How do you quit smoking? Luckily I’ve never had to deal with this myself, but I’ve seen family and friends struggle with it, and others shrug the habit off with barely a second thought. For those who struggle, there is often a sense of desperation and defeat involved in their fight against this crippling, deadly addiction.
It was with interest that I received an email today, from Natural Practitioner Magazine, which briefly mentioned the possible effectiveness of hypnosis and acupuncture in smoking cessation. You know I was interested!
As it turns out, the email was rehashing a Reuters article, Want to quit smoking?
The bottom line is that the American Journal of Medicine published a meta-analysis of 14 trials looking at non-pharmaceutical methods of smoking cessation, and that there is some evidence that hypnosis and acupuncture are effective.
What the Natural Practitioner Magazine left out is that the meta-analyses included trials of aversive smoking, that the results are mixed (some trials show positive results while others show negative or non-specific results), that aversive smoking seems more effective than either hypnosis or acupuncture and that none of these three non-pharmaceutical methods has evidence showing that it is more effective than pharmacotherapies (like nicotine patches).
Furthermore, the meta-analysis points out that people should try nicotine replacement, medication and behaviour counselling BEFORE using these alternative therapies.
Aversive smoking is where the smoker crams so many cancer-sticks down his or her throat that they form a negative association with the habit (they smoke so much it makes them sick). This is a risky method and is unpopular for obvious reasons. Don’t try this without consulting with your doctor, nicotine overdose can be fatal.
Both hypnotherapy and acupuncture are psychological methods of trying to control your behaviour. Yes, acupuncture is psychological because it has no physical effect on your body, apart from causing a localised reaction to being poked with a needle. They might be more effective than not doing anything, but they are less effective than the front-line treatments mentioned above, like any placebo.
What I hope you take from this is the fact that people who have a vested interest in natural, alternative medicines are not necessarily going to give you all the information upfront, and if you aren’t prepared to do some digging you are not going to get the full story from a biased source. Always question what you are told.
I am a biased source because I want you to quit smoking, but I have no interest in taking money out of your pocket to help you do so.
As an aside, the best anecdote I ever heard about someone who quit smoking was on the (superb) Radiolab podcast, by WNYC. Her name is Zelda and she smoked for thirty years. Smoking defined who she was. She smoked while she was pregnant.
Eventually, after 30 years of smoking and a few run-ins with her best friend (Mary), Zelda made a pronouncement – that she would give $5000 to the KKK if she ever smoked a cigarette again.
She never did. Because her disgust at the idea of giving so much money to such a filthy organisation burned hotter than her desire to smoke.