Despite the fact that smoking is an expensive habit that severely diminishes the overall health of the body, lowers quality of life, and will eventually lead to a number of fatal conditions, most smokers find it extremely difficult to quit. It is a testament to the addictive properties of nicotine that most smokers will repeatedly fail to quit.
Smoking is the leading cause of death from cancer, not only in the lungs, but also the cervix, pancreas, stomach, kidneys, bladder, esophagus, larynx, and throat. This addiction also causes COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), chronic bronchitis, emphysema, asthma, heart disease, stroke, aneurysm, and pneumonia.
Additionally, new studies show that second-hand smoke is even more dangerous than previously believed. Smoking near others, even very minimally, causes genetic changes in non-smokers similar to those of full-blown smokers. These genetic changes represent the first stages in the molecular progression toward lung disease.
Most smokers make several unsuccessful quitting attempts before finally kicking the habit. Some smokers manage to quit the very first time (rarely), while others never quit and are eventually killed from smoking-related diseases. It’s not just old people who die from smoking, either—Peter Jennings was 67 when he died from lung cancer and Patrick Swayze was just 57 when he passed away from smoking-related pancreatic cancer.
Acupuncture Can Help
Our Sea Girt chiropractic and physical therapy office has incorporated acupuncture as a drug-free method of effectively reducing pain and alleviating the negative emotions that sometimes occur during the physical rehabilitation process. Acupuncture is also an extremely helpful tool when quitting smoking. The following is a quick snapshot of how acupuncture helps smokers win the battle against addiction:
- Physical Withdrawal: When any drug is introduced to the body, the experience of a ‘high’ is followed by the symptoms of withdrawal. Physical addiction is simply the body’s attempt to avoid experiencing unpleasant withdrawal symptoms; smoking yet another cigarette simply helps the smoker to feel normal again.Those trying to quit may have trouble concentrating or experience digestive problems; headache; sweating; sore throat; weight gain; and sleep disturbances. It’s important not to underestimate the unpleasantness of physical withdrawal—many smokers are unsuccessful simply because they did not anticipate how uncomfortable they might feel.Acupuncture is a method of reducing the severity and duration of physical withdrawal symptoms. All addictions affect the brain’s reward center, or limbic system . The body is flooded with dopamine whenever the limbic system is rewarded with the addictive substance. When this is removed, the brain does not immediately regain the normal ability to produce pleasurable sensations without the use of the addictive substance.Western medical experts theorize that acupuncture’s biochemical effect—the stimulation and release of pain-killing neurotransmitters called endorphins—mimics the ‘high’ experienced by smokers. Thus, acupuncture not only helps with physical symptoms, but also works to alleviate the depression, anxiety, and irritability also common when quitting smoking. Additionally, acupuncture stimulates the vagus nerve (a sensory cranial nerve) in order to raise levels of serotonin for increased relief from depression and/or anxiety.
- Detoxification: In addition to lessening the severity of withdrawal symptoms, acupuncture also shortens the amount of time spent experiencing the unpleasantness of withdrawal. By improving circulation, acupuncture speeds up the detoxification of nicotine, heavy metals, and other unhealthy substances that have built up in the body.
- Personal Responsibility: The reason that nicotine replacement products are often unsuccessful is that smokers place too much of the burden of responsibility on the products themselves. Such products are also not equipped to manage the emotional and psychological aspects of the quitting process. Studies show that the most successful first-time quitters are those who go ‘cold-turkey.’ Acupuncture allows smokers access to the best of both worlds: the benefits of taking personal responsibility by quitting without nicotine replacement products while reducing the physical and emotional symptoms during the process.
Quitting Smoking with Acupuncture: The Chinese Medicine (TCM) Perspective
Chinese medicine views addictions of all kinds (including nicotine addiction) as an imbalance in Yin and Yang—the opposing forces that form the body’s life force, or ‘Qi.’ Substance abuse leads to depleted Yin (water), which allows Yang’s fire to burn out of control. This creates serious disharmony; acupuncture works to bring the body back into a natural state of harmony and balance.