Header Ads

Moving From E-Cigarettes To E-Currents

Quitting cigarettes is agony. But Anil Budhiraja, a Delhi-based management professional who had been smoking for 30 years, found a way to quell his cravings. The 50-year-old went to a clinic where a pen-like device was held to his ears. An hour later, Budhiraja, who used to go through at least 10 cigarettes a day, says he walked out with no desire to light up ever again.

Budhiraja has not smoked for the last nine months. "I have regained my taste buds, become energetic and more confident." Budhiraja had opted for IQS (I Quit Smoking), the latest smoking-cessation treatment on the block. Developed by Irish organization Quit Smoking International in 2001, IQS involves the use of electro-auriculotherapy, basically ear acupuncture with electric currents instead of needles, to beat the smoking habit.

The therapy triggers the release of beta endorphin or "happy hormones" — usually released during a workout — which mask the urge to smoke, say promoters.

IQS promises to eliminate cigarette cravings altogether and in this era of lunchtime surgeries, the promise of a quick solution — advertisements claim it helps you quit smoking in "just one hour" — has made IQS much sought after in Europe, South Africa and the Middle East, even though no largescale research has been conducted to test its efficacy.

The therapy made its Indian debut last March with the first clinic opening at a plush mall in Delhi's Vasant Kunj area. At least 25 to 30 smokers — most of them are 30 to 50 year-old males in senior corporate positions — enroll every month, says Kunal Sekhri, managing director of the IQSIndia franchise.

Considering India is home to a 110 million smokers, Sekhri foresees a surge in demand over the coming years. "We will open centers in Mumbai, Chandigarh and Vadodara soon."

IQS finds its roots in the traditional practice of auriculotherapy, which is based on the belief that the ear is a micro-system reflecting the brain and that its points are linked to our organs. The US FDA has approved auriculotherapy for smoking cessation. While IQS is not FDA-approved, promoters say the device used to deliver electric charges has been sanctioned for use as a "non-medical wellness product" by the US and UK health departments.

During treatment, a doctor stimulates precise nerve endings on the patient's ear lobes with a patented RISE (Reflection Instrument Scanning Electro-pulse ) device. "We activate 19 points on the left ear lobe and 18 on the right for 30 to 50 seconds each over a 45-minute session," says Dr Shiwani Braskon, who works at the Delhi IQS clinic. The power and frequency of the electric charge varies according to the level of addiction. The client just feels a "mild prick-like sensation".

"When one has been smoking for a long time, certain brain cells are converted into nicotine receptors. The endorphin's mask these receptors and reduce the urge to introduce more nicotine into the body. They also eliminate the usual withdrawal symptoms such as irritability or headaches," explains Braskon.

Normally, when one quits, it takes three to four weeks for the receptors to deactivate. Braskon says IQS makes the process "easier and faster." Though IQS involves the use of electric charges, the franchise says their intensity is too low to have any adverse effects. Clients are warned of only minor side effects including drowsiness, a sensation in the ears, migraines and a slight sense of emptiness in the stomach in the first few weeks.

Independent medical experts, however, are skeptical as there has been no "randomized control trial" to gauge the efficacy of electro-auriculotherapy and its possible side effects. "Even though the current used is very small, it is given quite close to the head and we are not aware of the potential harms it can cause. The physiology and neurology of the process need to be studied," says Dr Surendra Shastri, who heads the de-addiction clinic at Mumbai's Tata Memorial Hospital.

By Neha Bhayana
via TOI.
Powered by Blogger.