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Floating around the introwebs, thought it was pure nonsense. Can anyone back me up here?

Image of women in a sauna, with text

If you're trying to quit smoking, go to a sauna 3 days in a row. You'll sweat out the addictive toxins and it will be easier to quit.

fb/david avocado wolfe

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    “All in all, saunas appear safe for the body, but there is little evidence that they have health benefits above and beyond relaxation and a feeling of well-being,” says Dr. Harvey Simon health.harvard.edu/press_releases/sauna_health_benefits ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11165553 – Himarm May 8 '15 at 18:18
  • as you're not allowed to smoke in the sauna, spending 3 days there may well help kicking the habit. Prolonged abstinence from addictive substances is a common way to force people to quit addictions... – jwenting May 11 '15 at 20:17
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    If there were so many "toxic" things that would be dislodged via sweating; wouldn't we need PSAs about not licking sweaty people and hazmat routines at saunas and gyms? – StarWeaver May 12 '15 at 2:01
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    You can get the same results from drinking a gallon of water a day for a week. Low levels of nicotine make you crave another cigarette, zero levels of nicotine don't cause cravings, but that doesn't mean you're not still addicted. I used to teach stop-smoking workshops, smoking additions are more mental than physical. – ShemSeger May 12 '15 at 15:44
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+50

tl;dr Going to a sauna does not speed up removing toxins from the body caused by smoking.

According to the American Cancer Society:

Different factors affect how long it takes the body to remove nicotine and its by-products. In most cases, regular smokers will still have nicotine and/or its by-products, such as cotinine, in their bodies for about 3 to 4 days after stopping.

Many other sources say nicotine remains in your body for 3 days. This quote with up to 4 days is one of the higher estimates.

So technically, going to a sauna for 3 days and not smoking will rid the toxins, such as nicotine and cotinine from your body. However, going swimming in a sewer or watching TV will do the same thing as long as you are not smoking.

  • Is there any chance it will help to clear the linings of airways or the lungs? Remove the smell, even? – ChrisW May 10 '15 at 13:33
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    @ChrisW I would guess no about the lungs, yes about the smell – Evorlor May 10 '15 at 13:34
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    And it might be relaxing and help you be conscious of breathing without smoking. I agree that "sweat out the addictive toxins" is implausible but "help you quit smoking" might still be true. – ChrisW May 10 '15 at 13:43
  • The link doesn't say anything about going to the sauna but says that different factors do have effects. – Christian May 10 '15 at 21:05
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    @ChrisW Having studied human cadavers in a University Hospital, I'd be pretty confident betting that you couldn't get the black out of the lungs I've seen even if you were to use an industrial cleaner... – ShemSeger May 12 '15 at 15:49
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The reason one feels physical addiction is because one is physically addicted to a substance, which is not a "toxin". For coffee drinkers, the substance is caffeine, which occurs naturally in coffee beans. For heroin addicts, the substance is the opium derivative that occurs naturally in opium poppies (or is synthesized chemically to resemble opium, but close enough). For cigarette smokers, the substance is nicotine which occurs naturally in tobacco leaves.

When denied the substance that one is addicted to, one may feel some amount of physical withdrawal. There's nothing that a regular smoker needs to do, e.g. using a sauna, to rid the body of nicotine. Stop smoking cigarettes, and the nicotine is quickly metabolized out of your body. That's when you experience some physical discomfort, such as crankiness, maybe shakiness and increased appetite. You'll feel cravings for nicotine, which will eventually go away if you don't smoke cigarettes. Using a sauna doesn't make the process of withdrawing quicker:

By forcing your body to perspire through heat exposure... you can cause your kidneys to save water and actually hang on to any toxins that may be circulating in your system.

The same myth is cited for heroin and occasionally caffeine, that "sweating out the toxins" will make the withdrawal process easier. Your body naturally metabolizes these substances just fine. It is the absence of having them in your body, when you are accustomed to having a constant blood level, that causes discomfort. The process of withdrawal and recovery can't be accelerated by using a sauna, or by sweating:

Steam rooms and sweat lodges can be warm and relaxing — but are they cleansing? Contrary to popular belief, there is no scientific basis for the idea that people can "sweat out" toxins or impurities from the body.

This myth may or may not have originated from Scientology in the early 1970s, but Scientology certainly perpetuated it. Carnegie Mellon University has an entire website devoted to L. Ron Hubbard's junk science, with a section about the pseudoscience of sweating out toxins.

The Purification Rundown and New Life Detoxification Program both rely on the same fundamental principle - that the body can be purified of toxins stored in body fat, by flushing out the toxins and excreting them from the skin. The first element of the programme, running, is intended to "get the blood circulating deeper into the tissues where toxic residuals are lodged and thus act to loosen and release the accumulated harmful deposits and get them moving." Immediately afterwards, four or five hours of sauna time is used to "flush out the accumulations which have now been dislodged", with the toxins sweated out through the skin... This, however, falls foul of the problem that sweating simply is not a major route for excreting toxins. Most abused drugs are eliminated from the body by detoxification through the liver, the kidney, or occasionally the lungs. Even if Hubbard's therapy did manage to flush toxins out of fat tissue and into the bloodstream, they would pass through the kidneys and so be excreted in urine. They would have no chance to enter the sweat glands en masse.

Hubbard claimed that drugs were stored as residual in human fat, i.e. that they are fat-soluble. The problem with this claim is that all drugs are not fat soluble.

Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.

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    Sauna does more than just sweating. Can you link to studies that actually empirically investigated whether it helps addicts? – Christian May 10 '15 at 21:06
  • @Christian "Further research is needed with sound experimental design, and with subjects not accustomed to sauna, before sauna bathing can routinely be used as a non-pharmacological treatment regimen in certain medical disorders to relieve symptoms and improve wellness." ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16871826 – Ellie Kesselman May 10 '15 at 21:42
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    It may be that the relaxing effects of using a sauna make the withdrawal process seem quicker or easier. – KSmarts May 11 '15 at 17:53

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