Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese treatment that involves applying very thin needles to specific points on the body.
Acupuncturists have used this method to treat various addictions, including alcoholism and
cocaine. This alternative therapy is also thought to help people who are trying to break their addiction to
nicotine. It is not clear exactly how acupuncture works. It has been suggested that the insertion of needles causes the release of certain neurotransmitters that play a role in addiction and withdrawal. Could it help you?
While there have been a lot of studies on acupuncture, the evidence has not been conclusive. Researchers typically compare real acupuncture to a "sham" version, which means applying the needles to fake acupuncture points. A number of studies, including reviews of trials, have found conflicting results. In a recent large analysis of 7 trials comparing real and sham acupuncture, researchers concluded that real acupuncture may help people quit smoking for a short period of time. But, the treatment was not helpful when looking 6-12 months after the quit date. Another review of 6 trials concluded that acupuncture still did help people quit and stay tobacco free for up to 12 months. More rigoriously done randomized trials will likely need to be done to help clarify whether acupuncture has a true benefit for smoking cessation.
If you are trying to become smoke-free and are interested in trying acupuncture, ask your doctor for a referral to an acupuncturist. You can also find information online by researching professional organizations, like the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture. Overall, acupuncture is a safe treatment with few risks. The best evidence available shows that it may at least have some short-term benefits for quitting smoking.
Tahiri M, Mottillo S, Joseph L, et al. Alternative smoking cessation aids: a meta-anaylsis of randomized controlled trials. Am J Med. 2012;125(6):576-584.
White A, Moody R. The effects of auricular acupuncture on smoking cessation may not depend on the point chosen—an exploratory meta-analysis.
2/28/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance: White A, Rampes H, Liu J, Stead L, Campbell J. Acupuncture and related interventions for smoking cessation. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011;(1):CD000009
Last reviewed January 2013 by Brian Randall, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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