Smoking can also be described as a nicotine addiction, it is a complex addiction with both psychological and physical components. Quitting smoking is not as easy as you might think, remember Mark Twain's old joke: Quitting smoking is easy. I've done it a thousand times. There are a thousand treatments available to help stop smoking. When we have a large number of treatments to choose from, it means we have no surefire way of treating the problem.
Despite the lack of a single "magic bullet" for treating nicotine addiction, it is possible to follow a large number of treatments or use certain aids. The aids that can be used for this purpose are, for example, forms of nicotine replacement and other medications. However, there is an alternative, this is by following an acupuncture treatment. There is no reason not to try acupuncture when quitting smoking, research shows that it brings a lot of benefits. In this article, we will show you everything you need to know about acupuncture and quitting smoking.
What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a complementary medical treatment that involves stimulating certain points on the body, usually with a needle that penetrates relatively deep into the skin to relieve pain or treat various health conditions. These needles do not really hurt, so it is not something to be afraid of. It is true that an acupuncture treatment may feel a bit strange in the beginning, but after a few times you will get used to it. Acupuncture was developed millennia ago in China, and numerous recent studies by scientists in Europe and the United States have shown that acupuncture is effective in treating pain and nausea. Over the years, more and more acupuncture practices have been set up in our country and more and more people are getting to know this special Chinese medicine.
One of the largest studies to date on acupuncture and chronic pain - a meta-analysis of 29 well-conducted studies involving nearly 18,000 patients published in October 2012 in the Archives of Internal Medicine - found that acupuncture is effective for treating chronic pain. The researchers are also conducting studies to determine whether acupuncture can help treat depression, anxiety and possibly even cancer. This does show that we are learning more and more about this unique form of treatment. But let's get back to using acupuncture for smoking cessation.
What is a nicotine withdrawal?
Before going into the effect of acupuncture for quitting smoking, it is useful to know a little more about quitting smoking in general. The drug nicotine is what makes smoking addictive. It can have a wide range of effects on the brain, including:
- a stimulating mood
- reduction of depression
- reduction of irritability
- improvement of concentration and short-term memory
- producing a sense of well-being
- reduced appetite
Nicotine can be as addictive as other drugs, including alcohol, cocaine and morphine. In addition to nicotine, tobacco contains about 70 carcinogens. These chemicals can cause health problems, including diseases such as lung cancer, heart disease, and heart failure. In an effort to prevent these diseases, millions of smokers try to quit smoking each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 68 percent of smokers say they want to quit smoking completely by 2015. Nicotine withdrawal makes it harder to quit smoking. Symptoms of nicotine withdrawal can begin within 30 minutes of last using tobacco, depending on the level of addiction. Factors such as how long you have been smoking tobacco and how much tobacco you smoke daily will affect the severity of symptoms. Symptoms of nicotine withdrawal include:
- intense craving for nicotine
- tingling in the hands and feet
- nausea and abdominal cramps
- sore throat
These symptoms will diminish over time, but they will peak after a few days. When you have passed this peak, it will be a lot easier to give up the cigarette. The thing is, many people don't reach this tipping point on their own, they need help. This is exactly where acupuncture can play an important role. Below, we show you the role of an acupuncturist in helping you to quit smoking.
What does the acupuncturist do to stop smoking?
An acupuncturist targets certain areas of the body for different conditions. When it comes to helping smokers quit smoking, the pressure points in the ears are particularly effective in suppressing the urge to smoke. The National Acupuncture Detoxification Association supports an entire protocol around this set of ear pressure points for addiction. Between acupuncture treatments, patients can use 'ear seeds' at home, a form of acupressure. This involves placing small balls on the ear with adhesive tape in the target areas. This technique allows patients to treat themselves by applying pressure to points on the ear to reduce the urge to smoke.
There has been a lot of research into the use of these pressure points. The cranial nerves, which can be reached through the ears, stimulate the nervous system to suppress the urge to smoke cigarettes. We are not only trying to suppress the desire for cigarettes, but also to activate the relaxation response. Studies show that acupuncture stimulates the brain to produce endorphins, also known as the 'feel good' hormone. We manipulate the body using needles and targeted pressure to help people quit smoking and reduce withdrawal symptoms.
Studies on acupuncture
In our own practice, we have seen many patients who have successfully used acupuncture to stop smoking. Mostly, patients report less craving for cigarettes, less irritability, better mood, less bowel trouble and better sleep. The literature shows good to mixed results. Some studies have shown that acupuncture is useful in all forms of substance abuse when used in conjunction with conventional treatment to reduce cravings.
But other studies, including research by the Cochrane Collaboration, have found no conclusive evidence of a significant effect. So, while more research is needed, there are several studies that do show a good picture of the use of acupuncture for smoking cessation.
Does acupuncture help to stop smoking?
The aim of acupuncture is to reduce the desire you have for the nicotine itself. Generally, we tell patients that they must have been tobacco-free for at least 24 hours before they undergo their first acupuncture session. If they take that step, it tells us that they have the mindset to live without tobacco. Often, a patient's spouse has scheduled the appointment, or the patient is urged by peer pressure to come in. In these cases, they are not really ready yet.
If a patient is not ready to throw away the cigarettes in their pocket, it tells us that they are not mentally ready to quit. Once patients are committed, it is important to schedule multiple treatments. The number of visits is reduced as the withdrawal symptoms subside. Eventually, the visits are discontinued altogether when people are off smoking.
Best in combination with other methods
Acupuncture is even more effective as part of a multidisciplinary approach that includes other aspects of integrative medicine. These include:
- Hypnotherapyor attempts to train the subconscious mind to get rid of tobacco (Acupuncture works to address the physical withdrawal symptoms).
- Chinese herbs which are customised for each patient by an acupuncturist and/or herbalist to reduce cigarette cravings and help with withdrawal symptoms. As a safety measure, clinicians closely monitor patients' liver and kidney function to ensure the herbs are mixed properly.
No matter which method you use to stop smoking, it is always worth taking this step. Smoking is one of the worst and most unhealthy habits you can have.
Acupuncture and Smoking Cessation Costs
Many people wonder what the treatment costs are for acupuncture and smoking cessation. Let's first look at the cost of an average smoker, it's easily €2000 per year according to a 2016 study. Now compare that with our treatment costs for stopping smoking:
- €450 (incl. VAT)
- 10 acupuncture treatments
- herbal package tailored to stop smoking
- Reimbursement from most health insurance companies
- Brings more positive and healthy side effects
You are up to 4 times more likely to quit with help from your doctor or a professional. By making an appointment with our acupuncture clinic today, you too can go through life without tobacco.
For questions or an appointment, please contact us here (we will respond within 24 hours).