Data and The FDA on Laser Therapy to Quit Smoking

A study recently published in the UK finds that laser acupuncture therapy for treating addictions like smoking can produce side effects, which are similar to some of the withdrawal symptoms quitters experience without laser treatment. Although scientific testing of this therapy in the US has not been pursued as much as it has abroad, the FDA has classified the kind of laser used in acupuncture as a “nonsignificant risk” device.  The laser’s most notable side effect is relaxation during the treatment.

Official FDA approval of this therapy may be coming fairly soon. The government has had an approval application from one laser manufacturer for over three years. This company currently provides its lasers to facilities who are conducting clinical trials of laser treatments for smoking cessation. One delay factor may be that the FDA has previous experience only with drugs used for tobacco cessation, not with purely technological therapies.

Of course, laser therapy’s drug-free approach is one of its most important advantages. The risk of  distressing drug-related mental and emotional side effects, like suicidal thoughts and episodes of paranoia, is eliminated. But as with other quitting therapies, the smoker has to be truly ready to stop smoking, or laser treatment will prove ineffective.

In a recent interview, Dr. Martha Daviglus, a specialist in preventative medicine at Northwestern University, emphasized that the patient’s readiness to quit is the prime factor is success or failure.

She stated, “There are hundreds of methods to quit smoking. We can hope that this is going to be a method that is going to help people. We need more research and more evidence in the US at this time, even though European studies have shown benefits.”

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