by Richard Halvorsen
The New Year is a time for resolutions. Maybe, for you, one is to stop smoking. This is probably one of the most common New Year’s resolutions and yet it is also, sadly, one of the most difficult to achieve.
There are many good reasons to try to quit. Smoking is a serious cause of ill-health including heart and lung disease and lung cancer. Unfortunately, tobacco is highly addictive and many smokers find it extremely difficult to give up smoking.
There has been much interest in the possible benefits of acupuncture in assisting those who are trying to stop smoking. A recent systematic review and meta-analysis (the highest form of evidence-based medicine that pools the results of many randomised controlled trials) has confirmed the benefit of acupuncture in helping those trying to give up tobacco.
Acupuncture was found to have a significant benefit in helping people stop smoking immediately after a course of treatment and at both 3 and 6 months following treatment. Acupuncture showed maximum benefit three months after the completion of a course of treatment, when those treated with acupuncture were two and a half times more likely to have stopped smoking than those who received other treatments.
My personal experience also supports this view that acupuncture can be a useful support in trying to quit. However, do bear in mind that there is no form of help, acupuncture included, that can give up tobacco for you – there is still hard work to be done. However, acupuncture can make the effort that bit easier.
If you haven’t tried to give up smoking before it is essential to prepare yourself. Visit a self-help website to get detailed advice on giving up. Choose a time when you are physically, mentally and emotionally ready to stop. Choose a ‘stop’ date and stick to it. Have a strategy for dealing with tempting situations, such as times when you used to have a smoke or when you get stressed.
My practice is to start acupuncture treatment a few days before the ‘stop’ date and then to give treatments initially twice weekly, reducing to once weekly as the cravings subside. Treatment involves inserting tiny fine needles into points in the ear and often in other areas of the body as well. I usually apply metal balls over special acupoints in the ear so that these can be gently massaged when the urge to smoke returns.
Some people also choose to have some sort of safer nicotine replacement for a period of time to help reduce the cravings.