Stop Smoking with Laser Therapy
While most people know that smoking puts their health at risk, addiction to nicotine can make it extremely difficult to kick the habit. In the past decade smoking cessation treatments like nicotine replacement therapy and incentive programs have grown more prevalent. Frustration with failed attempts to quit has led many smokers to seek other ways to treat tobacco dependence, such as acupuncture, hypnosis, and aromatherapy.
When used to help a smoker quit the habit, laser therapy uses techniques similar to those of acupuncture. Although clinical trials on laser therapy for smoking cessation have been inconclusive, many patients who have undergone the treatments say it can effectively help a person quit smoking.
What is Laser Therapy?
Laser therapy, also called cold laser therapy, involves the application of low-intensity lasers to specific areas of the body to stimulate endorphins. These endorphins help relax the patient and potentially relieve pain or symptoms of nicotine withdrawal. Laser therapy is a non-invasive alternative to needle acupuncture and is said to excite acupoints in much the same way. Proponents of laser therapy say it reduces stress, increases energy and promotes healing.
Laser therapy professionals maintain that certain acupoints correlate with addiction. These points are located on the face, hands and ears. When acupuncture or laser therapy is performed on the ears, it is sometimes called auricular therapy. Under this system of thought, the ear is a localized reflex system with points connected to different parts of the body by the central nervous system. A practitioner uses an auricular map to determine where to stimulate the ears to achieve the desired effect.
Laser therapy is most commonly used to treat chronic or acute pain, especially pain that occurs with conditions such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, carpal tunnel and migraines. It should be noted that the use of laser therapy for smoking cessation has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and treatments are only permissible in clinical trial research.
What Happens at a Laser Therapy Treatment Session?
Although laser therapy treatments may vary, the following methods apply to most laser therapy facilities. At a typical session, a practitioner applies a low-intensity or cold laser directly to the skin at certain points of the body. In therapy sessions for conditions like chronic pain, lasers are applied directly to the affected area. In sessions for smoking cessation, the points are chosen based on methods similar to acupuncture. These points can be on the face, ears or body and are associated with the nervous system. Points are chosen based on their connection with addictive behavior.
The application of lasers on the skin emits photons--or the carriers of electromagnetic energy in light--directly into body tissue at the cellular level. These photons are absorbed into cells, where physiological changes can occur. The goal is to relax the patient, restore a peaceful balance and relieve some of the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal.
Laser therapy is non-invasive and pain-free. A person undergoing laser therapy might feel a tingling or slight burning sensation on the skin, but practitioners say this is normal. The low intensity lasers used in laser therapy do not produce thermal energy and cannot burn the skin.
Is Laser Therapy Safe?
While many providers of this treatment say their patients have seen results in as little as one 30-minute session, the FDA has not approved laser therapy for treatment of tobacco dependence unless used as part of a clinical trial. In fact, the FDA warned companies that provide laser therapy that marketing citing results of their clinical trials is illegal. The trials were deemed unscientific by the American Lung Association, as participants were recruited through advertisements, follow-up was minimal and actual success rates were not recorded. Patients pay for treatment—some sessions as high as $350 for 30 minutes—as this therapy is not covered by insurance.
No available scientific evidence supports the claims that laser therapy is an effective method of treating nicotine addiction. In fact, scientific studies show that the effectiveness is disputable, with results comparable in some studies to the results of a placebo. Comparable scientific studies, including a meta-analysis of 24 studies, also found that acupuncture for smoking cessation, which uses strategies similar to laser therapy, had no long-term effect on nicotine addiction and a patient’s ability to kick the habit.
Notwithstanding, an advantage of all alternative practices is the additional support they can offer a patient who has tried pharmacological or allopathic methods and is looking for complementary treatment. Further research should be performed on this topic, as there is still much debate and discussion about the effectiveness of alternative medicine applications for the treatment of nicotine dependence.
The American Cancer Society Website offers and article on Cold Laser Therapy.
The National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine offers a page on Energy Medicine.