A new study proves Acupuncture, Hypnosis & Anti Smoking Aversion Therapy are more successful than quitting alone, or using Nicotine supplements. Yes, alternative therapies like acupuncture and hypnosis really can help you to quit smoking cigarettes. That’s the conclusion reached in a study published in The American Journal of Medicine this week. This study showed that alternative treatments such as hypnosis and acupuncture really do improve the success rates for people trying to stop smoking.
The study was a Meta-Analysis: a meta analysis collects together all the best and most reliable research that has already been published, puts it all together, integrates all the data, and then finds out what the big picture really is – what the real truth is.
The researchers do that by excluding any research where the numbers of participants were too small to give an accurate picture, and also studies that did not meet the strictest quality guidelines for the best evidence based results. This study also included a treatment called Aversive Therapy in their research, which I will explain later. That therapy too, increased the success rates for quitting.
Smoking is the most preventable cause of illness and death in North America and costs the economy $210 billion each year in the United States alone. Every year, about half of the 51 million smokers in North America try to quit for at least 1 day. Many of those who try to quit do not use pharmacological aids such as Nicotine supplements or other quit smoking products, for a range of reasons.
Some people are uncertain about possible side effects, and others doubt if they will really help them to quit, and whether they are a waste of money. Therefore, it would help all potential quitters, especially those people unwilling to try nicotine supplements, if it could be shown that alternative therapies, that did not involve drugs, could help them to successfully stop smoking.
Before this meta analysis study, it was not known if these alternative non-drug treatments would help or not. Well, thanks to this new study, we now know that they do. We now know we can add acupuncture, anti smoking hypnosis, and cigarette quitting aversion therapy to our arsenal of quit smoking tips and helpers.
Alternative Quitting Smoking Therapy: What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture involves stimulating acupuncture points in the body by inserting either very fine needles, or by using electronic stimulation from a specially designed machine. Acupuncture originated in Chinese Medicine and is mainly used to relieve pain and nausea, although recently it has been found to be useful in other treatments as well – for example, in helping smokers to quit.
Practitioners of Traditional Chinese medicine say that acupuncture as a technique for balancing the flow of energy or life force — known as qi or chi (pronounced, chee) — which is believed to flow through pathways (meridians) in your body. By inserting needles into specific points along these meridians, acupuncture practitioners believe that your energy flow will re-balance.
However, many Western practitioners view the acupuncture points as places to stimulate nerves, muscles and connective tissue, rather than places where the flow of energy or life force can be accessed. But perhaps the western point of view is just a western way of describing what the Chinese practitioners call ‘chi’? It doesn’t really matter, as long as it works.
The stimulation produced via acupuncture, appears to boost the activity of your body’s natural painkillers and increase blood flow. Other western health professionals think the benefits may be due to a placebo effect. The placebo effect is the name given to the fact that you really do feel better when you believe you have received an effective treatment. That doesn’t mean that it’s not an effective treatment, because it is – if it works, it works – even if we aren’t sure exactly why it works.
For whatever reason, acupuncture has been shown to work in the treatment of many health problems. In anti-smoking therapy, the acupoints that are stimulated are on the ears.
Alternative Quitting Smoking Treatments: Hypnosis
When hypnosis is used to treat medical problems, it is usually called hypnotherapy. It is usually given by a specialist psychologist or psychiatrist. Hypnosis can be used to treat a wide range of problems, including mental illness, and addiction – including nicotine addiction.
Hypnosis is sometimes included in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) i.e. non drug treatments – for many types of addiction.
Hypnosis works by putting the patient into a deeper, and altered mental state. While in that altered mental state, the patient can retain ideas suggested by the therapist after they regain normal consciousness, if that is what the therapist suggests to the patient. Of course in some therapies, the patient is told that when they ‘wake up’ they will remember nothing of what was suggested while in their altered mental state.
In addiction hypnotherapy, it is usually desirable for the suggestions to be retained. Hypnotherapy can also be used to help patients deal with trauma from their past, but that is not relevant in this article.
In the case of helping someone to quit smoking, ideas such as a belief that quitting smoking is desirable, that quitting is possible, and can be successfully achieved, are suggested to the patient. This increases their motivation and their belief in their own abilities to quit successfully. Now this study shows that such hypnotherapy produces higher success rates compared to other people who have not received quitting hypnotherapy.
Alternative Quitting Smoking Therapy: Aversion Therapy
Aversion therapy works by teaching the brain to associate a particular behavior that someone normally enjoys, with an unpleasant experience. The word ‘aversion’ means: a feeling of disgust, or intense dislike, toward something, which causes a desire to avoid or turn away from it.
Aversion therapy is is a deliberate attempt to cause aversion to a particular behavior, for example, the using of drugs, or smoking. This therapy could also be described as part of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), since it is an addiction therapy that involves no medication.
This aversion is ‘taught’ to the brain, when the normally pleasurable activity is repeatedly linked to an unpleasant experience. Over time, the brain ‘learns’ to not enjoy that experience, even when the person knows that they will no longer be receiving that unpleasant experience in the real world. Because now, the feeling of wanting to turn away, is now happening in the brain, not in the real world at all.
It’s like mental magic in a way. It doesn’t seem rational, but that is what the brain does. This fact can be used to help someone stop doing some activity that they no longer wish to continue doing. For example, aversion therapy can be used to help someone to stop smoking cigarettes.
An example aversion might be: you could pour icy cold water over someone every time they tried to light up a cigarette. Or you could give them an electric shock when lighting up a cigarette. Of cause, neither of these unpleasant aversion therapy techniques are used in modern aversion therapy.
The aversion therapy usually used in quit smoking aversion therapy, is to rapidly take a large number of puffs of a cigarette in a very short period of time. This will make most people feel ill with nausea, and is generally an unpleasant experience, even for smokers – that’s why it works when repeated over time. If the smoker stops enjoying their cigarettes, they no longer have the desire to smoke, and quitting attempts are more likely to be successful.
The Results of This Anti Smoking Study
When compared to smokers who try to quit without any alternative therapy or pharmacological assistance, these alternative quit-smoking treatments improved the success rate by factors of:
- Acupuncture 3.53
- Hypnotherapy 4.26
- Aversion therapy 4.55
These results certainly look promising in the struggle to help smokers quit smoking. Especially when the use of drugs such as nicotine replacement patches or gum, only increases the quitting success rates by a factor of between 2 and 2.5.
So it seems that Acupuncture, Hypnotherapy, and Aversion therapy are not only successful in helping smokers to quit, they are more successful than using traditional nicotine replacement therapy.
1. These alternative therapies of Acupuncture, Hypnosis and Aversion Therapy look promising for the treatment of nicotine addiction. Therefore they could be useful for anyone wanting to know how to stop smoking, but who doesn’t want to take medication to help them to quit.
2. Any form of quitting-smoking therapy, or nicotine supplement, improves the success rates compared to using no such aids to help you to quit smoking
3. It’s possible that combining Alternative stop smoking therapy with nicotine replacement might be even more successful in helping smokers to quit than doing one, or other, on their own – but more research needs to be done to know this.