Background & Aims: Substance abuse is a major health problem in the US population, particularly among veterans. Current treatments for substance abuse in the form of pharmacologic, behavioural, or psychosocial therapy can be effective in limited instances. We investigated the effect of using two complementary and alternative approaches, acupuncture and the relaxation response, to treat veterans who are recovering from substance use disorders. Methods: We conducted a controlled trial at a US Veterans Administration homeless residential rehabilitation programme. Study participants were randomly assigned to acupuncture, relaxation response or usual care groups. Results: Both acupuncture and the relaxation response interventions were well received by the veterans with high intervention attendance rates (75% and 80%, respectively). The acupuncture group had significantly greater reductions in craving and anxiety levels and greater improvements in the spirituality dimension of quality of life, while the relaxation response group had significantly greater reductions in anxiety level and greater improvements in mental health and spirituality dimensions of quality of life than usual care. The two intervention groups had no significant difference in any outcome measures. Conclusions: This trial provided promising pilot data for larger studies to validate the effects of acupuncture and the relaxation response for relapse prevention.
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