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Acupuncture and related interventions for smoking cessation

  • Review
  • Intervention

Authors


Abstract

Background

Acupuncture and related techniques are promoted as a treatment for smoking cessation in the belief that they may reduce nicotine withdrawal symptoms.

Objectives

The objectives of this review are to determine the effectiveness of acupuncture and the related interventions of acupressure, laser therapy and electrostimulation, in smoking cessation in comparison with no intervention, sham treatment, or other interventions.

Search strategy

We searched the Cochrane Tobacco Addiction Group specialized register, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), MEDLINE, EMBASE, BIOSIS Previews, PsycINFO, Science and Social Sciences Citation Index, AMED and CISCOM. Date of last search January 2005.

Selection criteria

Randomized trials comparing a form of acupuncture, acupressure, laser therapy or electrostimulation with either no intervention, sham treatment or another intervention for smoking cessation.

Data collection and analysis

We extracted data in duplicate on the type of smokers recruited, the nature of the acupuncture and control procedures, the outcome measures, method of randomization, and completeness of follow up.

We assessed abstinence from smoking at the earliest time-point (before six weeks), and at the last measurement point between six months and one year. We used the most rigorous definition of abstinence for each trial, and biochemically validated rates if available. Those lost to follow up were counted as continuing smokers. Where appropriate, we performed meta-analysis using a fixed-effect model.

Main results

We identified 24 reports of studies. The only comparison for which there were sufficient studies to combine meaningfully was acupuncture compared with sham acupuncture. The fixed-effect odds ratio (OR) for the short-term effect was 1.36 (95% confidence interval 1.07 to 1.72), but the studies are heterogeneous and the result is strongly influenced by one individual positive study. The significant short-term effect was lost with the random-effects model for pooling, or by removing the outlying study that led to heterogeneity. The long-term result shows no effect of acupuncture compared with sham acupuncture. There was no consistent evidence that acupuncture is superior to no treatment, and no evidence that the effect of acupuncture was different from that of other anti-smoking interventions, or that any particular acupuncture technique is superior to other techniques.

Authors' conclusions

There is no consistent evidence that acupuncture, acupressure, laser therapy or electrostimulation are effective for smoking cessation, but methodological problems mean that no firm conclusions can be drawn. Further research using frequent or continuous stimulation is justified.

Plain language summary

Acupuncture and related therapies do not appear to help smokers who are trying to quit.

Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese therapy, generally using needles to stimulate particular points in the body. Acupuncture is used with the aim of reducing the withdrawal symptoms people experience when they try to quit smoking. Related therapies include acupressure, laser therapy and electrical stimulation. The review looked at trials comparing active acupuncture with sham acupuncture (using needles at other places in the body not thought to be useful) or other control conditions. The review did not find consistent evidence that active acupuncture or related techniques increased the number of people who could successfully quit smoking. However, acupuncture may be better than doing nothing, at least in the short term; and there is not enough evidence to dismiss the possibility that acupuncture might have an effect greater than placebo.

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