BC Mental Health & Substance Use Services is sharing stories to spread awareness on International Overdose Awareness Day. Read this story and others about the innovative programs in place to support clients in their treatment and recovery.
Les began working in the field of addiction in B.C. in 1984. He worked at Vancouver Detox Centre for 27 years and more recently as a contracted acupuncturist for Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) and the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA), for the past four years. Like many other professionals that seek work in the field of addiction treatment, he was attempting to resolve some of his own personal suffering resulting from growing up in a family with an alcoholic father.
Currently, Les provides acupuncture and other complementary and alternative therapies at the Heartwood Centre for Women, Onsite and other VCH community health centers.
In a quest to find additional safe and effective options for addicts in recovery (in August 1989), he visited Portland Oregon's Hooper Detox Centre and the Portland Addiction Acupuncture Centre. This is where he was first introduced to acupuncture as an "adjunct" treatment for addiction. He learned about the National Acupuncture Detox Association (NADA) protocol as a safe and effective group treatment process. Clients sit quietly in group setting which lasts about 45 minutes. The simple protocol can be used for all substances. He recalls participating in a group session and that experience was life changing. He was most impressed by the calm peaceful state induced by this one simple treatment. This experience inspired Les to learn and ultimately become licensed as an acupuncturist.
Portland Oregon is a Mecca for progressive and compassionate care of clients with mental health issues, addictions and homelessness. In the early 90's, many VCH addiction managers and directors, Vancouver city police and local politicians made the pilgrimage to Portland to learn about their creative and innovative approaches.
Group acupuncture treatment sessions reduce anxiety, craving, insomnia and other withdrawal symptoms such as pain. The simple NADA protocol helps clients detoxify and cope with the stresses of recovery.
Over the years Les has continued his studies of Chinese Medicine and has developed many other integrative medicine techniques that assist clients on their healing journey. Treatment for addictions has progressed a long way since the 80's. Most programs now integrate many complementary and alternative therapies such as mindfulness, meditation, yoga, aboriginal healing practices and other mind/body healing approaches. VCHA conducted their own pilot projects and clinical research into the efficacy of acupuncture for addiction before implementing programs in our detoxes and outpatient community health centers.
Acupuncture is a great treatment for complex pain. Effective treatment for mental, emotional and physical pain is an essential element for healing from addiction. Providing complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) such as acupuncture is a joyful and satisfying experience. Treatment results are often immediate and clients are typically surprised and grateful to have discovered a therapy that is safe and dramatically relieves their suffering. Les utilizes a combination of therapeutic modalities that include hypnotherapy, energy psychology and other simple non-needle techniques that are easy to learn and apply. After nearly 35 years of employment and a life time of living with addictions in his own family, he continues to be excited about this work and impressed by clients’ humility and struggle for freedom from their addiction.