Should You Try Laser Treatment to Quit Smoking?

The idea behind laser treatment to quit smoking is basically the same as acupuncture, but instead of using needles, it uses lasers to accomplish the same goal.  The purpose of both acupuncture and laser treatment is to stimulate specific places in the body to to correct energy 'imbalances' which are said to cause disease or pain.  (Some laser treatment practitioners refer specifically to the release of endorphins.)  Like acupuncture, the primary way that laser treatment is supposed to help people quit smoking is  by reducing withdrawal symptoms, thereby making it easier to quit successfully.

You'll find that laser treatment folks tend to talk in more 'scientific' terms, mentioning endorphins, etc., while many acupuncturists will use more traditional language, describing 'energy imbalances,' but make no mistake, the underlying mechanism is the same for laser treatment and acupuncture. 

Effectiveness

Unfortunately, there is truly no evidence that laser treatment to quit smoking has any real effect.  There are very few clinical trials conducted using laser therapy to quit smoking, and the few that have been done show no effect. 

In fact, last year a consumer watchdog group accused several companies of fraud and petitioned the FDA to stop them from promoting laser therapy to quit smoking.  The FDA has not approved lasers to be marketed for smoking cessation, because there is no evidence that they are effective. 

Quit Smoking Laser vs. Acupuncture

The primary difference between the laser and acupuncture is the method of stimulation.  Acupuncture uses thin needles which are inserted under the skin and sometimes twisted slightly.  The laser uses a "cold" laser beam to target the same energy points on the body.  Most people who receive acupuncture report that the insertion of the needles is not especially painful, so the experience of the two types of treatment are quit similar.

In terms of effectiveness, neither 'real' acupuncture nor laser acupuncture have been shown to be effective at helping people to quit smoking.  Both, however, have evidence of effectiveness at relieving minor pain, so their claims to help alleviate nicotine withdrawal symptoms may be accurate (although there is no direct evidence of this from clinical trials).

Pros and Cons

What are the pros and cons of laser treatment to quit smoking?

 Pros

  • It may help alleviate minor symptoms of nicotine withdrawal, such as headaches. 

  • At this point there don't appear to be any negative effects of laser therapy, except to your pocketbook...

Cons

  • Like several of the smoking cessation techniques or products available, the giant "con" associated with laser therapy to quit smoking is that there is no evidence that it works.

  • It's also relatively expensive, ranging up to $350 for treatment.

My Recommendations

Clearly, I can't recommend laser therapy as an effective treatment to quit smoking.  My recommendation is to put your time, money, and energy into a comprehensive program that includes products and techniques with evidence that they work:  a good behavioral program to deal with the psychological dependence, possibly combined with one of the two FDA-approved prescription drugs, NRT, an herbal formulation, and/or a structured nicotine fading technique to help eliminate the nicotine addiction and alleviate withdrawal symptoms. 



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Hypnosis & Psychology

Unlike patches and gum, hypnosis may begin to address some of the underlying psychological issues around smoking, especially if you can find a good hypnotherapist or recorded program.

 

However, you can still improve your chances of success by using techniques to deal explicitly and consciously with the psychological dependence.

 

For more information about psychological issues related to smoking, and advice on how to deal with them, sign up for the Quit Smoking Tips below.

 

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