Hypnosis Effective for Smokers, Study Finds
> 6/24/2008 9:33:54 AM

Smoking cessation aids can be invaluable in helping smokers overcome their addiction, and because so many different approaches exist, from medications to counseling to support groups, each individual has access to a range of options. Many turn to hypnosis, where a qualified therapist puts the individual into a state of mind that makes them more open to suggestions. Past research on this treatment has been inconclusive, but in a new study, researchers from the San Francisco VA Medical Center find hypnosis to be effective, especially for smokers who have experienced symptoms of depression in the past.

The study, which was published in the May issue of Nicotine & Tobacco Research, involved 246 subjects and tested hypnosis and behavioral therapy when both treatments were combined with nicotine replacement therapy. Each subject received two sessions of either hypnosis or behavioral counseling followed by two months of the nicotine patch, and they were evaluated at the six month and one year mark. After six months, 26 percent of the hypnosis group had remained abstinent from cigarettes, compared to only 18 percent of the behavioral therapy group. These trends continued throughout the first year, and at after 12 months, 20 percent of those who had received hypnosis were still free of their addiction, while only 14 percent of the therapy group could say the same.

While these results indicate that hypnosis is at least as effective as behavioral counseling for most people, further analysis demonstrated that the effectiveness of hypnotherapy may vary from person to person. Subjects who had reported a history of depression during an initial assessment and who then received hypnosis had higher rates of abstinence than their non-depressed counterparts both at six and 12 months. The researchers do not know why hypnosis may be more beneficial for depressed subjects, and they emphasize the need for more research into this link. A study that specifically examines depression in connection with hypnosis may further our understanding of the debilitating mood disorder and lead to new approaches in treatment.

As we gain more information on smoking cessation treatments and the factors that influence them, we will be better able to identify which treatments will be most beneficial for a given patient. Hypnosis may be an important option for some individuals, while others may find success using another smoking cessation aid. This study illustrates an important point, however, as both forms of treatment were paired with the nicotine patch. Smokers often fail during their first attempt at quitting, and they should continue to try different techniques and combinations of techniques until they find one that works for them.

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