New Research Supports the Role of TMS Therapy to Quit Smoking

Within seconds of entering your bloodstream through tobacco, nicotine has raced through your system and set off an intense adrenaline-induced burst of energy. Because it is an addictive drug, nicotine reprograms your brain to make you want to use it more and more. Its nearly instant satisfaction payoff makes nicotine intake through cigarettes and other tobacco products a tremendously difficult habit to break. In this article, we’ll discuss the latest findings of how Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) – a form of electromagnetic therapy originally designed for treatment of depression – continues to show positive results as a form of smoking cessation.

What is TMS?

Originally launched as a treatment for depression, TMS is effective because it targets regions of the brain, specifically the insula – referred to as “the hidden island of addiction” – which cannot be affected directly. Since earning FDA approval in 2008, it has proven to be effective in producing positive results in treatment for other disorders, including schizophrenia, stroke, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), autism, bipolar disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). During a TMS therapy session, a treatment coil is placed over the left prefrontal cortex, and the magnetic fields are then activated in a series of short bursts.

Evidence of TMS as Form of Smoking Cessation Aid

Results from a pilot study carried out by Dr. Andreas Fallgatter, director of psychiatry at the University of Tübingen in Germany, are adding to the growing mountain of demonstrable evidence that TMS produces longer lasting results than standard smoking cessation methods.

deep TMS to stop smokingDr. Fallgatter shared his findings with the 12th World Congress of Biological Psychiatry in Athens, Greece. Participants – 74 smokers in total – were randomly placed into two separate groups for four sessions: one received full TMS therapy while the other received a placebo-like treatment. Both groups received standard cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), a common form of health counseling. After three months, the cessation rate for the group that received full TMS therapy was 50% compared to 30% for the placebo group. While the effect of the electromagnetic pulses wore off after 12 months, more patients who received them were smoke-free than their counterparts in the placebo group.

Furthermore, test results from a different study were presented in 2014 of a previous study [Dinur-Klein et al., In Press] that tested 115 participants who smoked at least 20 cigarettes daily and had failed previous forms of cessation approaches. For 13 daily sessions, participants were randomly selected to receive high-frequency, low-frequency or sham (very weak or brief) stimulation. The coils used in the study were equipped with a positioning system (a helmet encased the coils that was enabled to rotate) and a cooling system to maintain temperature in the coils throughout the process.

Those who received the high-frequency stimulation significantly reduced their cigarette and nicotine addiction. During the study, their response rate was 81%. The after-treatment abstinence rate was 44%, and the complete abstinence rate in a follow-up six (6) months later was 33%.

It should be noted that the precise time between each treatment and the last cigarette smoked was not controlled, which may have masked the treatment’s effect on craving levels. Also, dropout levels for the study were high. The researchers also confirmed that follow-up interviews with participants were completed via telephone rather than in person.

TMS From a Patient’s Perspective

TMS is conducted as an outpatient form of therapy. A typical session includes:

  • The patient relaxing in a comfortable chair for 25-40 minutes
  • No form of sedation
  • A treatment coil placed over the left prefrontal cortex as magnetic fields are then activated in a series of short bursts
  • A light tapping sensation felt through the specialized cap

Because there is no sedation and no known side effects, patients can continue their normal activity immediately after the procedure. As research continues to fully assess the potential and uses of TMS therapy, it is an approach that has been widely accepted by the medical community.

Westside Neurotherapeutics offers dTMS treatments in Los Angeles. For more information, contact them by phone at 310.946.0008 or visit us online at

Leave a Comment