Quitting Smoking With Acupuncture


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Can You Quit Smoking With Acupuncture?

When you think of ways people get help to quit smoking. What comes to mind? Nicotine patches or gum? Perhaps cold turkey? Or how about medication? Well there are alternative methods that many people consider. Quitting smoking with acupuncture and quitting smoking with laser therapy are both alternative methods that are quite similar to each other.

But what are they? How are they related? And most importantly. Do they work?

What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a method of therapy that was developed around 100 BC in ancient china. It involves inserting needles at specific points in the body to attempt to relieve various symptoms of various conditions. According to some acupuncturists it is possible to help people stop smoking with acupuncture. Instead of removing the desire to smoke they aim to help people deal with the cravings induced by nicotine withdrawal.

What is Laser Therapy?

Stopping smoking with laser therapy is a much more recent treatment than acupuncture and has only really begun to gain exposure since the start of the decade.

The idea behind laser therapy is to use cold lasers to stimulate nerve endings around various parts of the body to encourage the brain to release endorphins. Despite the dangerous sounding name of the treatment it is in fact harmless. The USA’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) state that the cold lasers used in the treatment are a “non significant risk” device.

What are stop smoking acupuncture treatments like?

When you go to an acupuncturist to quit smoking you will fill out a medical history form and then lie down and be told to get comfortable. Many people like to close their eyes at this point!

The acupuncturist will then insert needles in highly specific parts of the body depending upon the protocol and treatment required. When trying to stop smoking and combat the nicotine withdrawal cravings the needles are usually inserted in two areas.

The most common area for needles to be inserted when using the cessation protocol is around the ear. Don’t be scared around the ear does not mean in the ear! A second point called the “Tim Mee” point is also used. It is less common than the standard ear protocol and is located just above the inside of the wrist.

For many people trying to relieve cravings is the first time they will have researched acupuncture. So I am sure what many of you want to know is, will it hurt?

Well it really does not hurt at all.

The needles are much thinner than a standard hypodermic needle and are solid. They are only slightly thicker than the width of a human hair. Some people can feel them being inserted, others cannot. However even if you can feel them, reports of pain or discomfort are very rare.

All in all a treatment will last roughly around 45 minutes to one hour. This includes the preparation and insertion of the needles. Once all the needles have been inserted they are usually left in place for around 30 minutes before being carefully removed.

Some acupuncturists will teach acupressure techniques to help patients combat cravings after the treatment when they occur at home. These are essentially a type of massage you perform yourself on your ear without needles - just using pressure from your thumbs and fingers. Acupuncture pressure point diagram

What are stop smoking laser therapy treatments like?

Unlike acupuncture, laser therapy does not involve any piercing of the skin. After a medical questionnaire the patient will be sat down or will lie down and told to close their eyes. In some practices eye protection will be provided.

The laser will then be applied to the relevant points on the body that are believed to encourage endorphin production to help the ex smoker manage the cravings. These points are on the hands, around the nose, and just like acupuncture – mainly the ears.

There is no pain whatsoever reported by patients. In fact just like acupuncture many people cannot feel anything at all. Sessions usually last around 30 minutes and there are no side effects, you will be able to get yourself to and from the practice by yourself.

Most practices recommend 3 or 4 treatments during the first week of a quit attempt when the nicotine withdrawal cravings are the worst. Additional sessions can be recommended on occasion.

Does Acupuncture Work For Quitting Smoking?

This is a hotly debated topic. Can acupuncture help you stop smoking?

A 2010 study by Cochraine stated that “There is no consistent evidence that acupuncture, acupressure, laser therapy or electrostimulation are effective for smoking cessation”

Which obviously is quite a damming conclusion. However anecdotal evidence suggests that there can be a place for acupuncture while quitting.

No acupuncturist will claim that they can break the habit of smoking. It is a deeply engrained habit that has no simple silver bullet cure. It can possibly however be used for a complementary effect when in combination with other types of treatment. Such as nicotine patches or gum

The British Acupuncture Council takes the position that while acupuncture does not have much research supporting it’s ability to help smokers, it is well known for its relaxation and stress relieving properties. This can help people with their initial cravings in the withdrawal period.

And this position is one you will hear stated by many acupuncturists to be the main benefit of acupuncture when quitting. The ability to calm people, reduce mental stress and reduce irritability. Which are all common nicotine withdrawal symptoms.

Green laser Does quit smoking laser therapy work?

Being a much newer form of treatment, laser therapy has had much less research done on its efficacy for cessation than acupuncture. There are still however a few interesting studies that have been conducted.

A study published in the Journal of Chinese Medicine conducted in 2008 found that there was a significant increase in the success rate of successful quitters when laser therapy was used. However it is unclear if this study was peer reviewed and there are issues of impartiality. The website that the study was published on sells laser therapy treatment.

A contrasting study that was conducted in Singapore found that there was no noticeable effect from people using laser therapy to quit. The group of people that used the therapy and the group of people that did not use the therapy had the same ratio of success to relapse.

Laser therapy has been approved for pain relief by the FDA in the USA but has not been approved as a recognized method for quitting smoking. Again similar to acupuncture the main benefit seems to be a relaxing almost placebo like effect that can help calm cravings and reduce irritability.

Buyers Guide

Many acupuncturists will recommend weekly stop smoking sessions for a duration of 1 – 3 months. But this heavily depends on how intense a patients cravings are and how much benefit you are getting from the treatment.

Acupuncture treatments in general will cost you around £60-£80 per hour in the UK and around $100 in the USA. However the costs can vary wildly between different practitioners (for another discounted way to quit smoking click here). With some of the most well known charging well over £500 $700 per hour.

While the UK’s NHS does on very rare occasions offer acupuncture for certain conditions it does not offer it for tobacco cessation. The NHS website states that most people will need to find a private practitioner if they wish to undergo treatment.

Similarly most US health insurers do not offer acupuncture as part of their cover. While a very small amount of plans do cover acupuncture it is usually for other conditions and not to help people stop smoking.

Quit smoking laser therapy costs around £200 in the UK or $300 in the USA. This usually covers 3 or 4 sessions that are conducted in the first week or two of quitting. This is to coincide with the most intense period of cravings in the quit. It is not covered by any US health insurance we could locate and is not available on the UK’s NHS.

A interesting quit smoking laser therapy review that caught our eye was written by Nick Curtis from the Daily Mail. He was Unsuccessful quitting smoking using laser therapy but admitted he had a lack of willpower. He said:

“Well in a way it has helped, in that it further underscored the absurdity of smoking, the delusion of pleasure it brings - the sheer waste of it. But, as I'd been warned, there's no substitute for willpower: the treatment would probably have worked better if I had any.“


Acupuncture and laser therapy are both alternative methods to quit smoking. And with a lack of supporting clinical evidence they should be treated as such.

Acupuncture and / or laser therapy will not remove your desire to smoke. Any good acupuncturist will tell you this.

However (based on anecdotal evidence) they can be potentially be used to some success in conjunction with other clinically recognized methods of treatment such as NRT or cessation medication. Helping to relieve the carvings and enable people to relax a little more through the tough times.

So if you go into the therapy with the right expectations results could be quite pleasing and you could end up a little more relaxed the next time your cravings strike.

But willpower is still the main success factor in a quit attempt and if you are trying to stop smoking with acupuncture or laser therapy, willpower is certainly still required.