Close X
Get more out of
by joining the site for free
Free 17-point plan to great health
Twice weekly e-news bulletins
Access to our News, Forums and Blogs
Sign up for free and claim your
17-point plan to great health
Free 17-point plan to great health

Twice weekly e-news bulletins

Access to our News, Forums and Blogs

If you want to read our in-depth research articles or
have our amazing magazine delivered to your home
each month, then you have to pay.

Click here if you're interested
Helping you make better health choices

What Doctors Don't Tell You

In shops now or delivered to your home from only £3.50 an issue!

December 2019 (Vol. 4 Issue 10)

Stopping smoking

About the author: 

Stopping smoking image

There are drugs available on prescription to help you give up smoking, but many come with side-effects

There are drugs available on prescription to help you give up smoking, but many come with side-effects.

Bupropion (Zyban), for instance, is an antidepressant that works for some 20 per cent of smokers. But the risks include insomnia, dry mouth and seizures. If overdosed, it can cause heart problems (Expert Opin Drug Saf, 2002; 1: 303-5).

The new drug varenicline (Champix) reportedly has fewer side-effects than bupropion, but patients may still experience nausea, headache, abnormal dreams, insomnia, constipation and abdominal pain (CNS Drugs, 2006; 20: 945-60).

Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is also available on prescription as a skin patch, nasal spray, inhaler, tablet or chewing gum. NRT counteracts nicotine withdrawal by supplying nicotine in a less harmful way than smoking. The long-term success rate is about 20 per cent, compared with 10 per cent among those who try to quit without NRT.

But those who have conditions such as heart disease, over-active thyroid, diabetes, severe kidney or liver disease, or stomach ulcers may find that NRT worsens the condition. Moreover, in pregnant women, NRT may have the same negative effects on the growing fetus as smoking has (NICE Technology Appraisal Guidance 38, March 2002).

NRT can also cause mild skin irritation, including the tissues of the mouth and nose (BMJ, 2000; 321: 355-8).

Happily, there are many alternatives with good evidence of success.


This form of traditional Chinese medicine is widely used as a drug-free way to quit smoking. As one study reports, it can reduce the desire to smoke as well as the negative psychological symptoms associated with quitting (Int J Neurosci, 2007; 117: 571-8). In one Norwegian antismoking trial, 31 per cent of the participants given acupuncture treatment had quit smoking completely by the end of the study, compared with none of those given sham acupuncture (Prev Med, 1997; 26: 208-14).

A number of other researchers have found that acupuncture is effective for smokers who have failed to quit by other methods (J Tradit Chin Med, 1994; 14: 56-63). The evidence suggests that acupuncture success is similar to that reported with nicotine gum and behavioural therapy, all of which are complementary treatments (J Tradit Chin Med, 1994; 14: 56-63).

Electroacupuncture using ear acupoints can also help stop-ping smoking, with a 41 per cent one-year success rate (Forsch Komplementarmed Klass Naturheilkd, 2004; 11: 8-13).

Diet and lifestyle

Smoking cessation often leads to weight gain, which can bea barrier against giving up for good (Ann Ig, 2007; 19: 73-81).

However, a moderate increase in physical activity after quit-ting can minimize weight gain (Am J Public Health, 1996; 86: 999-1004). One study found that adding exercise to behavioural counselling to stop smoking significantly improved rates of abstinence (Arch Intern Med, 1999; 159: 1229-34).

Calorie restriction through dieting, on the other hand, can increase the risk of relapse (Am J Public Health, 1992; 82: 799-803). But, in one US study, a high-carbohydrate diet combined with tryptophan supplementation (50 mg/2.2 lb body weight/day) lessened withdrawal symptoms and helped study participants to smoke fewer cigarettes (J Behav Med, 1991; 14: 97-110).


The well-known herbal alternative to antidepressants, StJohn's wort, is believed to raise levels of the brain chemical dopamine, which fall when smokers quit, resulting in cravings and depression. In one trial, 38 per cent of patients taking 450-mg capsules of standardized St John's wort twice a day successfully quit smoking after 12 weeks. Moreover, none ofthe quitters put on weight, a common side-effect of smoking cessation (Complement Ther Med, 2006; 14: 175-84).

Rhodiola rosea may also have antidepressant effects, which could ease the negative feelings associated with quitting smoking (Altern Med Rev, 2001; 6: 293-302).

There is also evidence suggesting that lobeline, derived from Lobelia inflata, also known as Indian tobacco, and an alcoholic extract of common oats (Avena sativa) may be useful for treating smoking addiction (Biochem Pharmacol, 2002; 63: 89-98; Nature, 1971; 233: 496). Other herbs that may help include alfalfa, eucalyptus, gotu kola, liquorice, passionflower, and skullcap, although none of these has been evaluated scientifically.


Having the support of a counsellor or joining a support group will increase the chances of success. The quit rate is about the same as with NRT, but without the side-effects. Individual counselling is the most effective form of behavioural support (BMJ, 2000; 321: 355-8) and combining it with NRT, if appropriate, appears to offer the best long-term chances of success (BMJ, 2004; 328: 397-9).

Joanna Evans

Kicking the habit

- Self-massage (of the hand or ear) can alleviate cravings, anxiety and depression and, after one month, reduced the number of cigarettes smoked per day (Prev Med, 1999; 28: 28-32).

- Guided imagery and mindfulness meditation can reduce stress and help people to succeed in stopping smoking (J Nurs Scholarsh, 2005; 37: 245-50; BMC Comple-ment Altern Med, 2007; 7: 2).

- Glucose (dextrose) tablets keep blood sugar from dropping, as low levels can trigger cravings (CNS Drugs, 2001; 15: 261-5).

Insomnia and Depression image

Insomnia and Depression

Antipsychotics image


You may also be interested in...

Support WDDTY

Help support us to hold the drugs companies, governments and the medical establishment accountable for what they do.


Latest Tweet


Since 1989, WDDTY has provided thousands of resources on how to beat asthma, arthritis, depression and many other chronic conditions..

Start by looking in our fully searchable database, active and friendly community forums and the latest health news.

Positive SSL Wildcard

Facebook Twitter

© 2010 - 2019 WDDTY Publishing Ltd.
All Rights Reserved