Education, Acupuncture Help Smokers Kick the Habit
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - While acupuncture and education alone can help people to quit smoking, combining the two strategies works even better, according to a report in the October issue of the American Journal of Public Health.
Acupuncture has been used to help people addicted to a variety of substances, from tobacco to heroin. There is some evidence that the ancient Chinese healing technique can help smokers quit, but previous research has been variable in quality.
To further investigate acupuncture's effect, Dr. Ian D. Bier of I. B. Scientific in Durham, New Hampshire and colleagues evaluated acupuncture, sham acupuncture and education in 141 smokers. I. B. Scientific is a company that conducts natural medicine research.
In sham acupuncture, needles are inserted near, but not at, traditional acupuncture points.
Study participants were assigned to receive either acupuncture and education, sham acupuncture and education, or education alone. They received five treatments a week for four weeks and five weeks of education.
The education program was designed to develop individual strategies to help subjects cope with their addiction, break their smoking habit and continue to steer clear of cigarettes.
All groups showed significant reductions in smoking and cigarette use after treatment. The greatest effect was seen in people given both acupuncture and education. Forty percent of patients in that group stopping smoking compared with 22% of patients receiving sham acupuncture and education and 10% of those receiving acupuncture alone.
Bier noted that the results of acupuncture and education were comparable to those seen with antidepressant drugs and behavioral support. Although during 18-months of follow-up the trend continued, the difference between the groups did not persist, the researchers found.
The study also found that combined acupuncture and education was particularly effective for study participants who smoked the most for the longest time.
"Therefore, although logic may dictate that the people who smoke the least would be easier to help, this study showed that the most addicted people show the largest effect with this treatment protocol," Bier said.