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Smoking cessation health centre

Acupuncture to stop smoking

Some people choose the ancient Chinese therapy of acupuncture to help them stop smoking cigarettes, but does it work?

What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a form of ancient Chinese therapy based on a belief that meridians, or channels throughout the body, transport an energy known as the 'life force'. Acupuncture practitioners, or acupuncturists, believe the meridians can become blocked. By using needles to stimulate certain points along the meridians, a practitioner can restore the flow of energy through the meridians and correct imbalances.

Does scientific evidence indicate that acupuncture can help someone stop smoking?

In people who want to stop smoking, acupuncture is used to help reduce nicotine withdrawal symptoms. In a 2011 review, researchers examined data from 33 trails on acupuncture used to help people stop smoking. They concluded that there is not enough bias-free evidence to support the use of acupuncture to stop smoking, but they also stated in their review that lack of evidence means that they could not reach a firm conclusion. The authors suggested that acupuncture shouldn't be dismissed completely, stating that it is a better choice than doing nothing at all. Acupuncture might have a psychological placebo effect, leading to the person experiencing fewer withdrawal symptoms.

Is acupuncture available on the NHS to help stop smoking?

Although the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has recommended acupuncture as a form of treatment for some types of headache, it does not recommend acupuncture for help to stop smoking. If you want to try acupuncture to stop smoking, you'll have to pay for it privately.

However, evidence-based treatment that combines support and advice as well as medication is available for free on the NHS.

Who should avoid acupuncture?

People who should not have acupuncture include:

  • People who have a heart valve problem
  • People with broken, inflamed, or infected skin, or lymphoedema because of an increased risk of infection
  • Unstable diabetes or unstable epilepsy

Women who are pregnant should always let their acupuncturist know they are pregnant.

WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on November 02, 2017

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