Low Level Laser for smoking cessation has been in use since the 1970’s in the UK and Canada and has recently seen an explosion of clinics in the US, South America, Australia, South Africa, Middle and Far East. Treatment traditionally employs use of non invasive, non thermal laser to stimulate acupuncture points, total treatment time around 15 minutes for a maximum of 4 treatments over 14 days. The patients experience a reduction in withdrawal symptoms and while counselling is encouraged as part of the clinical procedure and for best results, research has still shown significant results in double blind studies with application of the laser alone. There is no lingering nicotine addiction and are no side effects.
The mechanism underlying the effects of laser therapy is continuing to be explored but amongst the cellular and systemic effects observed, research has shown effects on endogenous production of endorphins. This was independent of acupuncture point stimulation, which has itself demonstrated such increases in endorphin release. Whether laser acupuncture is effective for smoking cessation because of the acupuncture effects alone or owing in part to specific independent factors has not been established.
Despite many successful clinics producing a useful volume of clinical data, the published evidence from controlled clinical trials to support the efficacy of the treatment has until now been limited.
However, Dr. Catherine Kerr and Paul Lowe of the Middlesex University have recently published a controlled, double blind study using an adult sample group of smokers who have stated an intention to give up. This demonstrates an immediate stop smoking rate of 79% with no ongoing nicotine use and at 6 months a minimum of 55% of the original treatment group were still not smoking – this with no ongoing nicotine or substitute usage. These results compare favourably with NRT and other substitute therapies. Indeed the research and clinical data available on the efficacy of laser therapy has been based upon total cessation at 3, 6 and 12 months, not always available for other forms of therapy once the treatment has ceased.