Electro-acupuncture has been found to help relieve many of the symptoms of depression and increase the therapeutic effect of fluoxetine (Prozac), according to a new study.
Researchers conducted the study to determine if a type of electro-acupuncture called DCEAS (dense cranial electroacupuncture stimulation) could enhance antidepressant effects during the early phase of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) treatment for major depressive disorder.
Patients suffering from depression were given nine electro-acupuncture treatments along with the oral administration of fluoxetine. The results were compared with subjects who received a non-invasive simulation of electro-acupuncture stimulation (sham-acupuncture) plus fluoxetine.
The researchers discovered that electro-acupuncture stimulation increased the SSRI’s effectiveness. They noted that electro-acupuncture “is a safe and effective intervention that augments the antidepressant efficacy. It can be considered as an additional therapy in the early phase of SSRI treatment of depressed patients.”
The researchers note that this style of acupuncture has been proven effective in the treatment of refractory obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), major depressive disorder, post-stroke depression, and depression-related insomnia.
Fluoxetine was chosen as the study’s medication because it is a widely prescribed SSRI for the treatment of major depression.
Patients in the acupuncture group were treated three times per week along with fluoxetine treatment. The acupuncture points used in the study were: Baihui, Yintang, Sishencong, Toulinqi, Shuaigu, Taiyang and Touwei. Needles were inserted at a slant or in a horizontal fashion at a depth of 10-30mm.
A total of 70 patients were included in the data analysis. Electro-acupuncture was set to a continuous wave at 9V and 2Hz for 30 minutes. Amplitude was adjusted so that the electrical stimulation was both noticeable and comfortable.
The patients and the raters did not know if the needles were actually inserted or if they were sham-insertions that falsely simulated the acupuncture experience.
The researchers note that electro-acupuncture produces a rapid effect in alleviating depressive symptoms in both clinician-rated and self-rated measures of depression.
They conclude that electro-acupuncture is effective in increasing the antidepressant effects of fluoxetine for the treatment of moderate and severe depression.
Source: PLoS One