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Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a relatively new approach being tested to treat addiction. It is a physiological intervention that noninvasively stimulates neural activity in targeted areas of the brain using magnetic fields. Multiple TMS pulses given consecutively are referred to as repetitive TMS (rTMS). The FDA has approved two rTMS devices for depression treatment in adults.

Research on rTMS as a treatment for smoking cessation is in early stages but has shown promise. Among adult smokers who had not been able to quit using other treatments, high-frequency TMS treatment significantly reduced the number of cigarettes smoked. Combining high-frequency TMS with exposure to smoking cues improved effectiveness and boosted the overall abstinence rate to 44% at the end of the treatment. Six months after treatment, 33% of participants remained abstinent from cigarettes.

Future randomized controlled clinical trials with large numbers of patients will be needed to establish its efficacy for smoking cessation.