The current large randomized placebo-controlled trial is testing the ability of acupuncture
to treat major depression. The study is unique in that treatment effects will be from the
perspective of both Western psychiatry and Chinese medicine.
Depression is an unfortunately common condition for which people often seek alternative
(non-Western) treatments, perhaps because conventional treatments do not consistently
provide lasting relief. A pilot study (Allen, Schnyer and Hitt, 1998) suggests that
acupuncture, a popular but under-researched alternative treatment derived from Chinese
medicine, holds sufficient promise as a treatment for depression to warrant a larger-scale
clinical trial. The investigators propose to conduct a larger-scale test of the efficacy of
acupuncture in this trial. Because relapse and recurrence of Major Depression are quite
common, the investigators also will assess the clinical status of participants for 18 months
after treatment concludes. In the first phase of this double-blind randomized clinical
trial, 150 men and women meeting criteria for Major Depression will be randomly assigned to
a treatment approach or to a waitlist control. All participants will ultimately receive
acupuncture designed to address their own particular constellation of depressive symptoms.
At the end of this first phase, blind assessments will be used to compare treatment effects
from the perspectives of both Western psychiatry and Chinese medicine. After this treatment
phase, participants will be assessed several times over the next 18 months. The study is
designed to evaluate the efficacy and clinical significance of acupuncture as a treatment
for Major Depression, and to examine the convergence of Western-based and
Chinese-medicine-based outcome measures. Finally, the study will determine whether changes
in energetic pattern mediate changes in Western defined depression severity, and explore
whether patient and history variables predict responses to acupuncture treatments.
- Must meet criteria for Major Depression.
- Must be free of other mental or physical disorders that could cause depression, and
also free from conditions that would typically exclude participants from trials
involving pharmacologic antidepressants.
- Cannot be receiving other treatments or require immediate clinical attention.