Alternative Medicines And Methods To Quit Smoking
Alternative Medicines And Methods To Quit Smoking
Linda Hyder Ferry (Associate Professor, Preventive Medicine and Family Medicine, Loma Linda University School of Medicine) gives expert video advice on: How can alternative medicine help me to quit smoking?; What alternative medicines and methods can help me stop smoking?; How can acupuncture help me to stop smoking? and more...
How can alternative medicine help me to quit smoking?
Seven out of ten smokers in the United States say, "If someone would just tell me how to quit, I would do it. Every way I've tried hasn't really been very effective." We have lots of people stepping in to try and provide effective therapies. Alternative therapies try and decrease either the sensations you have in withdrawal, or to replace a chemical similar to nicotine, or to create an alternative thing to do with your hands.
What alternative medicines and methods can help me stop smoking?
Nicotine chemistry in the brain is the real reason that people have stimulus and then withdrawal. None of the alternative therapies change that, only nicotine replacement therapy actually does that. Alternative therapies such as acupuncture change by stimulating through skin receptors sensations in your brain, hopefully to divert you from paying attention to withdrawal, but it doesn't change the chemistry. Hypnosis, similarly, changes the way you perceive input, but not everyone is able to be hypnotized. So herbal treatments, hypnosis, and acupuncture or acupressure are all alternative therapies that someone can look at if they're helpful to them. Just remember the cost of those therapies shouldn't be used instead of using effective, proven therapies such as pharmacy therapies approved by the Food and Drug Administration that we know have effectiveness in large populations of smokers. So make sure you talk it over with your coach, your stop smoking instructor or health care provider as to which is best for you.
How can acupuncture help me to stop smoking?
Acupuncture as a technique stimulates area's in the skin with the use of either pressure, acupressure, or needles, that are in area's that trigger sensations in the brain. Acupuncture is very effective in some people, for example, when they have dental work, they don't feel the pain. There are also some people who have chronic pain syndromes who, when they have acupuncture, their brain feeling the sensation of the stimulation from the needles no longer sense the sensation coming from the chronic pain area. If someone no longer feels the pain of nicotine withdrawal, then acupressure can help someone minimize those symptoms along with good counselling and behavioral therapy. The clinical trials have not shown it to be effective in everyone and it's not something recommended by the public health service as a treatment that everyone should try.
How can hypnotherapy help me to stop smoking?
Hypnotherapy has been tried for decades as a means to help people stop smoking. Remember, not everyone is able to be hypnotized. Some people are fairly resistant to that just innately. But for those who can be hypnotized, it creates a suggestion when you're in the altered state that cigarettes either don't taste good or that you don't want them. If you're one of those people for whom hypnosis works, you can use that as an process to other means such as behavioral counselling, changing the environment, working on your habits, and working on your attitudes. That's really where hypnosis helps, working on the attitudes you have about reaching for a cigarette or thinking that a cigarette is going to be pleasurable. For those people who are quite suggestible, those techniques of hypnosis can really help them change the way they think about cigarette smoking.
What is homeopathy?
Homeopathy is the science of taking a herb or a drug, and using it in very small doses increasing it to create an effect without having adverse events. So the idea of homeopathy is that you can take a drug in a very diluted state and get an effect that can be beneficial to someone. Whereas, if you use it in a much higher dose, it would have side effects that wouldn't be tolerable. So some people have used small amounts of chemical that are similar to nicotine, for example lobeline is one of those, and use it in smaller amounts trying to wipe out the affect in the brain to nicotine by using a chemical similar to that. So, homeopathy is the science of studying the effects of drugs in the human physiology in very small amounts given frequently over time.
How can homeopathy help me to stop smoking?
There are many companies and clinics offering herbal treatments, or homeopathy, to stop smoking. Sometimes that's often combined even with nutritional supplements. Of course we know that people who've smoked for a long time, for many years and many decades, have some nutritional deficits from their cigarette smoking, largely because the metabolism and detoxification of all of the chemicals that goes into the body taxes the liver and other systems. So I would encourage someone to eat well, talk to a nutritionist, and talk to someone who really understands how to take a good assessment of their own health. In order to use homeopathy to quit smoking, you would want to look carefully at what was being offered and whether you were also getting good behavioural counselling, having an opportunity to use medications, if they were appropriate for you, or you felt that nicotine replacement, bupropion and varenicline, or something that would contraindicate it for some reason. And I would speak with someone who was really very skilled in good behavioural therapy, because homeopathy by itself has never been studied to be proven as effective in helping people stop smoking, without the adjuncts around it that we know have to change in order to help someone break up the strength and the power of this addiction on the human brain.
How can herbal remedies help me to stop smoking?
There are probably three, four, five prominent medications that are derived from herbal products, meaning plant products, that are used to help people stop smoking. Each of those products suggests that what's happening is it either helps to eliminate nicotine more rapidly from your system or it replaces nicotine with a chemical that's similar to that to help you feel calm. If you look at which product, which chemical herb, is actually in each one, sometimes you'll find that there's a little bit of nicotine in these products too, so I would encourage you to be a wise consumer. Read the label, ask questions about how it's supposed to be working, and remember that the problem with nicotine treatment is that you've got a brain chemistry problem, when nicotine levels drop your brain goes into withdrawal. Ask, "How are these products supposed to help me with withdrawal symptoms?"
What are the risks of herbal or homeopathic remedies?
Herbal or homeopathic medications are not controlled by the Food and Drug Administration. So therefore their manufacture is not controlled or standardized. Some products that you can buy in a pharmacy, even though it's in a pharmacy doesn't mean that it's been tested and approved so that it has the same strength. Even from batch to batch or bottle to bottle you may get very differing concentrations of herbal products because over-the-counter products do not have that kind of quality control. And between companies, again, there is not a standardization. So some people may be sensitive to a medication that, when used from one company, has no effects, you switch to another company or another brand, and the dose is quite different and you might have significant effects from that. Many people think, “oh, herbal products are safe,” well, guess what, nicotine is an herbal product that comes from a plant called nicotiana tabacum. It's an herb! It's a natural plant. So just because something is called herbal does not mean it's not safe. Some herbal products, when taken in too large a quantity, also have side effects, just as pharmacologic agents. So a drug is anything when taken into the body has a change in physiology. Herbal products are still drugs and still need to be looked at carefully if you have side effects in which you question. Make sure you talk to your health care provider about those.