Interview With Jing Nuan Wu L.Ac.
Interviewed By Daniel Redwood D.C.
(The original article did not mention the time of interview. Dr.Fan feels this should be in early of 1990s).
|When people in Washington D.C. think of acupuncture and Chinese medicine, the first name that comes to mind is Dr. Jing Nuan Wu. He has practiced Chinese medicine in the District since1973, and has proved to be a skillful, articulate, and very persistent advocate for this ancient healing art, through times when doing so was not necessarily easy or popular.Dr. Wu is the Chairman of the D.C. Medical Advisory Board on Acupuncture, a position he calls “one of the most frustrating jobs of my career.” Despite the frustrations inherent in navigating through the murky waters of the world-renowned D.C. government bureaucracy, Dr. Wu has managed over the past ten years to bring the ship safely into port-acupuncture by licensed non-physicians is now legal in Washington.Perhaps his most meaningful and impressive accomplishment is the creation of the Green Cross, an inner city clinic for the treatment of drug abuse with acupuncture and Chinese medicine, located on U Street in Washington. Without any government funding, Wu and a dedicated staff developed this facility with sweat from the brow and love from the heart. Their work at Green Cross is admired far and wide.In this interview with Dr. Daniel Redwood, Dr. Wu shares his insights on the causes of drug abuse, and its effects on society as a whole. He also offers a foreboding commentary on the effects that widespread drug usage has on social stability, drawing a comparison between what is happening today in the United States and what happened in China earlier in this century, when a substantial proportion of the population was addicted.Wu is a translator of various classics of Chinese medicine, including Ling Shu (The Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic), and Yi Jing (The Book of Changes), published by the University of Hawaii Press. He can be reached at the Taoist Health Institute, 2141 Wisconsin Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20007.
Jing Nuan Wu Interview
DR: What led to your decision to become an acupuncturist? Do you feel that you have found your true calling?
JING NUAN WU: That’s a long and interesting question. I had an extreme crisis in my life, and one night in Asia my ancestors came to me and said, “It’s time for you to do service.” I had been commissioned to write a book on Chinese medicine and, when I realized it worked, I said “forget about writing the book, why don’t you do it!” So that’s what happened. Instead of writing about it, I began to practice it.
DR: Are there any parallels in Chinese history which you feel relate to the current drug crisis in America and the Western world? Is it truly a crisis?JING NUAN WU: That’s the reason why I started Green Cross seven years ago. I could see striking parallels between what happened in China in the middle of the 19th Century and what’s happening in the United States today. Perhaps in the decline of every great empire, drugs may have in one form or another (whether it was alcohol or other drugs) played an important part.
Once a certain percentage of the population becomes addicted, the entire culture usually is lost, because it not only affects the lower classes, it affects the so-called upper classes. The most disturbing sign I have seen of that over the last number of years, is that I know the outstanding senior in one of the suburban high schools locally here in Washington was dealing drugs. And he was never caught. He is now in an Ivy League college, and I think that that type of thing bodes very ill for the future.
DR: How high a percentage is needed?
JING NUAN WU: About ten per cent is the magic number, and we’re very close to that. I also treat, in my private practice, people of means and power. I’ve had patients come in who have spent as much as $100,000 a year on cocaine. This type of statistic never is included in the statistics used for drug use, because of course these people would never admit to being involved.
DR: So you feel the statistics on drug abuse are vastly understated?
JING NUAN WU: It’s like taking statistics in any population. Who’s going to reply?
DR: Why do you feel people use or abuse mind-altering substances? Is there such a thing as non-abusive usage of these drugs?
JING NUAN WU: My own belief now is that it has become such a great problem because of the loss of spiritual values in the community. If you look at the background of mind-altering drugs, at one time or another they were always used in spiritual ritual. But without the ritual, the spirit also is forgotten. Even tobacco was used in smoking, but with ritualistic purpose. Modern secular society has done away with all of that, and so I think we have a very real problem.
DR: Do you feel that we as a society are moving any closer to understanding the roots of the drug crisis?
JING NUAN WU: I think that, in fact the general population is beginning to understand it. I think that government authorities, and the bureaucracy that we have asked to deal with drugs, gets further and further away from the truth. Because it already is a “drug treatment establishment,” and they really are there to maintain their jobs rather than to look for something that works. It’s like the National Cancer Institute – they’ve spent billions upon billions of dollars and really haven’t found anything. But they still want to use the same old methodologies because that’s the way they think.
DR: What are your thoughts on something like the methadone maintenance program?
JING NUAN WU: I think the methadone maintenance programs are a complete sham. If one goes back to the original research that the Rockefeller Institutes did, and looks at what happened in the Yale University reports on the raw research, the conclusions are completely antagonistic to what the raw research showed. I did that, and I was horrified.
DR: What did the raw research show?
JING NUAN WU: The raw research showed that there was liver damage, that there were all sorts of side effects to methadone which were very significant. That was whitewashed, as far as I’m concerned, in the original reports. There is now, unfortunately, a methadone establishment.
The unconceivable thing that is happening right now, is that because there is no detox procedure for crack cocaine, the drug treatment programs in localities are in fact using methadone as a downer to get people off crack, which in every stretch of the imagination is crazy.
DR: Is it more difficult to withdraw from methadone than from some of these other substances?
JING NUAN WU: I think it’s harder to withdraw from methadone than it is from heroin.
DR: In the use of acupuncture treatment to help substance abusers withdraw from their habits, which substances have you had the most success with, and which have proved the most difficult?
JING NUAN WU: It’s not so much substance as length of time. Anyone who has been a substance abuser for 20 years is going to find it very difficult to get off, simply because that has permeated his entire lifestyle. The people we find that come off the most quickly are, let’s say, young women who want to start forming a family. The realize that if they continue that they are going to damage their children. The problem is, the mothers who are still abusing drugs usually have gotten so far into the habit that they don’t care anymore, and their children are being born defective.
The other side of the coin that is so horrendous is that the entire drug treatment establishment is mostly male. So even if you read the guides for trying to get money in the field, they are all directed towards males. There is nothing in there for females. Or for Hispanics or Latinos, for instance. We have patients come in, who want to come in to see us, who have children. Our receptionist plays with their children while they’re in getting treatment. But almost no drug treatment facility has a nursery or has child care as part of it. They don’t think of it as necessary.
The other thing that is horrendous is that should a woman say that she is a drug addict, then the chances are that her children could be placed in foster homes. This part of the problem no one has paid any attention to. Besides which, the truly addicted woman, who has gone beyond the sense of caring, is the mother of addicted children, and now of addicted HIV-positive children. The cost to each of those human beings is incalculable.
DR: Have you sometimes had the feeling that you are sticking your finger into the dike?
JING NUAN WU: Every three weeks I say that, you know. (Laughter).
DR: And yet you continue.
JING NUAN WU: Well, I and my associates at Green Cross are doing the work because we have hoped that it would be an example for other people to try to do the same thing. The problem is, it’s required a great deal of money, and a great deal of dedication. I know of many groups through the country that have tried to do what we have done, and they’ve not been successful because of the lack of one or the other. I can’t tell you how much dedication it really does take. The staff has burned out. We’re basically on our second group of staff in seven years.
DR: Have there been any examples of responses by government or people in the community to attempt expand upon or duplicate what you’re doing?
JING NUAN WU: Mike Smith [Michael Smith, M.D.] runs the famous clinic up at Lincoln [Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx, New York], and they’re seeing 200 or 300 people a day. But they’re state-financed, thank God. We’ve done this all on our own. We’ve had no funding from either city or state or federal governments. This may change next year, but at this moment I wouldn’t count on it. Every time they ask for bids on alternative procedures, usually we find that it is simply another methadone clinic under another guise.
DR: Do you have to spend a lot of time raising money?
JING NUAN WU: Luckily, our practitioners work for very little. (Laughter). So what’s happened is that no one works full-time except two of the administrative staff. Everybody else works part-time. They make money outside of this work, so that they can keep body and soul together. I subsidize the clinic through my personal work, and one or two of my friends have put in substantial amounts of money.
DR: You are the chairman of the Acupuncture Advisory Committee for the District of Columbia, which advises the Board of Medicine on the regulation and licensing of acupuncturists in the District. What thoughts do you have on the current legal status of acupuncture in the Mid-Atlantic region, and in the United States in general. How might it be improved?
JING NUAN WU: I think that this has been one of the more frustrating jobs of my career. Interestingly, the Board of Medicine and we agreed early on with regard to the guidelines. It then took us three years, and five lawyers later, to put out basically twelve pages of rules and regulations. That’s because D.C. is mired in a system of bureaucracy that is impossible to understand.
That impossibility stems from one critical lack-that they have no one in the city bureaucracy that can type! So we ended up in a situation where the lawyers get so frustrated that after five months they quit. In dealing with this, it wasn’t until our fifth lawyer that we finally got the rules and regulations into a piece where we could publish them. It’s that type of procedure which I think is analogous to the drug situation.
DR: Could you expand more on that analogy?
JING NUAN WU: That there is a lack of coherence to any system in this society at this moment. It’s lost its spiritual value. Government is meant to do certain jobs. It no longer is doing those jobs. People are simply taking letters that come in during the day, filing them in their drawer and forgetting them. There is no value to their work. So this has been the problem.
At times in the past there was value to your religion. there was value to your family, there was value to your job. Right now it looks as if all of those values have been lost. So I think people use mind-altering substances in an attempt to find value. “It makes me feel better.” “It makes me feel great!”
Instead of feeling rotten and a simpleton, or worse.