Are we doing recovering drug users a disservice by promoting auricular acupuncture? Everywhere I go in the drug treatment world I see posters on the walls of clinics advertising acupuncture as a way to help drug users with cravings, anxiety and sleep disturbance.

Before I go further I’ll state clearly that I do believe Chinese medicine is effective and I do want drug users to find alternative ways to be happy and to cope. But I believe in empowering people to take control over their own thoughts, feelings and behaviour and I worry about a conversation like this;

(drugs worker) For 20 years you’ve been looking to a needle to provide the answers. Every time you feel uncomfortable, or experience emotional or physical pain you’ve used a needle to give you that ‘quick fix’. Here we teach people different ways to relax so you overcome that dependence.

( drug user)But I feel so anxious, I can’t relax at all, how can you help me?

(drugs worker) Well we run a session on Tuesday mornings in the upstairs room; we dim the lights and make it comfortable...

(Drug user)And..how do you help us to relax?

(Drug worker) Acupuncture; it’s brilliant. You don’t have to do anything or learn any new skills.  We ...er....um...stick needles in you......

Are we confirming the view often held by drug users that negative feelings are a) intolerable and b) best fixed through medical/pseudomedical or pharmaceutical methods rather than by learning to change our thoughts and behaviours? In the long term are we helping them?