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September 2022

Pain. 1983 May; 16(1): 13-31.

Naloxone fails to reverse pain thresholds elevated by acupuncture: acupuncture analgesia reconsidered.

Chapman CR, Benedetti C, Colpitts YH, Gerlach R.

We were unable to demonstrate the reversal of dental acupunctural analgesia following the injection of 0.4 mg naloxone using evoked potential methodology. Since our findings differed from those of Mayer, Price and Rafii who used pain threshold methods, we attempted to replicate their study. Subjects who demonstrated acupunctural analgesia during electrical stimulation of the LI-4 point on the hands received either 1.2 mg naloxone or normal saline under double blind conditions. Pain thresholds elevated by acupuncture failed to reverse when naloxone was given. Review of experimental design issues, other related human subjects research, and animal studies on acupunctural analgesia provided little convincing evidence that endorphins play a significant role in acupunctural analgesia. Because endorphins can be released in response to a stressor, endorphin presence sometimes correlates with acupunctural treatment in animal studies and some human studies, especially those involving pain patients. The primary analgesia elicited by acupunctural stimulation seems to involve other mechanisms.

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