Acupuncture has long been considered as one of the main methods to help people quit smoking. Not scientifically validated but approved by many smokers and some specialists, opinions differ about this alternative medicine technique. Zoom on the effectiveness of acupuncture in helping to quit smoking.
Acupuncture (or auriculotherapy) is a traditional Chinese technique of inserting fine needles into specific points in tissues or organs. It is an alternative or “non-conventional” medicine. Acupuncturists believe that the needles reduce the urge to smoke by activating energy networks.
1- What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a branch of Chinese medicine that consists of stimulating certain points on the body in order to re-establish the circulation of energy (the famous Qi) with the help of needles placed on the different energy meridians. These needles are used to harmonize the Yin and Yang and their insertion is usually painless.
2- A technique approved by many smokers
Acupuncture is one of the alternative medicine techniques to help with smoking cessation. In fact, many people who have quit smoking have attributed the success of their cessation to acupuncture. As early as 1999, of the 321 consultations for help in quitting smoking listed in France by a survey of the French Office of Smoking, 47 were using acupuncture1. After nicotine substitutes, offered at the time by 287 centers, this method was the main support technique.
3- A method not scientifically validated
Although acupuncture is a widely practiced therapeutic approach in France, and there are recognized training courses for medical professionals, its effectiveness in smoking cessation has not yet been scientifically validated, unlike other solutions such as nicotine substitutes, varenicline, bupropion or cognitive and behavioral therapies.
Researchers from the Cochrane Collaboration analyzed 22 studies published around the world on the use of acupuncture for smoking cessation.2 The result: the positive effect of acupuncture for smoking cessation was not demonstrated. Indeed, six months after the start of treatment, most of those treated had relapsed and there was no difference from those not treated.
A more recent review by the Cochrane Collection compared 38 studies on the same topic and came to a similar conclusion:3 “Although the combined estimates suggest possible short-term effects, However, due to lack of evidence and methodological problems, no definitive conclusions can be drawn.”7
4- Acupuncture, a mostly complementary treatment
Its effectiveness has not been proven and it is not recommended as a first-line treatment. It can be helpful when combined with nicotine substitutes, medication, CBT… It has no contraindications.
Even if the experts of the Ministry of Health consider that acupuncture has not proven its effectiveness in smoking cessation and that the effects obtained are not different from those of a placebo, many former smokers are convinced that this method has brought them valuable help. This is why it is accepted that acupuncture can be used, provided that the smoker believes in it and that he/she also benefits from psychological support and the accompaniment of a doctor.
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