Many people turn to acupuncture when they want to quit smoking. This is because acupuncture can be a gentle and effective way to reduce cravings, detoxify the lungs, and stabilize one’s emotions as they are quitting. Is it a magic bullet? Usually not. The patient has to be ready to quit. They have to be willing to shift to the identity of being a non-smoker. This often means giving up activities/rituals that promoted the smoking habit, such as going out to bars, drinking the morning cup of coffee, or looking forward to the smoke break at the office. Sometimes it is also important to step back from others who continue to smoke.
Acupuncture has enjoyed a long history of helping people with a variety of addictive behaviors. To this end, people have turned to acupuncture for alcoholism, drug abuse, food cravings, and even other addictions such as gambling, sex, or shopping. Acupuncture works by balancing the flow of Qi in the body and mind. In acupuncture theory, addictions are due to a number of potential imbalances in the way that energy flows through the body. In particular, people who exhibit highly addictive behavior tend to have problems in their heart Qi, which is due to a history of emotional or sexual abuse or a betrayal of trust. As their core emotional response to life is based on a sense that life isn’t safe, they turn to external solutions to provide a sense of comfort and security.
Every addiction offers something up front that it eventually takes away down the road. In the case of cigarettes, the smoker is filled with an immediate sense of fire and fullness that often compensates for inner feelings of chronic dissatisfaction and emptiness. After a period of time, the smoker cannot access an innate feeling of being OK without smoking. So, there is more to nicotene than the physical craving. Many smokers are trying to fill a void in their lives through cigarettes that has rather deep psychological and/or spiritual undertones.
On a biochemical level, addictions to substances such as cigarettes create an imbalance in the way that serotonin and dopamine is regulated in the brain. The addict needs a constant fix of the substance in order to keep a relative balance in their neurotransmitter levels. When the substance is removed, then serotonin levels plummet which causes irritability, fatigue, anxiety, or depression. Acupuncture has been clinically shown to regulate these vital brain chemicals without causing unwanted side effects.
Most patients who quit smoking come in 2 times per week for 3 weeks and take Chinese herbs throughout the process. Included here are a list of my favorite herbal formulas and supplements to help one through the withdrawal period:
- Bupleurum D: A formula by Golden Flower based on the classic formula bupleurum and dragon bone. This combination of herbs is well suited to helping people through a variety of addictions. It is a first line of defense for smoking. It soothes irritability, reduces cravings, and stabilizes the emotions.
- Crave Arrest: A combination of nutraceuticals by Designs For Health that has been shown to help up to 50% of people who have used it to quit smoking.
- 5HTP: Keeps serotonin levels balanced which helps with mood, cravings, and general well being.
- Calm Spirit: A formula by Health Concerns that helps with excessive anxiety, stress, and emotional disturbance.
Along with acupuncture, herbs, and supplements I also recommend a technique called EFT which stands for Emotional Freedom Techniques. This is considered to be an emotional form of acupuncture that involves tapping on specific acupuncture points while repeating specific phrases to oneself. This technique breaks the neural patterning that perpetuates addictions. It can be a miracle for people who have struggled to quit smoking. It is easy to learn and can be useful in a variety of ways.
Meditation can also be a profound resource for people trying to quit. Mindfulness exercises help with developing space around the cravings and observing them in a neutral state of awareness. This helps to take a lot of the momentum out of the energy of addiction. It gives one a deep inner resource to draw upon when difficulties arise.