Few addictions are more difficult to break than an addiction to nicotine. Like most addictions, it is embedded in a complex web of physiological and psychological factors. Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet to help someone who smokes stop for good. But there are a number of tools that can help you stop smoking, including one-on-one counseling, support groups, medications and even a traditional Chinese medicine technique called acupuncture.
Acupuncture relies on stimulating specific points on the body, most often with needles, to relieve pain and enhance health and well-being. Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners use acupuncture to alleviate pain and help treat conditions ranging from headaches to nausea.
"The idea is that every time we puncture the skin, the body's immune system releases a slew of chemicals that encourage recovery and repair," says Mathew Kulas, MA, RAc, an acupuncturist at Henry Ford Health. A bonus: Instead of side effects, acupuncture produces side benefits, such as improvements in sleep and mood.
Acudetox: Acupuncture for Addiction
Acupuncture is increasingly used for addiction. In fact, one specific type of acupuncture, called auricular acupuncture, or acudetox, involves inserting needles in the outer part of the ear to help quiet symptoms of withdrawal.
The National Acupuncture Detoxification Association endorses acudetox as part of a comprehensive treatment program for addiction. According to Kulas, tapping into these five main points on the ear helps smokers quit by:
- Reducing cravings: Acupuncture slows down the body's stress response, which can help curb your cravings for nicotine, especially in the earliest stages of withdrawal when you're also battling fatigue and irritability. "Instead of smoking, your body learns to rest, relax and breathe deeply," says Kulas.
- Releasing feel-good hormones: Studies show acupuncture triggers the brain to pump out feel-good chemicals called endorphins that can help stabilize your mood and mitigate irritability.
- Enhancing overall health and well-being: When you start eliminating unhealthy habits, you feel physically better. And when you feel physically better, you may feel empowered to pick up other healthy habits.
A Comprehensive Approach to Smoking Cessation
If you smoke, quitting smoking is the single most important thing you can do to support your health and well-being. Unfortunately, acupuncture is not a miracle cure for a nicotine addiction. It can be a powerful component of a comprehensive treatment program. Other components may include counseling, education, medication, nutritional support and even yoga and meditation.
"Addictions happen when the body can't understand whether the stimulus, in this case smoking, is beneficial," says Kulas. "Acupuncture, particularly in conjunction with other treatment options and complementary modalities, allows the body to reset itself, and learn how to relax in the midst of a craving."
Each session lasts about 30 minutes. Most acupuncturists recommend starting with two sessions a week until you notice a difference in your cravings and overall health. The number of treatment sessions required to help you quit smoking depends on a variety of factors, including:
- How long you've been smoking
- How frequently you smoke
- How much support you have
Think you're ready to quit? Take the first step today -- talk to your doctor, look up tools and resources to help you quit, and start to make a plan.
Learn more about acupuncture and tobacco treatment at Henry Ford. If you enroll in our Tobacco Treatment Service, you can get a special package of five acupuncture visits through the Henry Ford Center for Integrative Medicine for the reduced price of $200 – less than half the regular cost.
Mathew Kulas, MA, RAc, is licensed acupuncturist and sees patients at Henry Ford Medical Centers located in Northville and Grosse Pointe Farms.