A lot of smokers find it so difficult to quit smoking. They are hooked on nicotine, a substance that’s three times more addictive than cocaine or heroin. Most probably, these people have tried all sorts of ways to quit: counseling, nicotine patches, and gum, etc. All have failed.
In this article, we will delve into one clinically effective technique that has helped a lot of ex-smokers overcome their nicotine addiction withdrawal. This technique stems from tens of hundreds of years of Chinese Acupuncture, and over a half century of European medical innovation, research, and practice. This therapy is known as Auricular Acupuncture and it may just be the answer smokers are looking for.
What is Auricular Acupuncture?
Auricular acupuncture (Also known as Auriculomedicine, auricular therapy, or ear acupuncture) is a procedure that originated in France. It is a form of treatment that uses basic Western medical science (mainly based on neurology/neurophysiology) and theories of classical acupuncture.
The process itself involves either the application of filiform, single use sterile needles into the skin of the auricle or the outer ear. As an alternative to needles, low level laser may also be used for stimulation. In general, the acupuncturist uses a series of acupuncture points (usually two to five), and often combine them with predetermined points in the body (also to be stimulated by laser or needle). The process is 100 percent pain-free leaving the patient extremely comfortable and relaxed.
How Does Auricular Acupuncture?
Several theories abound as to how acupuncture works. But the potency of auricular acupuncture is well known and has been thoroughly researched. When the outer ear is stimulated, either with laser or needle, the body releases euphoria-inducing chemicals known as endorphins.
The endorphins are produced and released by the pituitary gland and some areas of the CNS or central nervous system. There is evidence that Auricular Acupuncture influences the CSF or cerebrospinal fluid and blood serum levels of endorphins.
When a person is addicted to nicotine (through smoking tobacco) he tends to experience high endorphin levels. So, how does Auricular Acupuncture, which also stimulates the release of endorphins, work?
A couple of reasons, one is when a person decides to quit smoking. The endorphins inside his CNS will decrease naturally and will need to be maintained. Two, the amount of endorphins in his body doesn’t increase with Auricular Acupuncture therapy; it simply regulates the rate of release. Because of these, patients who have quit and require assistance with their withdrawal can be helped, and patients that need assistance in putting down the cigarette and resisting the urge to smoke can also be helped.
The benefits related to Auricular Acupuncture therapy (a sense of relaxation and calmness) occurs when endorphins are released and the stimulation creates an analgesic or painkilling effect. This effect happens from the activity generated through reflex stimulation inside the prefrontal and somatosensory cortex, thalamus, hypothalamus and periaqueductal gray. This causes the symptoms of withdrawal (physical cravings, stress, restlessness, and anxiety) to be successfully treated.
What Occurs During an Auricular Acupuncture Treatment?
First, the patient needs to be sure that the physician or acupuncturist is qualified and has experience in Auricular Acupuncture therapy (he has undergone specialized training in Auricular Acupuncture and not just in traditional Acupuncture). A majority of people who are trained in this technique have undergone their training in clinics, in the US and Europe. In Australia, there are just a few practitioners who are able to use this method properly and effectively.
Treatment often involves a thorough evaluation of the patient’s health status via a number of diagnostic methods. One specific form of assessment that acupuncturists often use is the inspecting of laterality dysfunction. The term laterality refers to the harmonious state of interaction between the brain’s two cerebral hemispheres. The hemisphere that is dominant (which is the right side for a left-handed person and the left side for a right handed person) needs to be first established so that a correct acupuncture point selection can be made. Laterality dysfunctions may occur from any emotional or physical trauma that the patient has experienced in his past – it can happen at any time.
Signs of laterality dysfunction may include productivity difficulties (such as confusion in co-ordination and concentration problems), behavioral problems (stress, anxiety, depression), and learning disorders (dyslexia, ADHD, ADD, etc.). Clinical studies have discovered that people addicted to nicotine or any other substances are trying to balance or “re-lateralize” themselves. There has been clinical evidence to support the claims that Auricular Acupuncture is the fastest and best way to cure such problems.
One should know that Laterality Dysfunction is the reason a lot of acupuncture treatments are not as effective as they should be. In reality, this issue can be seen as an obstruction to treatment, and hence needs to be diagnosed and addressed first. To determine the points on the outer ear that are the most “active,” the acupuncturist may either use a polarized or filter object combined with a pulse procedure (known as VAS or Vascular Autonomic Signal) to ascertain which of the acupoints on the outer ear are the most “active.” This needs to be done because the auricle literally has hundreds of acupoints and acupuncturists are merely “stabbing in the dark” when they don’t utilize this method. Unfortunately, laser therapies that are protocol based are like this and hence do not often completely help the patient.
The acupuncturist needs to explain to the patient the procedure he or she needs to go through and the duration of the treatment. Typically, the number of treatment sessions the patient needs is around two to six. From time to time, to ensure patients are still on track, a “booster” or follow-up treatment is advised.
The cooperation of the patient is very important and we usually recommend the patient to not smoke a few hours before the initial treatment. This is because most of them tend to become anxious just before the procedure and may need to light a cigarette to calm their nerves. After the procedure, we advice patients not to attend social gatherings or any stressful situations in which they would normally tend to smoke.
For those wishing to quit smoking, Auricular Acupuncture is an extremely effective form of treatment. The myths surrounding acupuncture about being uncomfortable and painful do not apply to this procedure. Patients who have tried it have discovered a deeper sense of relaxation that usually bolsters their confidence and makes them more determined to quit.