Smoking addictions can be difficult to break, but new technologies and interventions can provide hope for smoking cessation. Deep transcranial magnetic stimulation (deep TMS) is a fast and effective method to help you quit smoking once and for all, even if you’ve tried other interventions that didn’t work for you.
The Challenge of Smoking Addiction
Like other forms of addiction, a smoking addiction can create lasting brain changes that make it difficult for people to quit smoking on their own. Nicotine, the addictive chemical contained in tobacco products, latches onto receptors in the brain known as nicotinic receptors, which creates the stimulating effect that you experience when you smoke.
When you smoke or use other nicotine products regularly, your brain creates more of these nicotinic receptors to catch the excess nicotine flowing into your brain. But when you suddenly stop smoking, you can experience the well-known effects of nicotine withdrawal, which include symptoms such as:
- Nicotine cravings
The same type of effect happens at dopamine receptors. Nicotine causes a sudden spike in dopamine. Over time, your brain will create more dopamine receptors to catch the excess dopamine. This is another factor in nicotine withdrawal and is why it can be so hard to quit on your own.
These withdrawal symptoms can drive people back to smoking, even if they’ve committed themselves to trying to quit. It’s not a matter of choice — you cannot simply think these symptoms away, and they often get worse before they get better.
In addition to excess nicotine receptors, two other regions of the brain are affected by smoking. The prefrontal cortex and bilateral insula are both heavily impacted in people with a smoking addiction, further complicating their ability to quit smoking on their own.
How Other Interventions Treat Smoking Addiction
There are, of course, several treatments and interventions designed to help people quit smoking. These interventions do work, but not everybody succeeds in their plans to quit smoking with traditional treatments.
Talk therapy is a common method of teaching people how to quit smoking permanently. While there are multiple forms of psychotherapy that use different techniques to help people quit smoking, they typically focus on teaching people to recognize their cravings and seek out other behaviours that can aid in smoking cessation.
For instance, in cognitive behavioural therapy, the focus is on identifying how certain thoughts can influence your mood and behaviours. You may think to yourself, “I’m feeling stressed. I need a cigarette to calm down.”
A cognitive behavioural therapist would encourage their clients to identify these thoughts as contrary to their stated goals and to challenge them with a different thought that is more in line with their goal of quitting.
While this can help people learn different methods to avoid picking up a cigarette, it can be an incredibly difficult process to break through nicotine withdrawals and leave substance use for good.
Medications for Smoking Cessation
A few different medications can aid in the process of quitting smoking. Two evidence-based medications are frequently used for smoking cessation: bupropion and varenicline.
Bupropion is a medication that works by blocking the reuptake of norepinephrine and dopamine. Since nicotine increases the supply of dopamine within the brain, taking bupropion is a way to mimic this effect with less risk to your physical health than smoking a cigarette or cigar.
Varenicline, on the other hand, works directly at the nicotinic receptors. When you take this medication, your nicotinic receptors become blocked, which can both relieve many of the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal and inhibit the feeling of a nicotine boost if you smoke while on this medication.
While both medications are effective for some people, they come with a wide range of negative side effects.
Another approach to helping people quit smoking is to replace the nicotine that you get from tobacco products with a less harmful form of nicotine. Multiple different types of nicotine replacement therapies exist, including:
- Nicotine gum
- Nicotine lozenges
- Nicotine patches
- Electronic cigarettes
All of these products still contain the addictive chemical contained within cigarettes but have significantly reduced risk to your health. Taking the nicotine replacement approach encourages people to get their nicotine fix without smoking.
Nicotine replacement is an effective approach to quitting smoking for many people, but it still exposes you to the addictive chemical that leads to cravings and withdrawal. People who take this approach can become just as reliant on these nicotine replacement options as they were on cigarettes. They may have a hard time lowering their nicotine dose.
Deep TMS for Smoking Cessation
Deep TMS takes a unique approach to helping people put down their smoking addiction once and for all. It is a completely non-invasive treatment intervention, doesn’t require you to take any medications with significant side effects, and doesn’t expose you to any more nicotine.
Instead, deep TMS directly stimulates regions of the brain that have been impacted by smoking addiction. Using electromagnetic impulses, deep TMS stimulates both the bilateral insula and prefrontal cortex. It treats smoking addiction at its very source, helping people overcome their addictions once and for all.
How Deep TMS Works
The first step to beginning Deep TMS is meeting with a specialised care team trained in delivering this innovative new procedure. These professionals use advanced technologies to map your brain, identifying the specific areas for the electromagnetic impulses to target.
They will also explain the full procedure to you, letting you learn more about this technology and any side effects you may experience.
When you begin deep TMS treatment itself, your team will attach a specialised helmet containing several powerful magnets. These magnets send electromagnetic impulses directly to the regions of your brain that are most impacted by a smoking addiction — causing them to become stimulated and more active.
Each deep TMS treatment lasts between 60 and 90 minutes. You may feel a tingling or tapping sensation during treatment. Many people begin to feel relief from the urge to smoke again straight away. However, it is recommended that people undergo several treatments in order to ensure they have a chance to benefit from it.
Deep TMS for smoking addiction is an evidence-based method for helping people overcome nicotine use disorder. While it doesn’t necessarily work for everyone, it can help you along the road to putting down your addiction once and for all. It can even be used in conjunction with behavioural therapy or other interventions to create more substantial results.
The Neuroscience of Deep TMS
The idea of using electrical impulses to treat smoking addiction may seem surprising at first. But deep TMS is truly an example of putting the scientific principles of neuroscience to work. Transcranial magnetic stimulation can help people overcome all manner of mental health challenges.
At the most basic level, your brain functions via electrical signals sent between brain cells. These signals are how different cells in your brain communicate with each other and are responsible for nearly every action, mood, or thought that you experience.
Deep TMS is an approximation of these signals. It specifically targets regions in the brain that are underactive when a person is living with a smoking addiction.
Furthermore, Deep TMS can truly produce lasting results. Although the treatments only last for an hour to an hour and a half, increased electrical activity solidifies structures between different brain cells.
As the common saying in neuroscience goes, “What fires together, wires together.” In practice, this means that your deep TMS sessions result in increasing activity in the brain which has been inhibited as a result of smoking addiction. These changes can last a lifetime.
How Effective Is Deep TMS for Smoking Addiction?
Despite the incredible nature of this technology, deep TMS is not a cure for smoking addiction outright. It can, however, vastly improve the likelihood that you are able to quit entirely and has been shown to reduce the number of cigarettes smoked per day for those who aren’t able to stop smoking altogether.
In a randomised, double-blind, controlled study, deep TMS helped 28% of treatment completers stop smoking entirely for a period of 4 weeks. In comparison, the control group stopped smoking at a rate of just 12%.
Those who weren’t able to quit but still completed treatment smoked 128 cigarettes per week at baseline and only 32 cigarettes per week at a 6-week follow-up.
These changes are dramatic and can work for you as well. Deep TMS is typically well tolerated, has few side effects, and can be a valuable tool in the pursuit of smoking cessation.
Deep TMS Treatment in London
If you’re looking for a place to start deep TMS treatment in London, reach out to APN by calling 0203 984 7699 or filling out our confidential online form. Our team can help walk you through the process and get started with treatment straight away.
- “Smoking Addiction Treatment with Deep TMS.” BrainsWay, 11 Jan. 2023, www.brainsway.com/treatments/smoking-addiction/.