Having trouble quitting smoking? You’re in good company. Mark Twain’s take on the challenge is a classic:
“Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I’ve done it thousands of times.”
Everyone knows that smoking is bad for your health, and most smokers express an interest in quitting or reducing their cigarette intake. But in spite of compelling evidence about the ill effects of tobacco, it is incredibly difficult to quit. This is mostly due to the addictive nature of nicotine, which causes a release of dopamine in the brain regions that control pleasure and motivation.
Nicotine withdrawal symptoms begin within a few hours of your last cigarette, and can include irritability, trouble sleeping, cravings, poor concentration and increased appetite. Symptoms generally peak within the first few days and may subside within a few weeks, though they can persist for much longer due to the psychological dependence that is a significant part of cigarette addiction.
Acupuncture for Smoking Cessation
Did you know that acupuncture has been proven to help people quit smoking, with no side effects?
There are many theories as to why it has proven so helpful, but an important benefit of acupuncture is its ability to stimulate the central nervous system – in turn helping the body to properly regulate the release of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and endogenous opioids. The resulting calming effect is one of the reasons acupuncture is so effective in the treatment of anxiety, insomnia, addictions and depression – among many other health issues.
In addition to helping regulate the autonomic nervous system, acupuncture can also reduce chronic inflammation and stimulate the body's natural ability to heal the damage caused by smoking by helping to break down and expel toxic build-up (such as tar and nicotine residue in the lungs) and phlegm.
My goal as an acupuncturist is to support patients through the acute phase of withdrawal, improving their chances of successfully kicking the nicotine habit. With regular treatment, patients experience reduced cravings and reduction of other withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, restlessness and poor sleep. They may also experience changes in their sensory perception as the taste and smell of cigarettes becomes less appealing.
What to expect
Acupuncture treatments for smoking cessation include some points on the body to treat the individual and their specific needs and health concerns, along with a set of points in the ear developed by the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association (NADA). The NADA auricular protocol is used around the world to help people overcome various forms of addiction. I also leave small “ear seeds” on these points in between treatments so that patients can stimulate the points themselves if they feel a craving coming on.
Treatment should be three times per week for the first two weeks, then two times per week for the next two weeks and as needed after the fourth week. This course of ten treatments is recommended to help patients through the acute withdrawal period –cravings should subside significantly during this time and patients usually find that their overall feeling of wellness has improved. Most patients feel very relaxed while receiving acupuncture, and may even fall asleep. In addition to the acupuncture treatments, I also make diet and lifestyle suggestions tailored to each patient’s constitution and personal goals and needs.
If you have any questions, please feel free to call me at 604-733-2632 - or email me.
Quitting smoking is no small feat, but acupuncture is a great resource to help you succeed. I’m happy to work with you to help you achieve your goal as quickly and with as little discomfort as possible.
Kristen Lukovich is a registered acupuncturist and practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine at BodaHealth in Vancouver, British Columbia.