Electroacupuncture for tapering off long-term benzodiazepine use: A randomized controlled trial

Wing Fai Yeung*, Ka Fai Chung, Zhang Jin Zhang, Shi Ping Zhang, Wai Chi Chan, Roger Man Kin Ng, Connie Lai Wah Chan, Lai Ming Ho, Branda Yee Man Yu, Janet Ching Sum Chau, Novella Chi Ling Lau, Li Xing Lao

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)



To evaluate the efficacy of using electroacupuncture as an adjunct treatment in enhancing the benzodiazepine cessation rate in long-term benzodiazepine users. 


This was a randomized, assessor- and subject-blinded, controlled trial. One hundred and forty-four long-term benzodiazepine users were randomly assigned to receive either electroacupuncture or placebo acupuncture (a sham itervention using non-invasive placebo needles) combined with a gradual benzodiazepine tapering schedule for 4 weeks. The primary outcome was the cessation rate of benzodiazepine use. Subjects were assessed on their benzodiazepine usage, benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms, insomnia severity, and anxiety and depressive symptoms at baseline, week 6 and week 16. 


The cessation rates of the electroacupuncture and placebo acupuncture groups at 12 weeks post-treatment were 9.17% and 10.83%, respectively. Both groups showed a reduction in benzodiazepine usage by a self-completed drug record at week 16 (compared to baseline: electroacupuncture group −40.23% versus placebo acupuncture group −48.76%). However, no significant between-group differences were found in the benzodiazepine cessation rate, reduction in benzodiazepine usage, and other secondary measures across all the study time points. 


Electroacupuncture showed a similar cessation rate in benzodiazepine use to that of non-invasive placebo acupuncture in long-term users during a 4-week gradual tapering schedule. The evidence did not support advantages of electroacupuncture over non-invasive placebo acupuncture on reducing insomnia, anxiety, depression, or other withdrawal symptoms during the gradual tapering schedule. Despite a 40% decrease in the benzodiazepine usage in both groups, the effects may be attributed to the non-specific effects of acupuncture.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-67
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Psychiatric Research
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2019

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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