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Nicotine is one of the most addictive drugs known. When you combine this chemical with the flavor of tobacco smoke and the oral satisfaction of a cigarette, you get an addiction that is very difficult to break.
Conventional treatment for smoking addiction focuses primarily on methods to separate nicotine addiction from the other habit-forming features of cigarettes. These include the nicotine patch and the nicotine inhaler. In addition, the drugs varencicline and bupropion (Zyban) have shown benefit.
Proposed Natural Treatments
There are no proven natural aids for treating cigarette addiction.
Acupuncture, especially in the form of ear acupuncture (auriculopuncture) is widely used as a treatment for cigarette addiction. However, a 1999 analysis of 12 placebo-controlled trials did not find acupuncture more effective than sham-acupuncture for smoking cessation.10 A subsequent, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 330 adolescent smokers, conducted in 2000, also found no benefit.11
Another analysis of 12 trials, done in 2011, found that subjects who received real acupuncture had more success in quitting smoking over the short-term compared to those in the sham group.19 However, over the long-term, there was no difference between the groups. From other studies in the same analysis, researchers also found no evidence that acupuncture was more effective, over the short- or long-term, than nicotine replacement therapy (eg, gum or patch) or psychological interventions.
A review of 6 randomized controlled trials with 823 patients found acupuncture was over 3 times more effective than sham acupuncture for smoking cessation. The patients were only followed for an average of 6-12 months, highlighting that acupuncture is more successful in the short-term.20
On a more positive note, one study found that while acupuncture may not be effective for treating cigarette addiction on its own, it might (in some unknown manner) increase the effectiveness of smoking cessation education.12 In this placebo-controlled study of 141 adults, acupuncture plus education was twice as effective as sham acupuncture plus education, and four times as effective as acupuncture alone. Nonetheless, these benefits were only seen in the short-term; at long-term follow-up, acupuncture's advantage disappeared.
The herb lobelia has been widely promoted for stopping smoking. The origin of this idea appears to be a misconception that has been passed along for some years: that a constituent of lobelia—lobeline—closely resembles the drug nicotine. In fact, lobeline and nicotine are not biochemically similar, and they are not believed to have generally similar actions in the nervous system.1 Nonetheless, intriguing research suggests that lobeline might have some unusual effects on the nervous system that could make it helpful for treating addiction, especially to amphetamines.1-4 However, keep in mind that it is a long way from theoretical findings of this type to practical usage.
The substance cysticine is a toxic compound found in the seeds of Laburnum anagyroides and related plants. Weak evidence, mostly from Eastern Europe, hints that careful use of this substance might aid smoking cessation.16
While hypnotherapy benefits some smokers, it does not appear to be superior to other methods for quitting. In a review of 9 studies, researchers found no consistent evidence that hypnotherapy was better than 14 other interventions for nicotine addiction.17 A more recent randomized trial found that, when combined with a nicotine patch, hypnotherapy was no better than cognitive-behavioral therapy.18
A review of 4 randomized trials with 273 patients found hypnotherapy was over 4 times more effective compared to a control in treating cigarette addiction. The patients, however, were only followed for an average of 6-12 months, indicating that hynotherapy may produce short-term results.20
Smoking is believed to cause increased need for a variety of nutrients, including beta-carotene, folate, vitamin B12, vitamin C, and vitamin E.13 For this reason, people who smoke might benefit by taking a supplement that provides these nutrients at a little more than standard nutritional doses. (For more information, see the Nutrition for Cigarette Smokers article.) However, there is no reason to think that use of these supplements will help you quit smoking.
Consumption of almonds has also shown potential for slightly reducing some of the harmful effects of cigarette smoking.15
References[ + ]
1. Dwoskin LP, Crooks PA. A novel mechanism of action and potential use for lobeline as a treatment for psychostimulant abuse. Biochem Pharmacol. 2002;63:89-98.
2. Teng L, Crooks PA, Dwoskin LP. Lobeline displaces [3H]dihydrotetrabenazine binding and releases [3H]dopamine from rat striatal synaptic vesicles: comparison with d-amphetamine. J Neurochem. 1998;71:258-265.
3. Miller DK, Crooks PA, Teng L, et al. Lobeline inhibits the neurochemical and behavioral effects of amphetamine. J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2001;296:1023-1034.
4. Harrod SB, Dwoskin LP, Crooks PA, et al. Lobeline attenuates d-methamphetamine self-administration in rats. J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2001;298:172-179.
5. Connor J, Connor T, Marshall PB, et al. The pharmacology of Avena sativa.J Pharm Pharmacol. 1975;27:92-98.
6. Gabrynowicz JW. Letter: Treatment of nicotine addiction with Avena sativa.Med J Aust. 1974;2:306-307.
7. Schmidt K, Geckeler K. Pharmacotherapy with avena sativa—a double blind study. Int J Clin Pharmacol Biopharm. 1976;14:214-216.
8. Anand CL. Effect of Avena sativa on cigarette smoking [letter]. Nature. 1971;233:496.
9. Bye C, Fowle ASE, Letly E, et al. Lack of effect of Avena sativa on cigarette smoking. Nature. 1974; 252: 580-581.
10. White A, Resch KL, Ernst E. A meta-analysis of acupuncture techniques for smoking cessation. Tob Control. 1999;8:393-397.
11. Yiming C, Changxin Z, Ung WS, et al. Laser acupuncture for adolescent smokers—A randomized double-blind controlled trial. Am J Chin Med. 2000;28:443-449.
12. Bier ID, Wilson J, Studt P, et al. Auricular acupuncture, education, and smoking cessation: a randomized, sham-controlled trial. Am J Public Health. 2002;92:1642-1647.
13. van den Berg H, van der Gaag M, Hendriks H. Influence of lifestyle on vitamin bioavailability. Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 2002;72:53-59.
14. Zhdanova IV, Piotrovskaya VR. Melatonin treatment attenuates symptoms of acute nicotine withdrawal in humans. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2001;67:131-135.
15. Jia X, Li N, Zhang W, et al. A pilot study on the effects of almond consumption on DNA damage and oxidative stress in smokers. Nutr Cancer. 2006;54:179-183.
16. Etter JF. Cytisine for Smoking Cessation. Arch Intern Med. 2006;166:1553-1559.
17. Abbot NC, Stead LF, White AR. Hypnotherapy for smoking cessation. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2000;(2):CD001008.
18. Carmody TP, Duncan C, Simon JA, et al. Hypnosis for smoking cessation: A randomized trial. Nicotine Tob Res. 2008;10:811-818.
19. Whites A, Rampes H, Liu J, Stead L, Campell J. Acupuncture and related interventions for smoking cessation. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011;(1):CD000009.
20. Tahiri M, Mottillo S, Joseph L, et al. Alternative smoking cessation aids: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Am J Med. 2012 Jun;125(6):576.
Last reviewed December 2015 by EBSCO CAM Review Board
Last Updated: 12/15/2015
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