just as effective as counseling for treating depression, a new study suggests.

New research reveals that people who had acupuncture alongside their antidepressants improved more after three months than those who just took the drugs. Patients who had counseling alongside their normal treatment also improved.

Researchers said the findings are important because many patients are interested in receiving non-drug therapies. 

The study involved 755 men and women with moderate to severe depression. Patients in the first group received 12 weekly sessions of acupuncture plus usual care. Those in the second group received 12 weekly sessions of counseling plus usual care and the third group only received usual care.

Researchers said that there was a significant reduction in average depression scores in patients who after three months of acupuncture or counseling compared to those who only received usual care. However, researchers found that there was no significant difference in depression scores between the acupuncture and counseling groups.

Researchers found that acupuncture and counseling improved symptoms for up to six months. However, there were no significant differences between the three groups at nine months and 12 months.

"Although these findings are encouraging, our study does not identify which aspects of acupuncture and counseling are likely to be most beneficial to patients, nor does it provide information about the effectiveness of acupuncture or counseling, compared with usual care, for patients with mild depression," lead researcher Dr. Hugh MacPherson, of the Department of Health Sciences at the University of York, said in a news release.

"To our knowledge, our study is the first to rigorously evaluate the clinical and economic impact of acupuncture and counseling for patients in primary care who are representative of those who continue to experience depression in primary care," he said.

"We have provided evidence that acupuncture versus usual care and counseling versus usual care are both associated with a significant reduction in symptoms of depression in the short to medium term, and are not associated with serious adverse events," MacPherson added.

The findings are published in the journal PLOS Medicine.

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