What the ’Eck! Journalism or Medical Advice?

My attention was drawn recently to a badly written ‘Ezine’ article from 2010 by the well-named so-called expert author Hayden Eck with the confusing title ‘Do Not Give Up – Smoking Cessation is Possible’.

At first glance it looks as if he’s telling you not to give up smoking, but he means you should not give up on giving up. And I’m glad to know he thinks smoking cessation is possible even though this implies some people may think it’s impossible. Well, that’s an encouraging start merely in the title.

The trouble with Mr Eck is that he has gleaned some superficial knowledge from Wikipedia and the like which he re-hashes and presents in an authoritative sounding manner. It’s as if he’s blinded himself with science and then proceeds to try to do the same with the lay reader. Worse, in some of the other medical areas into which he strays, he oversteps the bounds of journalism into giving medical advice. For example, in the treatment of what he calls ‘female sexual disorder’ he takes it upon himself to write: ‘Treating yourself with Intrinsa (testosterone) patches is one of the best alternatives for you. These patches can be bought online.’ He is not medically qualified and this inappropriate advice is potentially dangerous.

It hardly needs to be said that to qualify in medicine and gain a proper understanding of human ailments require many years of study and experience.

Back to the smoking piece. He says nicotine affects

reward, memory and learning centers [and causes] the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is associated with pleasure…nicotine also influences other areas of the brain that control mood, energy levels and memory as well as cause long-lasting neurological changes.

This sort of thing is often stated but it should be noted that it’s entirely speculative. There is no way at present of measuring levels of dopamine or other neurochemicals in the living human brain. Such theorising is derived from animal and laboratory studies of unknown relevance to smoking humans. As for the alleged pleasure smokers may claim they experience, does inhaling nicotine into your lungs produce a state of bliss? Observe smokers and judge for yourself. All that smoking does is to help the smoker to feel for a short time less bad after smoking than he or she did before – and there is a reason for this.

The fact is that we know almost nothing about the workings of the brain. Wonderful inventions such as PET scans are no doubt very interesting but they are of not the slightest use in helping smokers to quit. As for the drugs that Mr Eck seems so keen on – though it’s unclear what his qualifications are to offer an opinion on the matter – how they work (if at all) is largely unknown. As with all ‘mind drugs’ they are empirical treatments – based on trial and error.

It would be tedious to critique the whole of this article, so I’ll just take a few more representative samples.

Smoking is a very dangerous addiction, yet people can’t give it up easily…What Should one do If He (sic) Wants to Give up Smoking?…Giving up smoking is the most difficult thing.

How can he presume to speak for ‘people’? One what basis does he claim ‘Giving up smoking is the most difficult thing.’?

Perhaps these views, nonetheless, explain Mr Eck’s ideas about how one should go about quitting: 

You must prepare to quit smoking. You must distance yourself from friends, situations or places that compel you to smokeIf you want to quit smoking and remain a quitter, you have to stay away from temptation and persistent nicotine cravings.

He mentions nicotine earlier, but now we have the additional curious reason that smokers are compelled to smoke is because of friends, situations or places. Further:

Some people have a strong determination to quit smoking via the cold turkey method; this is achieved by sheer will power (sic) alone. However, most smoker’s (sic) find it difficult to quit in this way and therefore require treatment to help them quit smoking. Some men and women may become non-smokers through counseling alone but their numbers can be counted on the fingertips.

These are Mr Eck’s opinions; they are hardly proven facts. Who says unaided quitting requires willpower? Who says counselling alone helps only a very small number of smokers?

Then he launches into a puff for pills but this is rather dampened by him cutting and pasting from some internet drug information site a list of alarming side effects :

Success rates are much higher with Chantix smoking cessation drug as compared to that of Zyban smoking cessation pill; but, both the drugs have their share of side effects. While Chantix causes nausea, constipation, flatulence, insomnia, change in taste, increase in appetite, fatigue, dry mouth and bloated feeling, Zyban causes dry mouth, insomnia, changes in appetite, agitation, headaches, jitters, skin rash and seizures.

That’s bad enough but with Mr Eck’s amateurish approach he neglects to mention that both drugs can also cause suicidal thoughts.

No wonder stopping smoking seems so hard.

Text © Gabriel Symonds

Gabriel Symonds

Dr Gabriel Symonds is a British doctor living in Japan who is interested in helping smokers quit. He has developed a unique simple method without nicotine, drugs, hypnosis or gimmicks that he has used successfully with hundreds of smokers. Further information can be found at www.nicotinemonkey.com

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