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Smoking Cessation and Acupuncture

Posted: Jun 4th, 2007

It is now commonly accepted that quitting smoking can be as difficult as quitting heroin. While some smokers suffer a serious chemical dependency, others realize they have more of an emotional dependency on cigarettes. Regardless of the source of ones habit, acupuncture can be a very helpful aid in the hard work that is often involved in becoming a non-smoker.

However, acupuncture is not appropriate for all smokers who are trying to quit. I like to talk to patients who want to quit smoking before beginning treatment. If I do not believe that acupuncture is appropriate for them, I will not recommend treatment.

To assess whether acupuncture is right for you as you become a non-smoker, review the following factors. The first five factors identify someone for whom acupuncture may not be very effective. The last five factors identify those people who are most likely to be successful in quitting smoking with the help of acupuncture.

Factors that Minimize the Effectiveness of Acupuncture in Smoking Cessation:

  1. If you are looking for that magic "off" switch to cravings for cigarettes, acupuncture may be a disappointment. While some quitters are blessed with a sudden cessation of cravings, most patients find that cravings do not go away entirely with treatment. What treatment can and does do for many quitters is take the edge off their cravings and make it much, much easier to quit smoking, with significantly reduced anxiety. A firm resolve and strategies to keep from lighting up are a necessary part of a successful program to quit smoking.
  2. If you are quitting to please others, acupuncture may not be effective enough for your needs. While warnings from doctors and pleas from loving friends and family members are often present in the life of a smoker, this is rarely a strong enough motivation. The commitment to improve one's health really must be a commitment to oneself.
  3. Fear of dying of a smoking-related illness or of suffering serious side effects from smoking are often given as reasons for quitting. However, fear is not as powerful as desire in overcoming addiction. Fear as a motivation adds to the anxiety already present in quitting smoking. The ability to look forward with anticipation to a new-identity as non-smoker is present in those who are most likely to succeed in making the transition to non-smoker.
  4. Major transitions like the process of divorce or re-locating ones home are not the best times to quit smoking. Smoking is a poor stress-management tool, but adding the challenge of quitting on top of major life changes will not enhance ones likelihood of success in quitting. I do, however, recommend acupuncture as support during major transitions to help with sleep, anxiety and energy-level.
  5. Major illnesses as well as anxiety and depression can be addressed with acupuncture prior to beginning the work of quitting smoking. Getting a handle on major health concerns before quitting will enhance the success in the transition to becoming a non-smoker. A series of acupuncture treatments to benefit overall health before focusing on smoking cessation can greatly enhance the likelihood of success.

Factors that Maximize the Effectiveness of Treatment in Smoking Cessation:

  1. Enthusiasm about becoming a non-smoker is a predictor of success. If you have not yet taken the time to create an attractive image of your healthier self as a non-smoker, do so. Enthusiasm for what you want to create in your life is energizing, while focusing on the fear and anxiety of what will happen if you do not quit smoking is merely depleting and generates more fear and anxiety.
  2. You are taking care of yourself with exercise, plenty of water and good nutrition to assist in the detoxifying process of quitting smoking. These actions are a testament to your commitment to your health and your transition to becoming a non-smoker.
  3. You have stress management tools to assist you in dealing with the anxiety of resisting lighting up. Aerobic exercise, breathing exercises, soothing visualizations, supportive relationships are examples of skills you may need to remind yourself to use. What other tools work for you?
  4. A healthy diet with plenty of fiber, calming minerals, and water will help you avoid substituting junk food and other unhealthy habits for smoking.
  5. You are quitting smoking for yourself first and foremost and for friends and doctors secondarily. Patients who seek treatment because of pressure from others often feel resentful about the challenge of quitting smoking. The desire to quit must be one's own.

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