(Les Moncrieff, Director of Communications, TCMA of BC)

Acupuncture and other complementary and alternative therapies (CAM) are well established in providing services to clients in the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, primarily the Downtown East Side. Health care directors and management have been very progressive in this integrative process. In 2002 a CAM Task Group was established to create policies and procedures to identify, evaluate and facilitate the integration of current and potential complementary therapies. 

Evidence of this transformation only surfaced when the BC government adopted the regionalization of health care in mid 90's, hiring new management and directors with vision, courage and willingness to try new approaches. 

The process of providing more holistic care has taken many years and has not been easy. Max Plank, the winner of the 1918 Nobel Prize in Physics once commented on this struggle to change established ways of thinking and providing medical care. "a new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die and a new generation grows up that is familiar with the ideas from the beginning." 

The public has also expressed a growing dissatisfaction with the medical system services and is demanding more options along with a willingness to pay for this service. The public has voted for change with their wallets as fee payers, opting for safe and effective complementary and alternative healing therapies rather than remain dependent on toxic drug treatment and surgical interventions. 

Werner Heinsberg stated, "It is probably true, in general the most fertile developments of the history of human thought are born at the intersection of two currents of ideas. These currents may originate in the midst of totally different cultural conditions, in diverse epochs and places. But from the time that they effectively meet and maintain a relationship sufficient for real interaction to take place, one can hope for new and interesting developments to occur." 

This is an exciting time for holistic therapists such as Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners. Presently we are seeing a radical acceptance of energy-based medicine in most Community Health Centers (CHC's) in Vancouver. Addiction services have led the way in adopting this change. Past conventional treatment for addiction was little more than a system of recycling pain and misery based on a very confused understanding of the nature of addiction. Standard therapy was largely pharmaceutically based, using an arsenal of powerful and toxic pharmaceutical drugs (methadone and an array of anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medications) to replace the illicit street drugs and alcohol. 

Acupuncture & other CAM services are offered at the following Health Units:

·   The Vancouver Detox Center & Daytox Program

·   Harbor Light Treatment Center

·   Cordova Detox Center

·   Richmond Alcohol & Drug Services

·   Three Bridges Health Unit

·   Downtown Community Health Center

·   North Health Unit on Commercial Drive

·   Raven Song Health Center

·   Evergreen Health Center

·   Doctor Peter's Center for clients with HIV

·   Portland Clinic

·   Others

Most addiction programs in Vancouver now offer some level of complementary medicine service. The Vancouver Detoxification Center is the model program offering a variety of options for it's clients. Acupuncture is the baseline therapy and is available daily for the treatment of withdrawal, stress and general pain management. A bold management style and a Harm Reduction Philosophy combined with a more holistic approach has resulted in a program which is client-centered, respectful and more empowering for our clients. We have created an addiction service that actually works and staff that have a renewed excitement about their participation in providing this service. 

The following CAM services are available:

·    Acupuncture

·   Detox Herbal Tea

·   Bach Remedies

·   Energy Psychology treatment

·   Aboriginal spiritual healing teaching and practice

·   Aromatherapy.

·   Yoga and meditation

·   Qi Gong 

In a Hong Kong hospital in 1970, a doctor Wen was using an experimental technique cingulomotomy (lobectomy) to treat heroin addicts. They were also using acupuncture analgesia (auricular) to treat the surgical pain associated with this treatment. It was purely accidental when they discovered that acupuncture in fact was able to reduce or eliminate much of the pain of heroin withdrawal. Research was conducted and this approach was eventually tried in a New York methadone program called Lincoln Center 2 years later. The National Acupuncture Detox Association (NADA) was founded in 1985 and presently provides training and acu-detox service in many countries around the world. Acupuncture is provided as an adjunct therapy to established conventional addiction treatment programs. (

The National Institute of Health (NIH) in a review of research in their Consensus Statement in 1997, has concluded that "promising results have emerged, for example, efficacy of acupuncture for adult post operative and chemotherapy nausea and vomiting and in post operative dental pain. There are other situations such as addictions, stroke rehabilitation, headaches, menstrual cramps, tennis elbow, fibromyalgia, myofacial pain, osteoarthritis, low back pain, carpal tunnel pain and asthma where acupuncture may be used as an adjunct treatment or an acceptable alternative....." 

Full integration of acupuncture and other complementary therapies into our health-care system is our objective. Many passionate health-care advocates and practitioners have worked for years to accomplish the reality of our transforming services. It appears that the Vancouver region is well ahead of all other Provincial Health Authorities in recognizing the importance of acupuncture, etc. Much more educational work needs to be done. It remains the responsibility of individual registrants to get involved and promote their expertise to the public and the health care system. 

In British Columbia, the recognition of Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture has had a turbulent history, from back alley clandestine acupuncture rooms to our present regulated health care profession. We have been blessed with pioneers such as Grant Smith who was jailed and prosecuted by the medical establishment in the early 70's for practicing medicine without a licence, to James Knights who spent months and years lobbying on the steps of the BC legislature for the right to practice our profession. Many other individuals of various traditional Chinese medicine associations have relentlessly fought for our rights to practice and have set the foundation for the regulatory body of the College of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture of BC. Our TCM Associations remain the most effective way to maintain a persistent and balanced strategy to achieve our objective of full acceptance and integration into our health-care system. 

Many registrants shun the "politics" of TCM. Without political activism and registrants willing to work for the development of our profession, we would certainly remain in the back alleys of our health care system. 

Support your associations by paying your dues and get involved in creating this transformation to a new medical paradigm. 

Les Moncrieff

Director of Communication

Traditional Chinese Medicine Association of BC