Acupuncture is a highly effective quit smoking method and especially for those who had been unsuccessful with other methods to stop smoking. Acupuncture has the ability to reduce cravings and alleviate withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, anxiety and difficulty concentrating.

In a study conducted at the University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway, acupuncture was found to significantly reduce the desire to smoke up to five years after the initial treatment[1].

How does it work?

Acupuncture works to adjust cravings by balancing the body’s brain chemistry and is also useful to help heal the damage caused by smoking. The effects of acupuncture in the smoking cessation process are:

  • Acupuncture helps to eliminate the nicotine withdrawal symptoms

The most common nicotine withdrawal symptoms include irritability, anxiety, insomnia, difficulty concentrating, and increased appetite. Acupuncture is highly effective in diminishing these withdrawal symptoms by stimulating endorphin release. Endorphins are the natural chemicals produced by the body which relieve pain and increase a sense of relaxation and contentment.

  • Acupuncture can detoxify the body of nicotine

Acupuncture can increase the body’s ability to process toxins and heavy metals accumulated from tobacco use by improving circulation of Qi and blood and enhancing the function of the lung, liver, and spleen. In TCM, the lung governs inhalation, the spleen governs transformation and transportation of the substances; and the liver governs smooth flow of Qi throughout the whole body.

  • Acupuncture changes the taste of cigarettes

One of the possible contributions to smoking cessation is a change in the taste of smoke after acupuncture treatments. Many people come to realize that cigarettes taste like burning ash or bitter. This unpleasant and distasteful taste of cigarettes makes patients unable to finish the whole length of a cigarette and lose the urge to smoke.

How many treatments?

The number and frequency of treatments vary depending on the individual smoking history and the will-power of the patient.

Generally, 4 to 6 acupuncture treatments during the first two weeks are required to help reduce the craving for cigarettes and initiating the detoxification process. Although some patients quit smoking after 2-3 sessions,, an average of 5-8 sessions can help most of the smokers quit or greatly reduce the amount of cigarettes consumed.

Once the physiological and psychological dependence on the nicotine has been reduced and the patient has become able to reduce the number of cigarettes, monthly follow-up treatments for 4-6 months are recommended to consolidate the effects. If life stressors or complicating circumstances are in play, then additional treatments may be necessary to preserve the positive results.

When an urge to use tobacco strikes, remember that although it may be intense, it will be short, and it probably will pass within a few minutes whether you smoke a cigarette or not.

10 ways to help you resist cravings

  1. Delay. If you feel like you’re going to give in to your craving, tell yourself that you must wait 10 more minutes and then do something to distract yourself.
  2. Don’t have ‘just one.’ You may be tempted to have just one cigarette to stop a craving. But don’t fool yourself into believing that you can stop at just one.
  3. Avoid triggers. Urges for tobacco are likely to be strongest in the situations where you smoked tobacco most often. Identify your trigger spots and have a plan in place so that you get through them without using tobacco.
  4. Get physical. Just 30 minutes of physical activity can help distract you from tobacco cravings and reduce the intensity of cravings.
  5. Practice relaxation techniques. Coping with a craving to smoke can be very stressful. Take the edge off your stress by practicing relaxation techniques.
  6. Call in reinforcements! Touch base with a family member, friend or support group member for moral support.
  7. Remember the benefits of quitting. Write down or say out loud the reasons you want to stop smoking and resist cravings. Feeling better, getting healthier, etc.
  8. Go online. Join an online stop-smoking program, or read a quitter’s blog. Learn from how others have handled their tobacco cravings.
  9. Try replacements. Try stop-smoking products instead of a cigarette. such as patches, gums and lozenges,.
  10. Chew on it. Give your mouth something to do. Munch on something crunchy and satisfying such as raw carrots, celery, nuts or sunflower seeds.

[1] He D, Medbø JI, Høstmark AT.  (2001). Effect of acupuncture on smoking cessation or reduction: an 8-month and 5-year follow-up study.