The idea of acupuncture as a method of quitting smoking both fascinates and horrifies me. I’m relatively terrified of needles yet the idea of curing my habit courtesy of some kind of mystical Chinese medicine quite appeals. There’s quite a debate around the merits of acupuncture with proponents singing its praises and critics labelling it as little more than a scam. I’ve tried to do a little research about the pros and cons.
Pros Acupuncture practitioners argue that it is a proven effective treatment in helping people quit a range of addictive substances, including nicotine. It can supposedly transform the taste of tobacco into a bad experience and act as an antidote to the agitation and nervousness common in those trying to give up cigarettes. The treatment helps stimulate function of the liver according to some practitioners. This is seen as important as the liver becomes used to stimulation from tobacco and prompts the craving for the next cigarette.
Acupuncture can also help with other health problems. There is strong evidence that it can be used for relief of chronic pain (I can vouch that it helped my wife with back pain) along with conditions such as recurrent migraines, tension headaches and arthritis. Certainly if you are a smoker that also suffers with aches and pains, acupuncture might be worth a try!
Cons The reality of acupuncture as a genuine smoke cessation technique is that there is nowhere near enough sufficient evidence to prove that it works. A number of clinical studies in the UK, reported in the British Medical Journal have disregarded acupuncture as a serious form of treatment and sceptics suggest that the people who quit after acupuncture are simply people who were adequately motivated to quit in any case. And of course, there are those needles! I’m pretty sure that the idea of a session would have been smoking more than usual in the days leading up to acupuncture treatment and for that reason it’s not for me.
I guess like many smoking cessation techniques, it’s partly in the mind. If you really want to quit and believe acupuncture will help it might be worth a try. I’m not a believer but I’d be interested to hear from anybody who has given it a go.
*Image courtesy Flickr creative commons.