Want to quit smoking? Try acupuncture or hypnosis

Tue May 8, 2012 4:09pm EDT

A man holds a cigarette in Tokyo August 3, 2009. REUTERS/Stringer

A man holds a cigarette in Tokyo August 3, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Stringer

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(Reuters) - Acupuncture and hypnosis have been promoted as drug-free ways to help smokers kick the habit, and there is some evidence that they work, according to a research review that looked at 14 international studies.

Researchers, whose findings appeared in the American Journal of Medicine, said that there are still plenty of questions, including exactly how effective alternative therapies might be and how they measure up against conventional methods to quit smoking.

But the alternatives should still stand as options for smokers determined to break the habit, said researchers led by Mehdi Tahiri of McGill University in Montreal, Canada.

In general, smokers who want to quit should first try the standard approaches, which include nicotine-replacement therapy, medications and behavioral counseling, Tahiri said.

"But some people are not interested in medication," he said, adding that in many cases the standard therapies had not worked. "Then I think we should definitely recommend (acupuncture and hypnosis) as choices."

Researchers found that some studies showed that smokers subjected to acupuncture were more than three times as likely to be tobacco-free six months to a year later.

Similarly, across four trials of hypnosis, smokers had a higher success rate with the therapy compared to people who had minimal help.

But there were some caveats, researchers said. The success rate was not consistent in all the tests conducted, although the broad trends pointed to the benefits of alternate treatment.

A 2008 study that ran a few sessions of laser acupuncture on 258 smokers found that 55 percent who'd received the treatment quit the habit in six months, compared with four percent who were not given the treatment.

But a 2007 study from Taiwan that looked at needle acupuncture around the ear, the area typically targeted for smoking cessation, reported a lower success rate.

Only nine percent of those who were given acupuncture had quit after six months compared with six percent who stopped smoking without the treatment.

The situation was similar across the hypnosis trials. Two studies showed a significant impact : 20 to 45 percent of hypnosis patients were smoke-free six months to a year later. The other two trials showed smaller effects.

Nonetheless, Tahiri said, there was a "trend" toward a benefit across all of the studies of acupuncture and hypnosis.

There are still definitely questions, he added, about how many sessions of acupuncture or hypnosis might be necessary, or which specific techniques are best.

Other research reviews, though, have concluded that the jury is still out on alternative therapies for quitting smoking.

SOURCE: bit.ly/Khhv63

(Reporting from New York by Amy Norton at Reuters Health; editing by Elaine Lies and Sanjeev Miglani)

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Comments (1)
I suffered from anxiety, lower back pain and neck pain and stiffness, for many years. I am now on my second year of acupuncture treatments, sadly allowed only 8 sessions per year, through the US Dept. of Vets. Affairs. My lower back pain is gone, neck pain and stiffness have come back. Not at all as severe as before, just need to have a “maintenance level”. I have degeneration in my neck vertebra due to a whiplash injury from car accident in 1990. My anxiety level has been greatly decreased. Also, my addiction to caffeine, was drinking coffee from morning to night. Now, I’m just drinking two cups in the morning to “wake-up”. Since I also suffer from Crohn’s Disease, that is a big benefit. With Crohn’s Disease your body cannot readily absorb Calcium. So I take a vegetarian form of Calcium/Magnesium 2000 MG/1000 MG.daily. The other added benefit of acupuncture is the lessening of my PTSD symptoms. Previously going into a crowded grocery store was very uncomfortable. Now, I recognize it’s crowded, but it’s no big deal !

May 10, 2012 2:45am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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