By: Jasmine Sufi, Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner
There are about 42 million smokers in north America today – a large number, considering the increased awareness of the harmful effects cigarette smoking has on health. Approximately 1 in 5 still smoke today a drastic decrease from 42% of the population smoking in 1965 to only 18% of the population smoking in 2012. (www.cancer.org)
The addictive component of cigarettes is nicotine, a chemical that is naturally found in the leaves of tobacco. Nicotine produces physical and mental changes to the individual causing mood shifts that over continual use causes dependence. Nicotine is considered as addictive as heroin and cocaine. (http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca)
If a smoker chooses to stop smoking the symptoms of withdrawal start within 1-2 days. These symptoms include: anxiety, moodiness and irritability, anger, difficulty sleeping and concentrating. (http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca)
So how do smokers that want to kick the habit stop? There are many over the counter aids, such as nicotine replacement therapy (ex. nicotine patches and gums). There are also prescriptive options such as; anti-depressant medications that will modulate mood as one weans off of the nicotine. Also prescribed is a drug called Champix that changes the reaction in the pleasure centre in the brain stimulated by nicotine making smoking less enjoyable.
Now, for many smokers quitting isn’t a onetime thing. Many have attempted to quit but unfortunately have failed as addictions are complicated and require help on many fronts. As we’ve spoken of the physical addiction aspect that nicotine has but there is also a behavioral component that sometimes can be harder to overcome. So what are the options?
For many it needs to be a tailored treatment plan based on type of use, frequency of use as well as causes of use. Once investigated the practitioner can determine whether going cold turkey is best or slowly weaning off cigarettes is best, whether over the counter aids are needed along with acupuncture! Yes acupuncture!
Acupuncture has been used for thousands of years to help decrease the anxiety related to stopping a drug, decrease craving durations and help the body detox in a safe natural healthy way. Acupuncture is primarily completed on the ear, called auricular acupuncture to help target the centers responsible for anxiety, cravings and stress. By stimulating these areas a person attempting to come off nicotine can have an easier time doing so. Acupuncture will not remove cravings or eliminate the withdrawal period but what acupuncture does is give the person a tool that allows them to manage their cravings (effectively shortening them) while decreasing anxieties allowing the withdrawal symptoms to be more manageable and the individual will have more control over their own body’s signals of distress during the withdrawal period. Acupuncture enables individuals to have decreased withdrawal symptoms therefore the goal of stopping smoking more achievable.
Acupuncture treatment is required 2-3 times per week initially as symptoms are more prominent and as the person experiences less and less symptoms the acupuncture is also decreased. Acupuncture is an incredible tool for those needing help with withdrawal symptoms, it provides relief from the common anxieties and cravings while equipping those with the tools needed to achieve their goals of being smoke free!
For more affordable acupuncture check out our new community acupuncture program! Acupuncture as low as $35.