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Can Acupuncture Help You Quit Smoking

If you’ve tried unsuccessfully to quit smoking — perhaps multiple times — you’re not alone. Most people go through multiple cycles of quitting and relapsing before finally kicking the habit for good.

Nicotine is highly addictive, so it’s not surprising that it’s difficult to quit. But there are other obstacles as well, including traditional smoking cessation therapies themselves. Nicotine gum and patches require ongoing commitment and generally aren’t sufficient to break the habit on their own. Newer prescription medications have unpleasant side effects. Support groups are helpful, but sticking with them is challenging.

Fortunately, tobacco users have other options, some of which have been around for much longer than nicotine patches and prescription meds. Let’s dive into one particularly promising treatment to help people stop smoking: acupuncture.

Using Acupuncture to Quit Smoking: Can It Be Done?

The short answer is that yes, acupuncture can help reduce cravings for nicotine and empower you to quit smoking. However, it’s not a miracle cure. Here’s what you should know before seeking it out.

What Is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine practice that has been around for thousands of years. The practitioner, or acupuncturist, inserts super-thin needles into specific “acupuncture points” on the body. Proponents believe that the practice enhances the flow of good energy, or Qi (“chee”), through the body, improving physical and mental well-being.

Acupuncture is not recognized as a legitimate treatment for chronic ailments like diabetes, cancer, or cardiovascular problems. But its proponents report both subjective and measurable improvements in well-being, such as reduction in muscle pain, improved mood, and more restful sleep. Medical studies show that acupuncture increases the body’s production of “feel-good” hormones, suggesting these proponents are onto something.

How Can Acupuncture Help You Quit Smoking?

A specific type of acupuncture, known as auricular acupuncture or acudetox, shows promise for smoking cessation.

Acudetox focuses on pressure points in the outer ear. Activating these pressure points helps quiet the body’s stress response and increase its production of those “feel-good” hormones, known as endorphins. This increases the patient’s capacity to overcome cravings on their own and reduces the urge to reach for a cigarette in response to external stresses (or simply out of habit). 

What Are the Risks of Acupuncture?

Acupuncture has few risks when performed by trained professionals. The most significant risk is infection from dirty or improperly sterilized acupuncture needles. Other possible risks include bleeding, muscle pain, and nerve pain.

Other Non-Traditional Smoking Cessation Therapies

Acupuncture isn’t the only non-traditional smoking cessation therapy for tobacco users who can’t tolerate prescription medication or nicotine supplements.

Many tobacco users rely on lasers to quit smoking, for example. Yes, really — laser therapy for smoking cessation is recognized as an effective tool for weaning even longtime tobacco users off the substance. 

Other options include hypnotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and patient-driven changes in lifestyle and behavior. Generally, it’s best to use a combination of methods that complement one another. And it’s important not to get discouraged if you’re not able to quit right away — remember, many smokers try to quit dozens of times before succeeding.