Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Quitting with Acupuncture, Hypnosis and Aversive Smoking

A new study by investigators at McGill University in Montreal found that there is clinical trial evidence for acupuncture, hypnosis and aversive smoking as aids to quitting.  The lead author was Dr. Mehdi Tahiri, and the study was published in the American Journal of Medicine (abstract here). 

Tahiri and colleagues examined evidence from 6 clinical trials of acupuncture.  They found that the procedure increased the odds of quitting (Odds ratio, OR = 3.5, 95% confidence interval 1.03 – 12.0), compared with the control (a sham procedure). 

The researchers found four clinical trials of hypnosis, which also had a positive effect on quitting.  However, the increase was not statistically significant (OR = 4.6, CI = 0.98 – 21).

Aversive smoking may be unfamiliar to many readers.  It involves taking a drawing on a cigarette every 6 seconds for 3 minutes, until the person smokes three cigarettes, or until the person is unable to smoke.  After a short rest, this is repeated two or three times.  Tahiri found four trials during the period 1973 to 1983.  It produced higher quit rates (OR = 4.3, CI = 1.3 – 14.4).    

Tahiri and colleagues conclude: “Acupuncture and hypnotherapy are used by a large number of smokers as alternative smoking cessation aids. Our results suggest that these alternative aids may help smokers quit.  Thus, we recommend that physicians promote the use of acupuncture and hypnotherapy. Aversive smoking also may help people quit, but because the studies investigating this intervention were old, we believe that new studies are needed to recommend this intervention to physicians.”

There are some other things that smokers need to know.  First, all of the ORs mentioned earlier are compared to control groups, who have abysmal rates of quitting.  So a three-fold increase in a tiny number is still tiny.  This is especially important because, as Tahiri writes, “These alternative aids are costly, with the total price of each therapy ranging from $400 to $1000.” 

Smokers need to spend their money wisely, which requires searching for legitimate practitioners with well-established track records in providing these services.  For smokers who are committed to abstinence, acupuncture, hypnosis and aversive smoking may be options.

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