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For many people making New Year’s resolutions involves giving up smoking… again. Could you use acupuncture to stop smoking for good this year?

Studies show that most smokers attempt to quit two or three times – or sometimes more – before finally kicking the habit. When conventional methods to quit smoking have failed, smokers often turn to alternative medicine for help.

Acupuncture is an ancient and holistic system of healing. According to traditional Chinese philosophy, health depends on the body’s energy, known as Qi, moving smoothly through a series of channels beneath the skin. Qi is made up of two equal and opposite parts: Yin and Yang. Acupuncture can be used to restore the balance of Yin and Yang when they become imbalanced, encouraging healing and helping achieve wellbeing.

Auricular acupuncture – the practice of putting acupuncture needles into the ear – in particular is often used to treat people with addictions including nicotine addiction.

How acupuncture to stop smoking works

When a smoker attempts to quit, he experiences tobacco withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, anxiety, poor concentration and difficulty sleeping. These symptoms are produced by the effect of nicotine withdrawal on his liver function. Put simply, the liver of a smoker has become used to the stimulation of tobacco, which has substituted a part of the liver’s own energy and resulted in the liver having less energy. Between cigarettes, the level of tobacco in a smoker’s bloodstream falls, meaning the liver doesn’t have enough energy to function properly. This causes the withdrawal symptoms we mentioned above and leads to feelings of addiction.

Acupuncture for smoking cessation works by stimulating your liver function, increasing its energy back to a more normal level and easing your tobacco withdrawal symptoms. In short, it encourages your liver to function properly again without the need for tobacco.

Studies have found that acupuncture treatments can also alter how pleasurable smokers find the taste of cigarettes, so that over time if they do light up a cigarette, they don’t enjoy it in the way they used to.

Rather than being successful in making you quit smoking, acupuncture helps to make it easier for you to give up, reducing your cravings and how you feel about smoking.

Mrs P – a case study in stopping smoking

61 year old retired nurse Mrs P came to us to try acupuncture because she had heard that it was good for stopping smoking. She had tried to stop numerous times over the 38 years that she’d smoked and the longest she had managed was four months. Mrs P had a very good motivating factor now as she had become a grandmother and wanted to be as healthy as possible for her grandson and not expose him to smoke. However, she had tried twice to quit already and had failed.

We discussed her current frame of mind regarding smoking and any further reasons she may have for giving up. We outlined the process involved, explaining that she had to be 100% sure she wanted to give up, had smoked her last cigarette before the treatment, and had cleared her house of all temptation; and we also did a few visualisation exercises. We discussed her general health to see if there were any other concerns.

We explained the process: a few sessions could be needed (usually three weekly sessions), and told her where the needles would go – in her ear (using the NADA protocol) and body points – and how long they would be left in for (normally 20-30 minutes). At the end of each treatment session, we would put in some ear seeds (mustard seeds on micropore tape placed over pertinent points on her body and ears), which she could stimulate over the week if she needed to. These would give low level stimulation to the ‘stopping smoking’ points even without applying pressure. Our acupuncturist Robert explained he would also use Reiki because he has found it very useful for people making lifestyle changes. Mrs P was very happy with the process she was about to undertake.

Mrs P did very well and found she did not want to smoke at all after her first session and completed the course of three treatments. She came back eight months later for two more treatments when she had had an argument and had smoked a cigarette, and again 15 months later when she had found that she was thinking about smoking again. Ultimately, she found acupuncture very potent for helping her. In her words: “I don’t how it works but it does. I seem to completely lose interest in smoking after having a treatment”.

It’s rare for acupuncture patients to feel any pain during their treatment. Acupuncture needles are much finer than conventional medical needles, so as they are inserted into the skin the feeling is more of a tingling or dull ache rather than a sharp stinging sensation.

The number of acupuncture treatments needed to treat an addiction varies from individual to individual. Only once your treatment has begun, and we can assess how your body responds to acupuncture, will we be in a position to give you an idea of how many treatments you may need.

If you’d like to find out more about how our acupuncturists could help you give up smoking, get in touch with our reception team.

The NHS Choices website has lots of useful advice for preparing to give up smoking, including self-help techniques and how to avoid weight gain.