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Acupuncture For Quitting Smoking

What can acupuncture do to assist in quitting smoking?

The goal of acupuncture to help quit smoking is to support patients through the acute phase of withdrawal, improving your success at kicking the nicotine habit. Commonly, acupuncture patients experience a decrease in cravings, changes in sensory perception as the taste and smell of cigarettes becomes intolerable, and an increased state of calm and relaxation even after just one treatment.

If you have ever attempted to quit, you know there are multiple withdrawal symptoms that one can experience, including: insomnia, fatigue, feeling jittering, cough, tightness in the chest, dry mouth, constipation, irritability, depression, anxiousness and lack of concentration. Acupuncture can help lessen these symptoms, allowing you to more easily kick the nicotine habit.

What happens at your first treatment?

At you first session we will go over a general health history to better understand your overall constitution. We will also go into detail about you cigarette use and obstacles you may have in the past when trying to quit. No need to lie, there is no judgement here! Once you are laying comfortably on the table, specific acupuncture points will be selected on the body to help with your overall constitution and most importantly auricular acupuncture will be done on the outside of the ears. This five point ear protocol is called NADA.

What the heck is NADA?

NADA stands for National Acupuncture Detoxification Association. This is a non-profit organization that was established to support the uptake of the ear acupuncture protocol that now bears its name.

The protocol itself was created back in the 1970s, by a psychiatrist named Michael Smith, at Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx section of New York City. Smith, alongside other physicians and community activists, modified an ear protocol used in China for pain relief and opiate withdrawal to develop the NADA protocol.

The NADA model of care originally was designed to aid the detox process for heroin and methadone addicts. But over the past three decades, the five-point protocol has been adapted for use in a variety of community health settings. In addition to aiding addiction recovery, the NADA protocol is used to support smoking cessation, weight loss, and generalized stress and anxiety. Psychiatric programs use the NADA protocol to help people who are coming off medications.

Why those five points?

The NADA protocol—also sometimes referred to as the “acu detox” protocol—consists of five acupuncture points in each ear: Shen Men, Sympathetic, Kidney, Liver and Lung.

The Shen Men and Sympathetic points calm the recipient. The Kidney point addresses fear. Liver detoxifies and unblocks stuck energy, be it emotional or physical. Finally, the Lung point helps people let go.

Here is one recent study:


Effect of acupuncture on smoking cessation or reduction: an 8-month and 5-year follow-up study.


This study was undertaken to examine whether acupuncture treatment may have a long-term effect on smoking cessation or reduction.


Altogether 46 healthy men and women who reported smoking 20 +/- 6 cigarettes per day (mean +/- SD) volunteered in the study. They were randomly assigned to a test group (TG) or to a control group (CG) in which presumed anti-smoking acupoints were stimulated (TG) or acupuncture was applied to acupoints considered to have no effect on smoking cessation (CG). Before each treatment, after the last one, and 8 months and 5 years after the last one, each subject answered questionnaires about his or her smoking habits and attitudes. Blood samples for measuring variables related to smoking, i.e., serum cotinine and serum thiocyanate, were taken.


During the treatment period the reported cigarette consumption fell on average by 14 (TG) and 7 (CG) cigarettes per day (P < 0.001). For both groups the reported cigarette consumption rose on average by 5-7 cigarettes during the following 8 months, and there was no systematic change thereafter. Consequently, TG showed a maintained reduction in smoking; no lasting effect was seen for CG. The TG reported that cigarettes tasted worse than before the treatments, and also the desire to smoke fell. For TG the serum concentration of cotinine fell, and the values correlated with the reported smoking.


This study confirms that adequate acupuncture treatment may help motivated smokers to reduce their smoking, or even quit smoking completely, and the effect may last for at least 5 years. Acupuncture may affect the subjects' smoking by reducing their taste of tobacco and their desire to smoke. Different acupoints have different effects on smoking cessation.

Copyright 2001 American Health Foundation and Academic Press.

For more info on this study please see:

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