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Research Summary

Transcutaneous Electric Acupoint Stimulation (TEAS) for Opioid Detoxification

Studies of transcutaneous electric acupoint stimulation (TEAS), an alternative form of acupuncture, in the treatment of opioid withdrawal have yielded variable results. This randomized, single-blind, pilot study sought to determine whether TEAS, included as an adjunctive treatment to inpatient opioid detoxification with buprenorphine-naloxone, increased abstinence in the 2 weeks following discharge. Forty-eight patients completed treatment, which consisted of 30 minutes of TEAS or sham treatment 3 times daily for 4 days in addition to tapered doses of buprenorphine-naloxone (total average of 31 mg tapered over 3–4 days). Seventy-three percent of patients were available for follow-up.

  • Patients in the TEAS group reported less opioid use (29% versus 60%, respectively; p=0.04) or any drug use (35% versus 77%, respectively; p=0.02) than patients in the sham group at 2 weeks post-discharge. Self-report data was corroborated with urine toxicology.
  • Patients in the sham group relapsed sooner than patients in the TEAS group [hazard ratio (HR), 2.65; 95% CI, 1.004–6.995].
  • Patients in the TEAS group reported less pain (p=0.01) and more improvements in physical health (p=0.01).


Despite methodologic limitations including small sample size, single-blinding, short treatment duration, and brief follow-up period, these results suggest that adjunctive treatment with TEAS during inpatient opioid detoxification may improve short-term outcomes in opioid-dependent patients and deserves further study.

Jeanette M. Tetrault, MD


Meade CS, Lukas SE, McDonald LJ, et al. A randomized trial of transcutaneous electric acupoint stimulation as adjunctive treatment for opioid detoxification. J Subst Abuse Treat. 2010;38(1):12–21.