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Through extensive clinical use, acupuncture has proved to be an effective treatment that has helped many people to overcome their tobacco addiction, and indeed has helped many people in their withdrawal from other addictive substances. Because of its proven effectiveness, acupuncture is widely used in drug detox clinics around the world.
It is estimated that most smokers will attempt to quit 2 or 3 times, or more, before finally kicking the habit. When conventional methods to quit smoking have failed, smokers often look outside mainstream approaches and turn to alternative medicine. Acupuncture as an alternative approach to smoking cessation has a growing number of converts. In fact, acupuncture is often a court mandated treatment for drug addicts because of its ability to reduce cravings and alleviate withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, anxiety and difficulty concentrating. Among current U.S. adult smokers, 70% report that they want to quit smoking and millions try to quit every year. If you have attempted to quit smoking, you know how difficult it can be. Nicotine is a powerful addiction. In fact, research suggests that nicotine is as addictive as heroin, cocaine, or alcohol.
More than 50 million Americans smoke. The numbers are even higher in other parts of the globe, with worldwide statistics showing that one out of three people over the age of 18 are smokers. The reasons to quit smoking are endless. Cigarettes have 4,000 chemicals, including 43 known cancer-causing (carcinogenic) compounds and 400 other toxins. These include nicotine, tar and carbon monoxide, as well as formaldehyde, ammonia, hydrogen cyanide, arsenic and DDT. According to the CDC, tobacco is the cause of 443,000 premature deaths each year, and is associated with emphysema, lung cancer, high blood pressure, shortness of breath, chronic cough and an increase in frequency of colds and flu. Many people want to quit because of the enormous expense of a cigarette habit or are just plain tired of being dependant on a substance. There is also considerable social pressure not to smoke. Most smokers can recall a dirty look or rude comment from someone that was nearby when they lit up.
How Does Acupuncture Help Break the Cigarette Habit?
Acupuncture is successful with smoking cessation and has turned a growing number of cigarette smokers into permanent ex-smokers. Treatments take all of your symptoms into account and aim at balancing the energy within the body to optimize health. The acupuncture treatments focus on jitters, cravings, irritability and restlessness; all symptoms that people commonly complain about when they quit. It also aids in relaxation and detoxification. In one study conducted at the University of Oslo, Norway, acupuncture was found to significantly reduce the desire to smoke up to five years after the initial treatment. Subjects of the study also reported that cigarettes tasted worse than before treatment and that the treatments had effectively reduced their taste for tobacco. The acupuncture needles used are hair-thin. They are superficially inserted into various points in the ears and body to assist with smoking cessation. In between treatments, small pellets are often taped to the acupuncture points on the ear. When a cigarette craving hits, gently pressing on the pellets stimulates the acupuncture points to calm the mind and eliminate the craving.
Acupuncture is not a panacea or a magic cure in the treatment of any addiction, including smoking. But, acupuncture is effective in making it easier to quit and remain smoke-free for good.
How does the acupuncture treatment work?
From the TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) point of view, your tobacco withdrawal symptoms are being produced by the impeding of your Liver’s functioning. Because you are addicted to tobacco, your Liver has become used to the stimulation of the tobacco that is usually in your circulation, and this has substituted a part of your Liver’s own energy, so that your Liver now has less energy (in simple terms). In the interval between you smoking each cigarette, the level of tobacco in your circulation falls, and this means that your Liver does not then have enough energy to function properly. This produces various symptoms, which might include feelings of agitation, of anxiety, of depression; difficulty in falling asleep; and also the craving for tobacco, which is your body’s way of telling you that it needs this particular substance to function properly. Ordinarily, these symptoms would be eased when you smoke a cigarette. This boosts the amount of tobacco that is circulating in your blood, and thus provides the stimulation that your Liver has become used to having in order to function properly, and because your Liver can then function properly, all the above symptoms are eased—that is, until the tobacco in your circulation starts to diminish again. Acupuncture treatment works by stimulating the functioning of your Liver (that is, by increasing its energy back to a more normal level), and this then eases your tobacco withdrawal symptoms, since your Liver can then function properly without the need for tobacco. When this happens, you will be able to feel well, but will have achieved this without having to smoke. Between treatments, this boosting of your Liver’s energy will initially wear off, as your Liver returns to that state that it has become accustomed to over many years. But as the treatments progresses (over a number of sessions), your Liver functioning will gradually become better regulated over longer periods of time, so that you will tend to feel well without having to smoke to produce this feeling. (With smoking, as with all other addictions, you feel unwell when the drug starts to wear off, so you ‘self-medicate’—i.e. you smoke a cigarette—in order to feel well again. And your addiction consists of a continuous cycle of self-medicating, then the drug wearing off, which produces the withdrawal symptoms, so you self-medicate again to remove these symptoms, i.e. to feel well.) Another effect that acupuncture treatment has, is that it tends to change your experience of smoking. Some people find that the taste of the smoke becomes unpleasant; others find that the smell of the smoke makes them feel nauseous; and others find that smoking makes them become unpleasantly warm. This change also helps you to stop smoking, by putting you off the experience of smoking.
How many acupuncture treatments will I need?
This will vary from person to person. Generally though, if you are going to instantly withdraw from smoking at the start of the treatments, I would recommend two treatments per week for the first two weeks, to help you get through the most difficult patch. You might then change to weekly treatments, and gradually increase the interval between treatments as you find the cravings subsiding and your health improving. If you are going to gradually withdraw from smoking, I would suggest starting with weekly treatments, and then gradually increasing the interval between treatments when you feel comfortable doing this. As to the overall number of treatments that it might take, this really will vary from person to person. Some people respond to the treatments much better than others. The only way to discover this in your own case is for you to receive a few treatments. It should then be possible for me to gauge how many you might need in total.
What are the benefits of acupuncture treatment?
The treatments would not only treat your withdrawal symptoms, making it easier for you to stop smoking, but would also usually improve your general health. Of course, once you have stopped smoking, your health would tend to improve as a result, but if you are undergoing acupuncture treatment while you are stopping, the improvement in your health would normally be more pronounced. Also, an added bonus is the tremendous financial benefits that you will have once you have finally managed to stop smoking.
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Author Gareth Williams