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    Alternatives for Giving Up Cigarettes

    Have you tried unconventional approaches to stop smoking?

    Poking Holes in Smoking

    Acupuncture, the ancient Chinese technique, has been used for thousands of years for a variety of ills -- and these days, for some people who have recently gotten the point, it has helped them rise above the cigarette haze for good. In a study at the University of Oslo in Norway, published in the journal Preventive Medicine in 2002, participants who had smoked for an average of 23 years were given acupuncture treatments, with needles inserted at points believed to influence organs associated with smoking (such as the lungs, airways and mouth). Over a five-year period, these participants smoked less and had a decreased desire to smoke, compared with a control group.

    "In a clinical setting, you'll meet many people who say they quit smoking by using acupuncture, and they swear by it," says Kiresuk. But taken together, the available clinical studies have not provided persuasive evidence of acupuncture's benefits, with much of research raising doubts about the alternative technique's ability to help kick the habit, he says.

    Researchers at the University of Exeter in Exeter, England, conducted an analysis that combined data from all of the existing randomized, controlled trials of acupuncture. Their conclusion: Acupuncture was no better than sham acupuncture techniques in helping people become smoke-free.

    Bresler, who has been a practitioner of acupuncture for pain relief and other health problems for more than 30 years, has found that acupuncture can be helpful in managing the physiological nicotine-withdrawal symptoms, probably by stimulating the release of brain chemicals called endorphins. "Acupuncture can help relieve the 'nicotine fits,' the jitters, the cravings, the irritability, and the restlessness that people commonly complain about when they quit," he says.

    A Shot in the Arm

    Meanwhile, the ultimate answer to smoking cessation may come not from an acupuncture needle, but from a different kind of needle - namely, one that administers a nicotine vaccination. A number of vaccines are now being developed, with at least one of them (called NicVAX) now being tested in clinical trials for the prevention and treatment of nicotine addiction.

    NicVAX stimulates the body's own immune system to block nicotine molecules from reaching the brain, and thus interfering with the addictive process, including the triggering of nicotine cravings. Researchers hope that the effects of the shot, which would be administered in a doctor's office, will last for up to a year per shot.

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    Reviewed on January 06, 2005

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