Quitting smoking successfully thanks to brain stimulation – healing practice

How do you stop smoking in the long term?

So-called repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation can be effective in helping people quit smoking. This non-invasive method of brain stimulation is associated with a very high rate of abstinence from smoking.

A large study on smoking cessation involving the University of South Carolina found that repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation can be an effective approach in the treatment of tobacco addiction. The results can be found in the English-language specialist journal “World Psychiatry“Can be read.

Germany: More than 120,000 deaths annually from smoking

The consequences of smoking kill more than 120,000 people every year in Germany alone. In addition to other treatment approaches, there is what is known as repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), which is currently still in the research stage.

High abstinence rate thanks to brain stimulation

In the study with 262 participants, the non-invasive method of brain stimulation more than doubled the abstinence rate after a period of just six weeks compared with people from the control group. “In addition to the previous treatment options for tobacco addiction, this is a remarkable result,” reports Professor Dr. Walter Paulus from the German Society for Clinical Neurophysiology and Functional Imaging (DGKN) in one Press release.

Not only could repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) be effective in treating psychiatric conditions, but it could also play an important role in treating addictive disorders. So far, studies on this topic have usually only included a small number of people, according to the expert.

Effectiveness of deep TMS for smoking cessation

In the new study, a special form of rTMS was used, the so-called deep TMS. This uses a less focal stimulation coil (a so-called H4 coil). “The randomized and placebo-controlled design of this study meets the highest standards and makes the results more reliable than previous studies,” says Professor Dr. Frank Padberg from the Psychiatric University Hospital in Munich.

The participants in the new study had already tried to quit smoking at least once without success. In two thirds of the people taking part, three or more attempts had failed.

“Another special feature of the study is that, in addition to this special form of rTMS, short behavior therapy interventions were also used,” explains Professor Padberg. During the study, addiction-specific symptoms were provoked for a period of five minutes. The participants were asked to imagine what triggers their craving for addiction. This was supported by an audio file and pictures about smoking.

Then the brain stimulation (60 three-second units with 30 pulses each) was carried out with the help of a magnetic coil. This was placed over the regions of the so-called lateral prefrontal cortex and the insular cortex.

Every second participant was actually stimulated only to appear and served to compare the effectiveness. Following the brain stimulation, a short two-minute intervention was carried out in the form of a motivational talk.

Almost twenty percent were smoke-free after 18 weeks

Treatment took place on working days for the first three weeks, then once a week for three weeks. After 18 weeks, according to a questionnaire, 19.4 percent of the group with rTMS had managed not to smoke for a period of at least four weeks. This statement was checked with the help of urine samples for nicotine breakdown products. In the comparison group, however, the proportion was only 8.7 percent.

Craving for smoking was reduced

After the first six weeks, as many as 28.0 percent of those treated with rTMS had stopped smoking, compared with 11.7 percent in the placebo group. The people in the treatment group smoked fewer cigarettes on average and, according to the researchers, also showed a reduced desire to smoke.

“The study establishes a safe treatment protocol for smoking cessation by stimulating relevant brain regions,” the experts report on the results of their new study. The results of the study to date have already led to approval of the rTMS for the treatment of people who smoke in the USA. The expert notes that further research is necessary to assess the importance of the application in Germany.

“Since this is a very special rTMS approach, the process is not yet easily available in this country. In spite of the clear results of this study, further research is required to accurately assess the status, ”adds Prof. Padberg. (as)

Author and source information

This text complies with the requirements of specialist medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical professionals.


  • Abraham Zangen, Hagar Moshe, Diana Martinez, Noam Barnea-Ygael, Tanya Vapnik, et al.: Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation for smoking cessation: a pivotal multicenter double-blind randomized controlled trial; in: World Psychiatry (veröffentlicht 09.09.2021), World Psychiatry
  • German Society for Clinical Neurophysiology and Functional Imaging: Smoking cessation by means of transcranial magnetic stimulation: effectiveness proven for the first time in a large study (published October 22, 2021), German Society for Clinical Neurophysiology and Functional Imaging

Important NOTE:
This article is for general guidance only and is not intended to be used for self-diagnosis or self-treatment. He can not substitute a visit at the doctor.


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