Acupuncture for Stopping Smoking
Everyone now recognizes that smoking tobacco is bad for you, and bad for the people around you. Many smokers would like to give up, but whilst for the minority this can be accomplished by a strong decision and an effort of will, most people need some kind of help to quit. This is not surprising – nicotine is a very addictive substance. This is why many people turn to Traditional Chinese Medicine for help in giving up.
At the Sean Barkes Clinic we have a three-fold approach to smoking cessation:
- Counteracting the chemical addiction to nicotine
- Getting out of the habit of smoking
- Restoring any imbalances within the internal organs
Counteracting Chemical Dependence
After you have stopped smoking, it takes between 2 and 7 days for your body to rid itself of all traces of nicotine (depending on your age and general health, and if you drink sufficient water). During this time you may encounter a number of unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, such as irritability, headaches, and disturbed sleep. From the perspective of Chinese Medicine, such symptoms are often attributable to stagnation of Qi, where energy is not flowing freely around the body. Acupuncture is very helpful in restoring a free flow of Qi, and Chi Kung exercises may also help. Some patients are also given ear seeds – these are small seeds taped to pressure points on the ear which support withdrawal, for example by promoting calmness. The patient can press these themselves when they feel the need, thus gently stimulating the point and promoting calm, at difficult times.
Getting Out of the Habit
After this initial period of detoxification, any desire to smoke is not due to chemical addiction, but rather due to having built up a habitual pattern of behaviour. To free yourself from this, you may need to avoid certain situations where your habit is liable to kick in, or to replace that habit with another one. Your therapist can discuss with you how to make this work for you, as everyone’s situation and temperament is different; whilst chewing gum might work for some people for example, it might not for others.
Restoring Internal Harmony
When our internal organ systems are not functioning smoothly and harmoniously, this can affect our state of mind. For instance, it can lead to a feeling of tightness and constraint, which in turn leads us to become agitated. When agitated we reach for something to make us feel better—like cigarettes. Unfortunately the relief in this case is very temporary and often exacerbates the original problem, creating a vicious circle of dependence. In such a case, treatment will aim at restoring the function of the organ systems with a course of acupuncture treatment, as well perhaps as herbal medicine and Chi Kung exercises. As the treatment progresses and our internal harmony improves we will find ourselves becoming calmer and less prone to agitation, and therefore less in need of a ‘quick-fix’.
Is Acupuncture Treatment Helpful in Stopping Smoking?
It is difficult to assess the effectiveness of TCM in treating smoking cessation as there are a number of factors other than treatment which affect success rates. However, a trial in Norway in 2002 showed that acupuncture treatment resulted in a decreased desire to smoke, and a consequent lowering of smoking related chemicals in the blood stream.
Acupuncture treatment for stopping smoking is supported by the World Health Organisation, and the British Acupuncture Council has published a briefing paper on the effectiveness of Acupuncture in treating addiction, which can be viewed at www.acupuncture.org.uk by clicking Research, followed by Documents. This paper is also available from our clinic on request.
You may also be interested in the group Quitza who are, I quote “We are a caring compassionate community who are first hand proof that acupuncture can help you quit smoking.”
1 He Dong et al (2002) Preventive Medicine (Vol.33: 364-372)
The Sean Barkes Clinic does not claim to cure any conventional medical disease states. Traditional Chinese Medicine seeks to re-establish and maintain the harmonious function of the human body-mind using tried and tested principles that have been discovered and matured over millennia. A Western medical diagnosis provides very little by way of insight in informing a Chinese Medical diagnosis. Patients usually recognise their own condition in terms of the medical disease category that they have been given by their GP or other conventional medical practitioner. The research presented here is merely an indication of the potential to draw parallels between Traditional Chinese Medicine and Modern Western Medicine.