Acupuncture for substance abuse treatment in the downtown eastside of Vancouver
In British Columbia, Canada, the City of Vancouver’s notorious Downtown Eastside (DES) represents the poorest urban population in Canada. A prevalence rate of 30% for HIV and 90% for hepatitis C makes this a priority area for public-health interventions aimed at reducing the use of infected drugs. This study examined the utility of acupuncture treatment in reducing substance use in the marginalized, transient population. Acupuncture was offered on a voluntary, drop-in basis 5 days per week at two community agencies. During a 3-month period, the program generated 2,755 client visits. A reduction in overall use of substances (P=.01) was reported by subjects in addition to a decrease in intensity of withdrawal symptoms including “shakes”, stomach cramps, hallucinations, “muddle-headedness,” insomnia, muscle aches, nausea, sweating, heart palpitations, and feeling suicidal, P<.05. Acupuncture offered in the context of a community-based harm reduction model holds promise as an adjunct therapy for reduction of substance use.