Everyone has the same question about hypnosis for drug addiction. Does it work?
Like many things, the answer is, "it depends." The best data, because it is the most popular use of hypnosis for addiction treatment, comes from smoking cessation. One therapist puts it this way:
"The real question is, "but for how long"? Most smokers I've seen in my practice quit after coming to see me. I guestimate that 25% make it through the first year. The remaining 75% may go back to smoking at any point in-between."
As with all drug addiction treatment, including hypnosis for drug addiction, patients vary in their level of commitment and "triggers."
The definitive study on hypnosis for drug addiction goes back to 1972. This paper in JAMA examined hypnosis use in heroin and other opiate addictions.
The critical factors that lead to success were:
- Constant supervision
- No access to the drug
- Underlying neurosis must be uncovered and treated
- Sessions must be a minimum of two hours daily until they quit and then follow-ups must continue to prevent relapse.
So to the extent that it works, hypnosis is not a quickie cure by any means.
That said, you will still hear stories of miraculous recoveries with hypnosis for drug addiction. One, published in the American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, tells of a patient who quit cocaine use at a very high level through self-hypnosis. She got some stop-smoking hypnosis tapes and substituted the word "coke" for cigarette. This was an exceptional case.
Hypnosis as an adjunct therapy
The current view is that hypnosis for drug addiction might be a good adjunct to other therapies, but isn't a stand-alone solution. One creative use would be to teach an injectable drug addict to fear needles through suggestion techniques. Patients should be warned that hypnosis for drug addiction will not lessen withdrawal symptoms, especially any physical symptoms.
Like all treatments, patients will vary on how much good they obtain from it. For this reason, as an added therapy, in the right setting and repeated over some time, it may have benefits. Take any outrageous claims with a grain of salt before you plop your money down.