Sunday, October 26, 2014

Does Acupuncture Work? (Part 2)

(continued from part 1)

Early last summer I began a series of acupuncture treatments to help myself quit smoking. My on-again off-again addiction to tobacco since I was 17 has been one of the most frustrating things to give up, and when Hitchens died of esophageal cancer back in 2011 after decades of having been a heavy smoker, the idea that I should really quit became more pungent. I know that smoking can degrade the quality of life, especially in the latter years, as well as cut years off of it and can cost tens of thousands of dollars over a lifetime. So when I heard that acupuncture can cure this addition, and that my insurance covered the treatment 100% I thought, why not give it a try.

After about 3 dozen sessions what has the result been? Did it cure me of my addition to tobacco? Did it get rid of the desire?

Even though I'm a skeptic, I admit that I wanted acupuncture to work really badly. But after several months of treatment, I can't say that it has cured me of my smoking addition. I definitely smoke less now than I did before I started the treatment, but I don't know if that was due to my psychological desire to quit or whether the acupuncture actually did anything. It is really hard to tell. Maybe the acupuncture just provided me a false sense of security, but I don't know.

Throughout the treatment I was continually asked by the therapists what my smoking level was. This made me feel like I had to report that I was smoking less because I wanted to make them think that it was working. But this also had the effect of making me smoke far less than I normally smoked. I eventually began having days when I didn't smoke any cigarettes at all, which I didn't have before the treatment.

This has lead me to think that at least as far as its effect on smoking addiction, acupuncture is all psychological. That doesn't necessarily make it a bad thing. I think the whole addiction to smoking itself is psychological and to quit requires a strong psychological method of resistance, whatever that may be. Maybe when it comes to addiction, acupuncture is useful only as a tool that can help facilitate one's own psychological resistance. I cannot comment on its effects on any other kinds of treatment, like chronic pains from injuries and so forth. And I cannot say that acupuncture does not work for smoking at all. Even modern medicine doesn't work for everybody. I can only say that in my specific case, it did not "cure" me, but it helped me smoke less.

So take this as a personal anecdote on acupuncture, not a refutation that it has no ability to do anything.

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