GPs “should prescribe acupuncture for anxiety”


The British Acupuncture Council is calling on UK health care professionals to consider prescribing acupuncture for patients with anxiety.

According to studies, acupuncture could be an effective treatment for the 1-30% of the global population which suffers from some sort of the condition.

“When the body is under stress, an area of the brain called the hypothalamus releases neurochemicals, and research shows that acupuncture can calm this response,” says Mark Bovey, head of research at the British Acupuncture Council.

“Acupuncture has also been shown to increase the release of endorphins, the body’s own ‘feel-good’ chemicals, which play an important role in the regulation of physical and emotional stress responses such as pain, heart rate, blood pressure and digestive function. All of these acupuncture mechanisms have a direct effect on reducing anxiety.

“At a time when the NHS is under such pressure, GPs and other healthcare professionals should be considering acupuncture as either an alternative or complementary treatment. The evidence is there to prove that it is effective.”

In 2017, the Acupuncture Evidence Project, co-authored by Dr John McDonald PhD and Dr Stephen Janz, showed that acupuncture was moderately effective in treating anxiety.

The evidence included a 2016 systematic review, with more than 400 randomised patients, that concluded that “the effects from acupuncture for treating anxiety have been shown to be significant compared to conventional treatments”.

The largest of these studies, which included 120 randomised patients, found that acupuncture had a large effect on reducing anxiety and depression compared to conventional treatment involving pharmacological approaches and psychotherapy, with over twice the reduction in symptoms.

A more recent systematic review published in 2018 found that all 13 included studies “reported an anxiety decrease for their treatment group relative to control groups.” Three of these studies used pharmaceuticals as controls.

The British Acupuncture Council has been working with the charity Anxiety UK to gather anxiety outcomes data from patients having a course of six acupuncture treatments as in usual practice. Preliminary results on 30 patients indicate that the effectiveness is at least as good as that seen w