Have you tried unconventional approaches to stop smoking?
Each year, millions of people vow to finally kick the cigarette
habit, only to watch their optimistic expectations go up in smoke. But if
they've tried and failed with conventional smoking cessation approaches --
whether it's the use of nicotine gum, counseling, or behavior modification --
they often look outside the mainstream, motivated by the hope that alternative
medicine might finally deliver them from a life cluttered with cigarette packs
and tarnished by nicotine-stained teeth.
But both smokers and health-care professionals agree that the
challenge of quitting remains formidable.
Want to quit smoking? Great!
Within hours of stopping cigarettes, your body starts to recover from the effects of nicotine and additives. Blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature -- all of which are elevated because of the nicotine in cigarettes -- return to healthier levels. Your lung capacity increases and the bronchial tubes relax, making breathing easier. Poisonous carbon monoxide in your blood decreases, allowing the blood to carry more oxygen.
For many reasons, quitting smoking is...
"When it comes to smoking cessation, there's no magic
bullet -- I think everyone agrees with that," says Thomas Kiresuk, PhD, a
clinical psychologist at the Minneapolis Medical Research Foundation and former
director of the Center for Addiction and Alternative Medicine Research in
Minneapolis, Minn. And while many alternative approaches are available --
ranging from acupuncture to guided imagery to self-hypnosis -- they're
certainly no panacea, and for every smoker they help, they may leave another
one frustrated and feeling a slow burn at the end of the day while they light
up their next cigarette.
True, some people swear by the acupuncture needles stuck in
their bodies or the nicotine-averse images implanted in their minds, crediting
these unconventional techniques with thoughts of conquering their nicotine
cravings for good. But when you examine all of the scientific research, the
success stories are interspersed with the disappointments. "There's really
nothing out there that has set itself apart as a winner in the treatment of
smoking cessation," says Kiresuk, a professor in the department of
psychiatry at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.
A Powerful Addiction
More than 50 million Americans smoke, and nearly 7 million more
use smokeless tobacco. The numbers are even higher in other parts of the globe,
with worldwide statistics showing that one out of three men and women over the
age of 18 are smokers.
Without doubt, smoking remains a risky business. In the U.S.
alone, tobacco kills more than 440,000 people each year, according to the
Yet most experts concur that no matter how strong your will for
kicking the habit, there are some powerful, addictive forces plotting against
you. Certainly, no single smoking-cessation technique works for everyone, and
the failure rate can be discouraging, with most people quitting at least three
times in the past before finally finding a way to stop for good.
"There's nothing more difficult than quitting smoking,"
says David Bresler, PhD, clinical professor of anesthesiology at the David
Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and president of the Academy of Guided
Imagery in Malibu, Calif. "No one smokes because it feels good and because
they enjoy the feeling of hot toxic gases moving down their throat," he
says. "These people are addicts -- they're addicted to nicotine."