Acupuncture and Relaxation Response for Craving and Anxiety Reduction among Military Veterans in Recovery from Substance Use Disorder

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Background and Objectives:Substance use disorder (SUD) is a major health issue, especially among military veterans. We previously reported the effects of auricular acupuncture and the relaxation response (RR) on reducing craving and anxiety following 10-week interventions among veterans who were in recovery from SUDs. Our current analysis examines effects following each intervention session and RR daily practice.Methods:We conducted a three-arm randomized controlled trial on residents of a homeless veteran rehabilitation program. Sixty-Seven enroled participants were randomly assigned to acupuncture (n = 23), RR (n = 23), or usual care (n = 21). Participants in the two intervention groups rated their degree of craving for substance on a scale of 1–10 and anxiety levels on a scale of 1–4 (total score 20–80) before and after each intervention session. Mixed effects regression models were used for analysis.Results:Craving and anxiety levels decreased significantly following one session of acupuncture (−1.04, p = .0001; −8.83, p < .0001) or RR intervention (−.43, p = .02; −4.64, p = .03). The level of craving continued to drop with additional intervention sessions (regression coefficient b = −.10, p = .01, and b = −.10, p = .02 for acupuncture and RR groups, respectively). Number of daily practice days of RR-eliciting techniques is also associated with reduction in craving ratings (b = −.02, p = .008).Conclusions:Findings demonstrate the value of attending regular acupuncture and RR-eliciting intervention sessions, as well as the daily practice of RR-eliciting techniques.Scientific Significance:Substance addiction is a complex disease and effective treatment remains a challenge. Our study findings add to the scientific evidence of these two non-pharmaceutical approaches for SUD. (Am J Addict 2014;23:129–136)

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