Some consider smoking the most difficult addiction to overcome, and French researchers believe that certain smokers could benefit from brain stimulation to help them quit. Some think smoking to be the most difficult addiction to overcome, and French researchers believe that certain smokers could benefit from brain stimulation to help them quit.
According to a new study review from researchers at the University Hospital of Dijon, smokers who received noninvasive brain stimulation (using low-intensity electric or magnetic impulses) were twice as likely to go without cigarettes for three to six months who received sham brain stimulation. Their research combined information from seven previously published trials, including approximately 700 participants.
As per US News, Dr. Panagis Galiatsatos, a volunteer medical spokesman for the American Lung Association and director of the Tobacco Treatment Clinic at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, said, “This paper recognizes that the most primitive parts of the brain are where the addiction of tobacco dependence comes from.” He was not a participant in the research.
Noninvasive brain stimulation has recently sparked a lot of interest, with research looking into using it to treat everything from pain and depression to substance abuse and cigarette addiction. However, as a lead researcher, Dr. Benjamin Petit and colleagues pointed out in the April 25 edition of addiction, little is known regarding the longevity of benefits for smokers after they quit.
“The results appear to be robust, and we feel confident in proposing that noninvasive brain stimulation is a therapy of interest for both short-term and sustained smoking cessation,” Petit said, despite the study’s “small” size.
Several other investigations are in the works, according to Petit. “Noninvasive brain stimulation may be acknowledged as a viable new alternative for supporting those who want to quit smoking in the near future,” he said in a journal news release.
Smokers now have a variety of options for quitting smoking, including nicotine patches, psychotherapy, hypnosis, and addiction medications. None of them are always permanent solutions.
“Nicotine, especially when introduced at a young age, rewires the brain to have these conditional responses,” Galiatsatos explained. He stated that this is why quitting nicotine addiction is so difficult.
Unlike drinking or using drugs, smoking may be done practically anyplace, according to Galiatsatos. “It’s the hardest addiction to overcome because it’s always a reminder in people’s daily lives,” he said.
Transcranial direct current stimulation and transcranial magnetic stimulation are two prevalent types of noninvasive brain stimulation. Both were covered in this review.
Using electrodes on the patient’s head, transcranial direct current stimulation distributes a low-intensity direct current across the brain. The activity of the brain is affected by this modest current.
A metal coil is placed on the patient’s head during transcranial magnetic stimulation. According to the authors, the coil generates magnetic pulses that cause electric currents to flow through brain tissue. The activity in the targeted area is raised or lowered depending on the frequency of the pulses.
Noninvasive brain stimulation is not for everyone, according to Galiatsatos.
“It has some merits for the most refractory instances,” he said, “especially if they’re coupled with a really strong need to stop.” “I’m thinking of my patient, who just had his third heart attack and is a two-pack-a-day smoker who can’t seem to quit.”
But, before approving this treatment, Galiatsatos wants to know how long the benefits continue and how many patients relapse after receiving it.
“In my clinic, the majority of patients are provoked by an emotional disturbance that they’ve learned to manage with thanks to nicotine’s [anti-anxiety] properties,” he added. “So what I’m wondering is, what is the relapse rate? Patients relapse for a variety of reasons. Is it just a matter of undoing the stimulation once they’ve done it?”
Smoking, according to Galiatsatos, should be treated as any other sickness or addiction. He claims that it’s not a matter of willpower or desire but rather of learning to live with cravings and handle the daily impulse to light up.
“A lot of things have to line up in their lives for patients to feel like they can do it,” Galiatsatos added. “Patients relapse because no one taught them how to handle their desires effectively during times when cigarettes are their stress response.”
Nicotine replacement therapy and behavioral counseling can help people learn what triggers their cravings and how to cope, according to Galiatsatos.
“Pharmacotherapy can assist in blocking those urges, but the behavioral adjustment is vital — awareness is the key,” he continued.