Smokers help beat addiction with laser therapy

NANAIMO – After 17 years of smoking, Erin Bourcier broke the habit last October.

After 17 years of smoking, Erin Bourcier broke the habit last October.

The 30-year-old had tried to quit a few times over the years, but intense cravings always caused her efforts to go up in smoke – having a glass of wine or a cup of coffee or other activities she normally associated with cigarettes would cause her to relapse.

Bourcier finally found freedom from her habit after trying laser therapy at the Laser Centre for Health clinic on Applecross Road.

The clinic uses laser therapy, counselling in how to deal with triggers and cope with life without nicotine, and a detoxification package to help eliminate the addictive chemicals from the body.

“Quitting an addiction is like a big jigsaw puzzle – lots of little pieces and you put it all together and it works,” said Sheila Baxter, company CEO and a registered nurse, who learned of the treatment in 1998 and received certification as a laser therapist through the Matrix Institute of Laser Therapy.

She said the treatment is classified as laser acupuncture – the laser light is used on the ears, either side of the nose, in between the eyebrows and on various points on the hands to target specific acupuncture points that control endorphin release, addiction, detoxification and relaxation.

The endorphin release from the laser therapy replaces the rush of endorphins someone gets from smoking and the effects of the therapy last about a month, explained Baxter.

“Before they get off the bed, it’s already working,” she said.

Bourcier had her last cigarette Oct. 2 and her laser treatment took place the next evening.

She said the hour passed quickly – she simply remembers having a good conversation with the technician about healthy eating, cooking and life in general – and then she went on with her day.

The therapy helped with the physical cravings, making her feel almost like she’d never smoked, and as the days wore on, Bourcier starting regaining her sense of taste and smell, which were dulled from smoking, and she felt more energetic.

On top of feeling healthier and being able to appreciate her food more fully, Bourcier now has more money in her pocket – she estimates she saves about $150 a month – and she buys herself a little something each month as a reward.

“I’m proud of myself, it’s a huge accomplishment,” she said.

It’s been 14 years since Teresa Laird has smoked a cigarette.

Laird, who worked in the production department at the Nanaimo News Bulletin for many years, was Baxter’s first customer when she opened her laser therapy clinic in Nanaimo in March 1999, then called Total Health Lifestyle Centres.

A writeup about Laird’s experience with the clinic was published in the News Bulletin on March 11, 1999.

She had tried to quit before, but the anxiety and physical withdrawals proved too much.

At first Laird was skeptical about the laser treatment – she felt nothing during the hour-long process – but she noticed a difference immediately.

“Afterwards, I was really calm,” she said. “Once I had the laser therapy, I was able to deal with [the cravings] a whole lot better.”

The therapy reduced Laird’s urges, anxieties, worries and nervousness and she was better able to cope.

Now she runs marathons – a feat she is sure she would never have been able to accomplish had she not quit smoking.

Dr. Derek Poteryko, a Nanaimo family physician and director of the Central Island Smoking Intervention Clinic, said science-based evidence of the laser therapy treatment’s effectiveness is limited at this point, but he encourages people to try whatever method of smoking cessation treatment they think will help.

“Evidence may be grey right now, but if a person believes in it – go for it,” he said. “If it doesn’t work for you, try something else. I just want people to quit smoking.”

Poteryko said nicotine replacement therapies such as the nicotine patch have a low success rate: studies show close to 90 per cent of people who use these start smoking again by the end of the year.