Acupuncture may not be as well-known of a treatment for smoking as nicotine patches or gum, but it can offer big time relief in the acute phase of withdrawal as well as quitting completely. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States causing more than 480,000 deaths every year (about 1 in 5 deaths). Although smoking has declined from 20.9% in 2005 to 13.7% in 2018, it still leaves 34 million American adults who smoke, and are susceptible to further disease. Acupuncture can be a natural aide to quit smoking, especially if your patient has already tried everything else.
Smoking Statistics in the United States
In general, the population in the United States is 14 out of every 100 people who smoke, but there are varying factors such as age, gender, and region lived in.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) shows this information on smoking:
- About 12 in every 100 adult women, and 16 in every 100 adult men are current smokers
- About 8 in every 100 adults between 18-24 years old, 17 in every 100 adults between 25-44 years old, 16 in every 100 adults between 45-64 years old, and 8 in every 100 adults 65 and older are current smokers
- As of 2017, the percentage of smokers per state in the United States ranges from 8.9% to upwards of 26.9%.
To see a full map, and find your state percentage of smokers, visit the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and also find out many more statistics on smoking. Most smokers will usually attempt to quit 2-3 times or more before finally going through with it.
Acupuncture for Smoking
How does it work?
Fortunately, quitting smoking is possible with acupuncture. In fact, acupuncture has been known to be a court mandated treatment for drug addicts because of its ability to curb withdrawal and addiction related symptoms.
Acupuncture for smoking focuses on:
- The jitters
- The cravings
- The restlessness
- The irritability associated with quitting
- Improving sleep
There are obviously many ways that a patient can benefit from acupuncture for smoking, however, it is also important to note that treatment for this particular issue of smoking, needs to be done with a patient who is ready and willing. Making sure that a patient has attempted to quit or has been smoke free for at least 24 hours before their first consultation is something that will be beneficial to you & your patient. This will show that if they take that step, they are in the proper mindset to be tobacco-free. The last thing we want to do as providers is pressure someone, and also, waste their time & money for something they aren’t ready to commit to.
It is normal to see a patient anywhere from 2 to 3 times per week in the beginning, and then allow the visits to taper to once a week as the symptoms of withdrawal subside. Thereafter, visits can be discontinued altogether for smoking when they are tobacco-free (although, regular acupuncture treatments could be kept up for other issues of course).
Acupuncture Points for Smoking Cessation
Acupuncture points in the ears are usually used in the case of quitting smoking. These points are especially effective in suppressing cravings. In the interim between acupuncture appointments many patients use ear seeds at home for acupressure allowing the patient to self-treat tempering the urge to smoke. The auricular points work because the cranial nerves stimulate the nervous system and suppress the urge for cigarettes.
Auricular acupuncture points for smoking:
- Shen Men
These are the five main points in auricular acupuncture for smoking in addition to others depending on the individual patient’s condition or where they are in their quitting journey.
In addition to the auricular points, there are also a few key acupuncture points that are used to aid smoking cessation.
The additional acupuncture points for smoking are:
- Timme – this point
is an extra point and is not located on a specified meridian. It is located on
the wrist level with LU7 and proximal to LI5 approximately one fingers breadth
above the transverse crease of the wrist on the inside of the arm. It is often
used in conjunction with LU7.
- LV3 – Taichong
– Great Surge – “the four gates,” located on the dorsum of the foot in the
depression proximal to the 1st metatarsal space. It is classified as
a yuan-source point and these points have great significance in treating
diseases of the internal organs. Also used to strongly move qi and blood in the
- LI4 – Hegu – Joining Valley – located on the dorsum of the hand between the 1st & 2nd metacarpal bones in the middle of the 2nd metacarpal bone on the radial side. Like the above point, it is also classified as a yuan-source point, and is often used in conjunction with LV3 to get the qi and blood moving & remove stagnation.
Herbal & Lifestyle Changes for Smoking Cessation
It is also helpful when herbs are incorporated into the treatment plan as they can additionally curb cravings and withdrawal symptoms such as emotional distress & irritability. Herbs can also repair damaged tissues created by smoking.
Two great herbal remedies for smoking:
- Green Tea – floods the system with elements to ease the urge to smoke. Patients can drink this throughout the day during the detox period.
- Lobelia Tea – this tea is often used along with the green tea during the detox period to also help curb cravings.
Along with these herbs it is important to recommend some lifestyle changes for patients that will ultimately lead to and enhance their smoke-free life.
Lifestyle changes along with acupuncture treatment:
- Avoid sugar & caffeine as both can elevate withdrawal symptoms by increasing blood acidity
- Exercise to relax & reduce stress
- Get a good night’s sleep
- Practice deep breathing and/or meditation
- Incorporate good nutrition habits with fresh fruits and vegetables into their diet
- Drink plenty of water every day
The last one is especially important as dehydration has been linked to elevated cravings so drinking water can prevent sliding back into old habits.
There have been many studies done in the past pointing to positive outcomes for acupuncture for smoking, and more recent studies are no different.
- This study was to see the long-term effects of acupuncture on those who quit smoking.
- 46 healthy men and women were randomly placed into a test group or a control group. Each person had to answer a questionnaire before each treatment, after the last one, 8 months after the last one, and 5 years after the last one about his or her smoking habits and/or attitudes. Blood samples were also taken.
- Results confirm that having adequate acupuncture treatment sessions may help smokers who are motivate to quit to reduce their smoking or even quit completely. The effect also showed to potentially last 5 years.
- This analysis was conducted to determine the safety and effectiveness of acupuncture treatment for smoking cessation.
- Literature was searched for randomized controlled trials on seven electronic databases when this analysis began in 2017.
- Twenty-four trials which involved some 3,984 participants were included in the analysis. Quality was overall low, however there were promising results with what was found.
- Results show acupuncture was more effective compared with no intervention. It was also more effective when combined with counseling, educational smoking cessation programs, or moxibustion than as monotherapy long-term.
The systematic review found promising and interesting results! Acupuncturists can look forward to additional research in the coming years to further back-up these findings.
Acupuncture & Smoking
While smoking cessation is extremely difficult, the health and financial benefits alone are worth it. Luckily, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), smoking is on the decline, however there are still many individuals out there that need help. The chronic illnesses that are associated with smoking are emphysema, lung cancer, high blood pressure, shortness of breath, and chronic cough, and these conditions can severely impact quality of life.
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