Acupuncture may not help smokers kick the habit
NEW YORK, Jan 07 (Reuters Health) -- Smokers planning to ''kick the habit'' should not depend on acupuncture for help, according to a report published in the journal Tobacco Control.
``Acupuncture is like a placebo, it's better than doing nothing, (but) it's not a specific effective treatment,'' said lead author Dr. Adrian R. White, a general practitioner and acupuncturist from the University of Exeter, UK.
White and his colleagues reviewed 14 studies involving one of two acupuncture techniques: inserting needles in the ear or face for 10 to 20 minutes; or inserting needles into the ear and leaving them there for 1 to 2 weeks.
The studies were of poor quality, but even the best studies did not find that either technique was more effective than a sham acupuncture in helping to stop smoking, White and colleagues report. In addition, many of the study authors failed to confirm that the subjects had indeed quit smoking.
``The subjects weren't measured for carbon monoxide to test whether they've stopped smoking or not,'' said White in an interview with Reuters Health. The studies also were small and were not particularly well conducted, White told Reuters Health.
``If further research into acupuncture for smoking cessation is conducted, this should be to a much higher standard of quality than previously,'' the investigators write.
Some studies have shown that acupuncture may influence the release of opioids -- substances produced by the body that numb pain. However, White's team notes, opioids ``may be relevant to withdrawal from opiate drugs, (but) their role in nicotine withdrawal is much less certain.''
``The conclusion from the study is that patients are welcome to carry on using acupuncture. It works by expectation of the patient, expectation of the practitioner (as well as) other factors like... the physical distraction of actually placing the needles in the body,'' said White. However, there may be more effective methods to quit smoking, he said.
``If people are thinking of proper evidence of treatment to help them, they need to consider nicotine replacement therapy first -- (such as) nicotine-releasing patches or chewing gum,'' he suggested. SOURCE: Tobacco Control 1999;8:393-397.