Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology

, Volume 29, Issue 1, pp 17–25 | Cite as

A Meta-Analysis of Chinese Herbal Medicine in Treatment of Managed Withdrawal from Heroin

  • Ting-ting Liu
  • Jie ShiEmail author
  • David H. Epstein
  • Yan-Ping Bao
  • Lin LuEmail author
Original Paper


Chinese herbal medicine has shown promise for heroin detoxification. This review extends a prior meta-analysis of Chinese herbal medicine for heroin detoxification, with particular attention to the time course of symptoms. Both English and Chinese databases were searched for randomized trials comparing Chinese herbal medicine to either α2-adrenergic agonists or opioid agonists for heroin detoxification. The methodological quality of each study was assessed with Jadad’s scale (1–2 = low; 3–5 = high). Meta-analysis was performed with fixed- or random-effect models in RevMan software; outcome measures assessed were withdrawal-symptoms score, anxiety, and adverse effects of treatment. Twenty-one studies (2,949 participants) were included. For withdrawal-symptoms score relieving during the 10-day observation, Chinese herbal medicine was superior to α2-adrenergic agonists in relieving opioid-withdrawal symptoms during 4–10 days (except D8) and no difference was found within the first 3 days. Compared with opioid agonists, Chinese herbal medicine was inferior during the first 3 days, but the difference became non-significant during days 4–9. Chinese herbal medicine has better effect on anxiety relieving at late stage of intervention than α2-adrenergic agonists, and no difference with opioid agonists. The incidence of some adverse effects (fatigue, dizziness) was significantly lower for Chinese herbal medicine than for α2-adrenergic agonists (sufficient data for comparison with opioid agonists were not available). Findings were robust to file-drawer effects. Our meta-analysis suggests that Chinese herbal medicine is an effective and safety treatment for heroin detoxification. And more work is needed to determine the specific effects of specific forms of Chinese herbal medicine.


Chinese herbal medicine Heroin Detoxification Meta-analysis 



This work was supported in part by the National Basic Research Program of China (973 Program, 2003CB515400), the National High Technology Research and Development Program of China (863 Program, 2006AA02Z4D1), and the China–Canada Joint Health Research Program (No: 30611120528)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National Institute on Drug DependencePeking UniversityBeijingChina
  2. 2.Intramural Research Program, National Institute on Drug AbuseNational Institutes of HealthBaltimoreUSA

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