Harlem Word: Robert Martinez explains how acupuncture can be used to help people who use drugs feel better

Editor April 26th, 2010

Robert Martinez, L.Ac., MSTOM, a taiji (t'ai chi)  instructor and certified acupuncturist, works at St. Ann's Corner of Harm Reduction in the Bronx. Harm reduction programs reduce the harmful effects of drug use or other high-risk activities by making it safer to continue those activities. St. Ann's is part of the Harm Reduction Coalition, which is an organization that promotes the health of people affected by drug use by helping them address the negative effects of drug use, HIV , hepatitis C , and addiction. In this article, Rob talks about how acupuncture can be used as a harm reduction strategy. Read more below!

Q: How do you use acupuncture to help people at St Ann's Corner?

A: Right now, I'm an acupuncture practitioner at St. Ann's Corner of Harm Reduction in the Bronx.  St. Ann's began as a needle-exchange program, a part of the harm reduction approach to slow the spread of HIV.

As a harm reduction program, St Ann's focus is on helping people who are addicted to drugs from doing more harm to themselves, and to help them focus on their health.  Harm reduction takes away some of the damage done by drugs even if clients don't stop using them. This way of helping people is much different from other drug clinics that focus on getting people to stop using drugs completely. St. Ann's understands that drug addition is complicated and many people will probably continue to use drugs no matter what help or treatment they receive.  Harm reduction relieves some of the physical pain of drug use.

Q: How is acupuncture used at St. Ann's Corner?

A: When people come in, I try to help them reduce the harm they are doing to themselves with drug use. The main goal is to lessen the damages caused by drug use.  Acupuncture calms their minds and spirits so they feel good for a little while.  If people who come in like how acupuncture makes them feel, they might start to clean up their lives by attending support groups or counseling.  I would love for somebody to stop using drugs through acupuncture, but drug addiction is very difficult to treat for many reasons.  However, acupuncture is a tool to help release whatever might be behind the reasons why the person is using drugs and to help them stop the addiction.

Read more from Rob Martinez by clicking the links below:

To listen to our interview with Robert Martinez, click here for our podcast page.

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