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Hypnosis to Quit Smoking

Can You Use Hypnosis To Quit Smoking?

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Updated October 23, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Hypnosis (also known as "hypnotherapy") is a popular alternative therapy among people looking to quit smoking. Defined as a trance-like state of mind, hypnosis is marked by focused attention and greater openness to suggestion. Because of its supposed ability to increase responsiveness, hypnosis is often used to affect change in unhealthy behaviors such as smoking and other forms of tobacco use.

Why People Use Hypnosis to Quit Smoking

About half of the people who don't quit smoking will die of smoking-related problems, according to the National Institutes of Health. Quitting smoking offers several immediate benefits (such as improved circulation, healthier blood pressure, and easier breathing), and lowers your risk for a number of major diseases (including heart disease and cancer) in the long term. Many hypnosis proponents claim that the therapy can help you achieve these beneficial effects without relying on prescription drugs, nicotine replacement therapy, and other standard smoking cessation aids.

What To Expect If You Use Hypnosis to Quit Smoking

A hypnosis session typically begins with the hypnotherapist inducing relaxation in the patient. Once you're under hypnosis, the hypnotherapist may suggest specific ways for you to reach your smoking cessation goals.

Patients can also practice self-hypnosis in order to promote deep relaxation. Since stress often triggers the urge to smoke, achieving deep relaxation may help reduce cigarette cravings. In addition to hypnosis, mind-body techniques like guided imagery, meditation, and deep breathing may help bring about deep relaxation.

Benefits of Hypnosis for Smoking

So far, research on hypnotherapy's usefulness as a smoking cessation aid has yielded mixed results. For instance, a 2000 review of nine studies comparing hypnosis with a total of 14 different smoking cessation interventions found that the therapy failed to have a greater effect on quit rates than other approaches. Another review published the same year, however, looked at 59 studies of hypnosis and smoking cessation and concluded that "it seems justified to classify hypnosis as a 'possibly efficacious' treatment for smoking cessation."

In one recently published study on hypnosis and smoking, researchers assigned 286 smokers to two 60-minute sessions of either hypnosis or behavioral counseling. Both groups also received nicotine patches for two months. At a 12-month follow-up, 20 percent of the hypnosis group had quit smoking, compared with 14 percent of the behavioral-counseling group.

It's been found that men who try hypnosis are more likely than women to succeed at quitting. This difference has been found in other smoking cessation techniques as well.

How Safe Is It To Use Hypnosis To Quit Smoking?

Although hypnosis is generally considered safe when practiced under the care of a professionally trained hypnotherapist, some individuals may experience emotional distress.

Sources:

Abbot NC, Stead LF, White AR, Barnes J, Ernst E. "Hypnotherapy for smoking cessation." Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2000;(2):CD001008.

Carmody TP, Duncan C, Simon JA, Solkowitz S, Huggins J, Lee S, Delucchi K. "Hypnosis for smoking cessation: a randomized trial." Nicotine Tob Res. 2008 10(5):811-8.

Green JP, Jay Lynn S, Montgomery GH. "A meta-analysis of gender, smoking cessation, and hypnosis:a brief communication." Int J Clin Exp Hypn. 2006 54(2):224-33.

Green JP, Lynn SJ. "Hypnosis and suggestion-based approaches to smoking cessation: an examination of the evidence." Int J Clin Exp Hypn. 2000 48(2):195-224.

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Smoking Cessation: Tools & Techniques. Updated July 2003.

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