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Do you think acupuncture is helpful to you in treatment?


Brooklyn focus group participants had mixed feelings about acupuncture; some liked it, while others “got nothing out of it.”

  • It helped.

  • Very relaxing.

  • I don’t know if I had it long enough.

  • I mean, I felt something.

  • I got something out of it. It made me relaxed. It took a lot off my mind. . . . It helps you.

  • I got nothing out of it. What did she say about relaxing? I find I can do that without having to be stuck.

  • Acupuncture for me was pretty good because I kind of had a lot of stress at the time . . . and when I began acupuncture, it seem like the stress start reducing. It helped me stop smoking . . . I wasn’t getting no sleep . . . In a 1-hour session I slept pure, real good.

  • I didn’t like acupuncture ’cause for one I didn’t like the music; I didn’t like to be stuck.

Las Vegas

Las Vegas participants were not neutral about the role of acupuncture (referred to as “needling”) in their treatment:

  • I think the needling is cool.

  • It helps me to the point where, well, it wasn’t really helping me ’cause I really didn’t feel anything, but when I went in there I saw things happening to other people.

  • The only thing I did notice was that at the very beginning when I started and was still doing drugs that the needles hurt more going in when I was on drugs than when I wasn’t.

  • I feel it’s gotta help some ’cause the Chinese people been using it for years.

  • Like it would be relaxing now. I fell asleep, you know, I fell asleep watching the moving thing. I fell asleep every time.

  • I didn’t get anything out of it. I was smoking cigarettes at the time and it helped me quit smoking. I guess maybe I don’t know. . . . But I did come in on a Saturday when they have that Chinese lady here ’cause I have disc problems and she put it in my wrist, in my jaw, in my back. . . . Oh, I’ve for the first time in like 3 years I did not have back problems.

In contrast, a number of Las Vegas focus group participants expressed negative opinions about “needling.”

  • I hate it.

  • Feel nothing.

  • I didn’t like the needling ’cause it didn’t do anything for me.

  • I haven’t noticed anything with it but the thought of it just—I had a fear of needles, so I never did dope with needles or anything. But it got me over the fear of needles, which you have to stick in your head for a while.

  • I mean, you know, that kept asking, “Are you having withdrawal? You know, this can help you with withdrawal.” I don’t agree, you know what I mean. . . . I never noticed any as far as detoxification except for the fact that it makes you not want to smoke cigarettes before you come in.

  • You feel like a voodoo doll.

  • I haven’t noticed anything either.

  • I think it’s a joke . . . I can’t believe they even use it.

  • It gives me an anxiety attack.

  • No it doesn’t hurt. Just my chest hurts, you know, I get really excited.

  • I think it’s unconstitutional and cruel and unusual punishment.


About half of the Miami focus group participants expressed a positive view of acupuncture:

  • Acupuncture you don’t mind . . . you don’t mind . . . you don’t talk to anybody.

  • Acupuncture is good. . . . It makes me sleepy.

  • What the acupuncture does for me is calm my nerve.

Several of the participants said that they were frightened at first by the prospect of acupuncture. Other participants noted that it gave them something to do, a hurdle to jump over, something to fill their time, so they were not using drugs:

  • I was scared at first ’cause I didn’t know what acupuncture was. . . .

  • It took the craving away. . . . At first I didn’t like it.

  • It didn’t bother me that much.

  • I didn’t really like the needles getting stuck in.

  • It’ll work as long as you want to make it work for you. Personally, I don’t see the needles going in how that’s really gonna help . . . you. I read up on it and really understand it. . . . As far as I know I don’t really see. . . .

  • It’s something getting done to you other than getting high—you kinda turn it this way. I can’t say it did anything for me but, like he said, I wanted to get anything that would work.

  • You don’t do no dope but you do acupuncture.

One Miami participant did not view acupuncture as making much of a contribution to his treatment progress:

  • But the acupuncture, just for me, didn’t do anything.

  • It helped me a little that first week, but after that not really.

  • I don’t see it. If you want to stop doin’ dope, you gotta stop when you ready.

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An Honest Chance: Perspectives on Drug Courts April 2002