Acupuncture’s Role in Solving the Opioid Epidemic: Evidence, Cost-Effectiveness, and Care Availability for Acupuncture as a Primary, Non-Pharmacologic Method for Pain Relief and Management—White Paper 2017

Arthur Yin Fan1, David W. Miller2,3,4, Bonnie Bolash3, Matthew Bauer3,5, John McDonald3,6, Sarah Faggert2,7, 
Hongjian He2,8,9, Yong Ming Li10, Amy Matecki9,11, Lindy Camardella2,3, Mel Hopper Koppelman3,6, Jennifer 
A.M. Stone2,12, Lindsay Meade2,3, John Pang13
1. The American TCM Association, Vienna, VA 22182, USA
2. The American Society of Acupuncturists, Chicago, IL 60618, USA
3. The Joint Acupuncture Opioid Task Force, La Verne, CA 91750, USA
4. Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, Chicago, IL 60601, USA
5. The Acupuncture Now Foundation, La Verne, CA 91750, USA
6. The Acupuncture Evidence Project, Providence, RI 02860, USA
7. The Acupuncture Society of Virginia, Vienna, VA 22182, USA
8. The National Federation of Chinese TCM Organizations, New York, NY 11501, USA
9. The American Alliance for Professional Acupuncture Safety, Greenwich, CT 06878, USA
10. The American Traditional Chinese Medicine Society, New York, NY 11501, USA
11. Highland Hospital, Alameda Health System, Oakland, CA 94602, USA
12. Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, IN 46202, USA
13. University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, San Diego, CA 92093, USA
The United States (U.S.) is facing a national opioid epidemic, and medical systems are in need of non-
pharmacologic strategies that can be employed to decrease the public’s opioid dependence. Acupuncture 
has emerged as a powerful, evidence-based, safe, cost-effective, and available treatment modality suitable 
to meeting this need. Acupuncture has been shown to be effective for the management of numerous types 
of pain conditions, and mechanisms of action for acupuncture have been described and are understandable 
from biomedical, physiologic perspectives. Further, acupuncture’s cost-effectiveness can dramatically 
decrease health care expenditures, both from the standpoint of treating acute pain and through avoiding 
addiction to opioids that requires costly care, destroys quality of life, and can lead to fatal overdose. 
Numerous federal regulatory agencies have advised or mandated that healthcare systems and providers 
offer non-pharmacologic treatment options for pain. Acupuncture stands out as the most evidence-based, 
immediately available choice to fulfil these calls. Acupuncture can safely, easily, and cost-effectively be  
incorporated into hospital settings as diverse as the emergency department, labor and delivery suites, and 

neonatal intensive care units to treat a variety of commonly seen pain conditions. Acupuncture is already being 
successfully and meaningfully utilized by the Veterans Administration and various branches of the U.S. Military, 
in some studies demonstrably decreasing the volume of opioids prescribed when included in care.
Keywords: acupuncture; opioid epidemic; pain; opiate dependency; effectiveness; safety; cost-effectiveness; 
mechanism; United States
Citation: Fan AY, Miller DW, Bolash B, Bauer M, McDonald J, Faggert S, He H, Li YM, Matecki A, Camardella 
L, Koppelman MH, Stone JA, Meade L, Pang J. Acupuncture’s Role in Solving the Opioid Epidemic: Evidence, 
Cost-Effectiveness, and Care Availability for Acupuncture as a Primary, Non-Pharmacologic Method for Pain 
Relief and Management—White Paper 2017. J Integr Med. 2017; 15(6): 411–425.