Acupuncture is a drug-free way to quit smoking. It treats patients by targeting thin needles, or low-energy laser beams, at specific acupuncture points in the skin. According to those who endorse it, acupuncture stimulates the release of endorphins and other brain chemicals, canceling out cravings and easing the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal.
In a 2006 survey, the Mayo Clinic found that about 27 percent of smokers looking to quit had tried traditional acupuncture or laser acupuncture at least once.
A review of 14 previous clinical trials, published in the American Journal of Medicine, showed that smokers who received real acupuncture, vs. “sham” or “placebo” versions of the procedure, were more than three times as likely to be tobacco-free six months to a year later.
Researchers are quick to point out that the results of individual acupuncture trials varied widely. For example, one 2008 study tested laser acupuncture on 258 smokers. After six months, 55 percent of the smokers who’d received real acupuncture were tobacco-free, versus only four percent of those who’e been give sham acupuncture.
In contrast, a 2007 study from Taiwan looked at needle acupuncture. Six months after treatment, nine percent of the real-acupuncture group had quit, as had six percent of the sham-acupuncture group.
If you are interested in a drug-free way to quit smoking, acupuncture offers a popular alternative. However, to maximize your chances for success, most researchers recommend combining interventions. You may consider the addition of behavioral counseling to your acupuncture therapy.
Smokers who choose acupuncture treatment should look for a reputable center that uses sterile equipment. Costs typically range from $400 to $1,000.