In the wake of an opioid epidemic, acupuncturists in the United States issued a white paper on Tuesday, recommending acupuncture as a primary non-pharmacologic method for pain relief and management.
"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," said the 21-page white paper.
Official figures showed that opioid overdoses kill 91 Americans every single day and more than half of those deaths involve prescription opioids.
Titled "Acupuncture's Role in Solving the Opioid Epidemic," the white paper said "acupuncture has emerged as a powerful, evidence-based, safe, cost-effective, and available treatment modality suitable to meeting this need."
Organizations that contributed to this paper included the American Society of Acupuncturists, the American Alliance for Professional Acupuncture Safety, the Acupuncture Now Foundation, the American Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Association, and the American TCM Society and National Federation of TCM Organizations.
The white paper said acupuncture has been shown to be effective for treating various types of pain, with the strongest evidence emerging for back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, chronic headache, and osteoarthritis.
It said mechanisms of action for acupuncture have been extensively researched, which found the ancient Chinese practice increase the production and release of endogenous opioids in animals and humans.
"Acupuncture should be recommended as a first line treatment for pain before opiates are prescribed, and may reduce opioid use," it wrote.
"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."
The white paper came about a week after the U.S. National Association of Attorneys General sent a letter to America's Health Insurance Plans, asking its insurance company members to review their payment and coverage policies in order to promote alternatives to opioids such as acupuncture.