Let Acupuncture Help You Quit Smoking

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Let Acupuncture Help You Quit Smoking

A recent study showed that acupuncture can help ease the symptoms of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), but why wait until you have such a debilitating disease?  Smoke inhalation is one of the main causes of COPD, and quitting smoking now can save you from this fate.

That is SO easy to say, however, and much, much harder to do.

As a former smoker myself, I know that quitting smoking is a very difficult thing to do.  I started at a young age, and cigarettes were so intertwined with my experience that it was hard to imagine life without them.  I planned my life around them – getting to class a few minutes early so I could smoke before I went in, lighting up again the minute I stepped out.  Cigarettes were my morning wake-up, my stress relief, my post-meal treat, my excuse-for-a-break, my social crutch.

There is a very strong chemical dependence on nicotine and all the other chemicals they put in cigarettes, but the strong psychological attachment that comes with a cigarette addiction can be an even higher obstacle to hurdle.  Overcoming these attachments is by far the hardest part about quitting.

Acupuncture is no magic bullet – it won’t completely take away your physical cravings, and it won’t break your psychological attachments – you have to decide to do that.  When you’ve decided that you’re ready for that road, however, acupuncture is here to help.  In quitting smoking, or quitting any addictive behaviors, acupuncture acts like a cane or a pair of crutches that can support you while you heal and learn to walk again.

One way that acupuncture supports your quitting process is by releasing endorphins.  Endorphins act like morphine, attaching to pain-relieving opioid receptors in the body.  The difference here is that, instead of an addictive, external pain relief source like morphine, acupuncture releases your own body’s pain relief mechanism.  This rush of endorphins can help you break the physical dependance on nicotine, as well as taking the place of the psychological stress-relief of smoking a cigarette.

Many acupuncture approaches will help with addiction, but the most well-known is the NADA protocol.  The NADA protocol consists of 5 needles placed in specific areas of the ear. The points used in the NADA protocol help to calm the spirit and relax the fight-or-flight stress response.  They also targets the organ systems most effected by smoking: the Lung, Liver, and Kidneys.   Cigarettes act as a smoker’s go-to stress relief strategy.  Besides releasing endorphins to help with the cravings, acupuncture can help break the psychological addiction of “I need a cigarette to help me get through this stressful moment”

Take some acupuncture with you – Now you may be thinking, I can’t get acupuncture all day long, I have to work, take care of the kids, etc.  Well what if I told you that you could take the acupuncture with you?  Ear seeds are acupuncture’s take-out service and they are an essential part of helping you break your addiction.  Small seeds or metal balls are stuck on pieces of tape or band-aid type adhesive and placed on points on the ear.  You can push on those ear seeds whenever you need to, stimulating the points and helping you relax.  Doing that also gives you something else to do with your hands.

Get acupuncture frequently – The first few weeks of quitting are the hardest, and getting acupuncture 2-3 times a week during that time can really help you get through it more easily.  Sound like an expensive prospect?  It doesn’t have to be!   Many places around the country now have community acupuncture clinics that charge a sliding scale fee between $15-45 per visit.   Three visits a week at $15 is only $45.  You could spend much more than that on a carton of cigarettes.  Also, if you live near an acupuncture college, there are often free or reduced cost services like an ear acupuncture clinic that will suit your needs just fine.

Even if you can only make it once a week, you will still reap the benefits.  If there’s a certain time of day that you tend to have more cravings (after work, after dinner, first thing in the morning) try to make your acupuncture appointments for those times.  And remember to ask for ear seeds on the way out!

Chinese Herbal medicine can help you get back on track as well.  After you break the addiction, your body may go through a whole range of healing and detoxification processes.  Smoking creates a lot of heat and phlegm in the body and it dries the Yin.  Herbs can help clear the heat and phlegm, and put your internal balance back on track.

Quitting smoking now could save your lungs, and save you from getting COPD or lung cancer.  It will also save you a lot of money, and improve your quality of life.  When you’re ready to take that leap, acupuncture is here to catch you.

[Photo credit: Matt Trostle]
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