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Can Acupuncture Relieve Depression?

A new study finds that this non-drug treatment may have some benefits for people with depression.

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Depression affects one in 10 Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And even though men are less likely to talk openly about it, they’re not immune from this debilitating illness.

When it comes to depression, the most widely used treatments are antidepressant drugs and psychological counseling. A new study published in the journal PLoS Medicine has added another non-drug option to the list of potential options: acupuncture.

In addition to feeling sad, people experiencing depression may lose interest in pleasurable activities, feel tired, or have difficulty concentrating. For men, depression can also show up as irritability, anger, or self-destructive behavior.

In the new study, U.K. researchers recruited more than 700 people with moderate to severe depression from the offices of primary care doctors. They assigned these patients to one of three treatment groups: usual care; 12 weekly sessions of acupuncture plus usual care; or 12 weekly sessions of counseling plus usual care.

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After three months, people who had received acupuncture or counseling along with the usual care were less depressed than those in the usual-care-only group.

After six months—and still true at 12 months—people receiving only the usual care had caught up with the other two groups. Researchers, though, didn’t see any negative side effects in people who attended the weekly acupuncture sessions.

While acupuncture appeared to have some benefit for people with moderate to severe depression, it was done alongside the usual treatment. For fastest recovery, men experiencing depression should definitely talk to their doctor about treatment options.

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