Hypnotherapy and Smoking

There are many supports and treatments available to you if you're thinking of quitting smoking. It is estimated that 1 in 5 people still smoke in the UK and surveys have consistently found that most of them wish to quit. As well as medications and nicotine replacement therapies, the use of alternative therapies such as hypnosis and acupuncture have also become popular.

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What is Hypnosis?

Hypnosis is described as a trance-like state where you have heightened concentration and focus. For most people, when they're under hypnosis they can feel relaxed and calm. In this state you can be more open to suggestions, although you will still remain in control of your actions and behaviours.

Hypnotherapy - or hypnosis - is usually carried out with the assistance of a therapist trained in the practice. Using verbal repetition, relaxation techniques and visualisations they can assist you in entering a hypnotic state where you're more open to suggestion.

Hypnosis and Smoking

Hypnosis is offered as a treatment for smoking cessation, as when you're in a hypnotic state your subconscious mind can be influenced to help alter your thinking and behaviours. Once you're in a relaxed state you are more open to suggestions that may be beneficial to you. While the approach can vary from therapist to therapist, they're generally focused on increasing your resolve to quit and your negative associations with smoking.

Another hypnosis technique that is popular is what is known as Spiegel's method. This focus on three key messages during hypnotherapy:

  • That smoking is just poisoning your body
  • That you need your body to live and survive
  • That you should protect and respect your body

Does it really work?

There is a lot of anecdotal evidence to suggest that hypnosis can be an effective treatment for stopping smoking, but as of yet, there is very little scientific research to support its claims. For this reason, hypnosis is not available through the NHS.

Despite it being a treatment for a considerable period of time, there is a lack of compelling research to conclude definitively whether it is or isn't effective. Some of the challenges in evaluating it, include:

  • Large variations in the techniques and approaches applied
  • Large variations in the skills and expertise of therapists, with the profession being largely unregulated
  • Large variations from person-to-person in their degree of openness to hypnosis, with an estimated 1 in 4 people being unable to be hypnotised

Of the research that has been conducted into the effectiveness of hypnosis as a treatment for quitting smoking, the results have varied.

  • In 2007, a small-scale study of 67 patients in hospital found very promising indicators for hypnosis as an effective treatment. They reported that 50% of those using it were still non-smokers at six months, compared to 15.78% using Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT).
  • In 2008, a study of 286 participants looked at whether hypnosis and nicotine patches was more effective than behavioural counselling and patches. The results were promising, showing that 20% of those who received hypnosis and NRT were abstinent at 12 months versus 14% of those who received behavioural group support and NRT.
  • In 2010, a review was carried out by Cochrane. They analysed the findings of eleven individual studies with 18 different control interventions. They found conflicting results across the studies when looking at hypnotherapy versus no treatment, or alternative treatment. They concluded that it was not possible to prove or show that hypnosis could be as effective as counselling treatments and found studies that did show significant positive results were uncontrolled studies, and not were not confirmed by randomised controlled trial analyses.

Despite no conclusive evidence either way, hypnosis is seen as a safe treatment, once it's performed by a suitably qualified professional.

Alternative stop smoking therapies

There are two prescription medications available to help you stop smoking. These medications can alleviate nicotine cravings and give you the extra support you need to manage the withdrawal symptoms.

  • Champix (varenicline): This is one of the most effective prescription medications. Tablets are taken for 12 weeks and are up to 50% more effective that other quit methods.
  • Zyban (bupropion): This is another prescription medication. It was originally a treatment for depression, but it was then found to help people in quitting smoking.

Nicotine Replacement Therapies (NRT) is another available treatment. These include nicotine lozenges, inhalers, patches, gums, tabs and sprays, all of which can be easily purchased without a prescription. They work by releasing nicotine into your blood stream at lower levels that you would receive from smoking a cigarette, but enough to ease withdrawal symptoms.

Other methods of quitting smoking include cold turkey, cutting down, using e-cigarettes, behavioural support groups, stop smoking apps and other alternative therapies. If you're interested in quitting smoking, you can complete a free online consultation here and we can advise whether Champix may be a suitable option for you.