BACKGROUND: Acupuncture has been shown to be a relatively safe health care intervention with few adverse effects. In contrast ,antipsychotic drugs can have seriously disabling adverse effects. However, the benefits of acupuncture in the treatment of schizophrenia are unclear, and further evidence is needed to inform clinicians and people with schizophrenia of its efficacy in the treatment of schizophrenia. OBJECTIVES: To evaluate acupuncture for people with schizophrenia and related psychoses. SEARCH STRATEGY: We (JR, JX) undertook electronic searches of the Cochrane Schizophrenia Group's register (April 2005). We inspected reference lists and contacted the first author of each included study. SELECTION CRITERIA: We included all relevant randomised controlled trials involving people with schizophrenia-like illnesses, allocated to acupuncture, electro-acupuncture, laser-acupuncture, placebo, no treatment, or antipsychotic drugs produced by pharmaceutical companies were included. DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: We independently extracted the data. For homogeneous dichotomous data, the fixed effects relative risk (RR), the 95% confidence intervals (CI) and, where appropriate, the number needed to treat (NNT) were calculated on an intention-to-treat basis. For continuous data, we calculated weighted mean differences with 95% CI. MAIN RESULTS: We included five trials. Two trials comparing acupuncture to antipsychotics were equivocal for global state and leaving the study early. Extrapyramidal adverse events were significantly lower in the acupuncture group (n=21, RR 0.05 CI 0.0 to 0.8, NNT 2 CI 2 to 8). Four out of the five trials also compared acupuncture combined with antipsychotics to antipsychotics alone. Global state outcomes and leaving the study early were equivocal. BPRS endpoint data (short term) favoured the combined acupuncture and antipsychotic group (n=109, RR -4.31 CI -7.0 to -1.6), although dichotomised BPRS data 'not improved' confounded this outcome with equivocal data. Depression scores HAMD (n=42, WMD -10.41 CI -12.8 to -8.0), HAMD 'not improved' (n=42, RR 0.17 CI 0.1 to 0.5, NNT 2 CI 2 to 3) and ZDS (n=42, WMD -24.25 CI -28.0 to -20.5) significantly favoured the combined acupuncture/antipsychotic treatment group, although results were from single, small studies. Treatment emergent adverse events scores were significantly lower in the acupuncture/antipsychotic group (n=40, WMD -0.50 CI -0.9 to -0.1), again from a single, small study. AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: We found insufficient evidence to recommend the use of acupuncture for people with schizophrenia. The numbers of participants and the blinding of acupuncture were both inadequate, and more comprehensive and better designed studies are needed to determine the effects of acupuncture for schizophrenia.