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Ear therapy can cure smoking addiction

Electronic acup­uncture proving successful for some in kicking the habit

SAN ANTONIO - According to the American Cancer Society, 70 percent of smokers want to quit, but fear of failure keeps them from following through.

For the 45-million Americans addicted to smoking, there is good reason why it is so hard to kick the habit. "Cigarettes have what are called monomineoxidase inhibitors," says Dr. Sameet Kumar, a psychologist who treats addiction, "and they boost levels of all the neurotransmitters so it can be harder to quit cigarettes than a drug like cocaine or heroin or methamphetamine even."

Because cigarettes are addictive on multiple levels, experts say slapping on a patch, or chewing some gum, may not be enough to kick the habit.

Along with nicotine replacement, health experts recommend supportive counseling, relaxation techniques like yoga and meditation, and the oral medications Zyban and Chantix. "What they're doing is working on the reward centers activating dopamine in small doses," says Kumar, "which is usually enough to get by managing small cravings."

One therapy showing promise is auriculotherapy, which stimulates nerve centers in the brain without the use of drugs.

"Auriculotherapy, as I use it, is designed to stimulate your brain to produce it's own chemicals, " says Dr. Maritza Paz. "Those chemicals that are missing when you're depressed or anxious."

In the procedure, a hand held device delivers micro-currents to points on the ear which Paz says helps generate "feel good" chemicals in the brain.

"When you're in a better place,  you can handle the craving when it comes, " she says, "you can talk yourself through it."

For Ron Everdij, auriculotherapy succeeded when all else had failed, helping him quit a 30-year habit in 2009. "I haven't touched a cigarette since," he says. "It's amazing because I though for sure 'give me a week and I'm going to smoke again.'" 

Ron is now addicted to healthier pursuits, and spending time with his son.  He says it's likely that quitting smoking may have added 10 years to his life.

Experts say the benefits of quitting start 20 minutes after your last cigarette, with a measurable reduction in blood pressure and heart rate.


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