Besides being a nervous habit, smoking is an addiction. In fact, nicotine is one of the most addicting drugs known to humanity. Its negative effects are not immediately apparent, as are those of other drugs, but its long-term effects are often deadly. The fact that it contributes to the development of hypertension, atherosclerosis, chronic lung disease and lung cancer is well established in the medical community.
Acupuncture, in the hands of a skilled practitioner, is a highly effective aid in the control of smoking and other addictions. It has been my experience that 7 out of 10 patients will quit smoking within 2 or 3 weeks. Most others cut down drastically on the number of cigarettes consumed.
Acupuncture helps to decrease the physical cravings for tobacco. It also lessens the symptoms of withdrawal and has a generally sedative effect on the nervous system. Beta-endorphin, the natural hormone which causes physical relaxation and reduces sensitivity to pain, is released by the acupuncture treatment. This production of beta-endorphin is part of the physical mechanism which makes it possible for you to quit smoking.
Treatments consist of inserting sterile, disposable needles into special points on the ear, hand and wrist. A mild electric current is sometimes passed through these needles to augment the effect. Each treatment lasts about 30 minutes. Minute sterile retainer needles or press pellets are inserted into the ear and remain in place for a few days. These "ear-tags" serve to exert a constant mini-stimulus to special points found helpful in reducing withdrawal symptoms.
A typical program consists of three treatments during the first week (when the withdrawal symptoms are the greatest) and two follow-up treatments during the second week. In order to insure long-term effectiveness of treatment, we sometimes recommend occasional follow-up visits for 2-3 months after the initial series.
Weight gain is less of a problem when acupuncture is used because the acupuncture points that reduce the craving for tobacco also help to control the craving for food.
Acupuncture works with other addictions as well, such as heroin and crack habits. It is used as the primary mode of treatment in the most successful drug detoxification program in the United States, at the Lincoln Memorial Hospital in the South Bronx area of New York City. The ear points used in this program are also used in our stop smoking program. If acupuncture is successful with crack and heroin addicts, it is easy to see why it can help smokers to kick the nicotine habit.
Acupuncture is effective for many other conditions as well. Acupuncture has a 3000-year old history and has only recently been found to be useful for addictions. The World Health Organization lists over 40 disorders that respond favorably to acupuncture. Among these are chronic pain, injuries, back and neck pain, chronic fatigue, headaches, depression (mild), stress disorders, hypertension, insomnia, digestive disorders, pre-menstrual syndrome and other women's problems, constipation, allergies and the common cold.