Depression and cigarettes: Hypnosis the better option for quitting smoking

I just stumbled across a write up of a study done in San Francisco in 2008, to compare the success rate for hypnosis vs. standard counseling (both methods also included using nicotine patches). The study was done at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center. 286 smokers were enrolled, one group receiving hypnosis and the other standard behavioral counseling. Both groups had two 60-minute individual sessions, and received three follow-up phone calls and 2 months of nicotine patches.

At 6 months, 29% of the hypnosis group self-reported quitting, compared with 23% of the behavioral counseling group. Based on biochemical or other confirmation, 26% of the participants in the hypnosis group had quit, compared with 18% of the behavioral group.

At 12 months, the self-reported quit rate was 24% for the hypnosis group, and 16% for the behavioral group. Based on biochemical or other confirmation, 20% of the participants in the hypnosis group were abstinent at 12 months compared with 14% of the behavioral group.

These results did not surprise me; I’ve worked with smokers determined to become non-smokers, so I know hypnosis works well. I’ve had people walk away from the sessions with no desire to smoke, and others who tell me that the hypnosis makes it easier to deal with the withdrawal process.

What did surprise me was this: for participants with a history of depression, hypnosis led to significantly higher quit rates at 6 and 12 months than the standard treatment.

The significantly higher quit rates for those using hypnosis makes me wonder if the hypnosis experience also did anything to help the participants’ depression. Hypnosis is widely used in conjunction with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for depression; perhaps there’s something about being in the hypnotic state that is inherently helpful. Isn’t that the best kind of side effect?

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