Smoking cessation laser therapy uses a low-level, or cold, laser on acupuncture points to reduce cravings for nicotine, ease withdrawal symptoms, and stimulate the body's ability to detoxify from nicotine, which helps bring an end to withdrawal symptoms. The US Food and Drug Administration considers smoking cessation laser therapy experimental. As of 2010, the FDA does not have data to prove this therapy works, however there are no documented side effects either, and many people report positive results. The FDA continues to allow healthcare providers to offer laser therapy while it collects data to determine effectiveness.
It has been reported that patients who undergo smoking cessation laser therapy stop smoking at rates four to five times greater than smokers using other methods. In this form of therapy, the healthcare provider directs a cold laser beam at different energy points in the body. The energy points targeted for smoking cessation are in the hands, wrists, face, and ears. This procedure encourages the body to release endorphins, natural chemicals that lead to a relaxed, calm state of mind. This may help ease withdrawal symptoms and control craving.
Healthcare providers may offer smoking cessation laser therapy as a single treatment, two treatments, one week apart, or one treatment and a follow-up treatment in six months. Combining laser therapy with other forms of treatment, such as participating in a support group, may improve effectiveness. Smoking cessation laser therapy has the benefit of being a drug free and non-invasive form of treatment.
The appointment for laser therapy lasts from 30 minutes to one hour. The healthcare provider will take a medical history and then perform the therapy. The procedure is painless, and results are immediate. Some patients report feeling euphoric after treatment. To improve odds of quitting smoking, the patient should dispose of all cigarettes, lighters, and other smoking paraphernalia. Scheduling changes, such as refraining from visiting places or people that normally lead to smoking, is also important for the first few days. Reducing caffeine consumption for a few days before the cessation therapy may also improve results.
Cold laser therapy is currently used for repetitive stress and musculoskeletal injuries. It is also used as therapy for alcohol and drug addictions, as well as for weight loss. It is not used in patients with epilepsy, cancer, women who are pregnant, or individuals taking medications that cause photo-sensitivity. The only reported drawback of laser therapy for smoking cessation is that it does not work for everyone.