Acupuncture for Smoking Cessation

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Acupuncture has been recognized in clinical trials which are capable of assisting the strongly motivated smokers to quit their smoking habits. It was reported in The American Journal of Medicine and internationally published articles that acupuncture has demonstrated itself to be a new and effective treatment for smoking cessation, which induced aversion for tobacco smoke and a sharply diminished desire to smoke. It was also reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine that acupuncture helped reduce the effects of smoking withdrawal and supported other smoking cessation treatments.

The general theory of acupuncture is based on the premise that there are patterns of energy flow (qi) through the body that are essential for health. Disruptions of this flow are believed to be responsible for disease. The belief underlying the technique is that the acupuncturist can correct imbalances of flow by inserting needles at specific energy points.

For smoking cessation, inserted needles intercept messages sent by the brain to the body that demand more nicotine, thereby disrupting the addictive process. Some scientists think acupuncture can increase body’s production of mood-enhancing endorphins, which can eliminate most cravings and alleviate withdrawal symptoms.During acupuncture treatment, needles may be inserted while the patient relaxes for 10 to 20 minutes. The needles are then removed. Points in the ear are commonly used.

Treatments leave patients feeling physically and emotionally lifted. This relaxed state can be beneficial for relieving stress which may help people to quit smoking. Nicotine remains in the body causing cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Acupuncture can encourage body’s immune system to cleanse itself; this may release stored toxins giving sense of relaxation that may calm cravings for smoking. Acupuncture is commonly used to release tension and stress. The number and frequency of treatments are different between practitioners. However, the average treatments could be 3 to 6 times, once or twice every week.

Indeed, researchers have announced that smokers who want to kick the habit can find success with the help of acupuncture*. In their study, a group of pack-a-day smokers were given acupuncture at specific points on the body, while others – the “control” group – had acupuncture in points not associated with quitting smoking. All the smokers received two treatments a week for three weeks and were instructed to give themselves ear acupressure, using their fingers, four times a day.

During the study period, cigarette consumption fell on average by 14 cigarettes a day for the acupuncture treatment group and seven cigarettes a day in the control group. Just after the last treatment, 87% of the smokers in the acupuncture group had quit smoking. At the eight-month and five-year follow-ups, 56% and 48% of smokers, respectively, were still not smoking. None of the smokers in the control group quit smoking at either of those follow-up periods. This study confirms that adequate acupuncture treatment may help motivated smokers to reduce their smoking or even quit smoking completely, and the effect may last for at least five years.

* The ShangHai Annals of Acupuncture, page 81-83, published by Scientific & Technical Documents Publishing House in 1999.