How Hypnosis is Used to Treat Addiction


Hypnosis is largely misunderstood, mainly due to the fact that much of what people have seen involve stage performances on television or movies. In our last blog post, we talked about what hypnotherapy is really about and how it is used to treat things like pain, depression, and stress. Even the American Journal of Medicine has found supporting evidence that hypnotherapy IS effective at treating pain and depression, which is why it’s quickly emerging as an addiction therapy tool for treatment centers.

What the Research Says

Let’s first take a look at some of the most recent research statistics regarding hypnosis and its effect on drug addiction.

  • The American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis (1984) found that significantly more methadone addicts quit with hypnosis. The experimental group had less discomfort and illicit drug use, as well as greater cessation. At the six months follow up, 94% of the experimental group who had achieved cessation remained drug-free.
  • The American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis (2004) found that hypnosis has a 77% success rate for drug addiction. Hypnosis treatment was used for 18 clients. Out of these clients, 15 had an alcohol addiction, two had a cocaine addiction and one had a marijuana addiction. After the 1-year follow up, hypnosis treatment showed a 77% success rate.
  • The American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis (1993) shares a documented case study involving a female in her twenties who was addicted to cocaine. She was using five grams of cocaine each day for eight months and then turned to hypnosis to help her stop abusing the drug. After four months of hypnosis three times a day, the girl was able to break her addiction and remained drug-free since. No other interventions or support was offered; only the hypnotherapy.

In addition to the above studies and case studies, hypnotherapy has been shown to have many additional benefits related to managing stress, dealing with chronic pain and reducing recovery time after surgery. For those who are at-risk for drug addiction, these points are critical because hypnosis can take the place of addictive pain medications that can start or continue the cycle of abuse.

When working with clients who have suffered from addiction to pain medication or heroin, many worry about how they will be able to treat their pain in the future. While most documented research says that the use of carefully prescribed and controlled pain medication will help avoid addiction, the very thought of putting this substance back into the body after addiction treatment is frightening. For these individuals who realize that abstinence is best, hypnosis can help them even after they become sober.

How Hypnosis Helps Addicts

How exactly does hypnosis help addicts cease their harmful behaviors and negative thinking? It’s understandable how hypnotherapy can be used to relax the mind and body, but to actually change behavior and the cravings that go along with it takes this therapeutic tool to a new level.

First, let’s talk about the brain a little bit. It is believed that most people only use 5% of their brain capacity, while conscious that is. The unconscious brain is capable of much more, and it allows us as humans to connect with a deeper side of ourselves, one that we may not even know about. In the real world, we are driven by expectations that others place on us, and we are always critical of our actions. We are very confined by that 5% capacity, so tapping into the unconscious is like opening another door.

By opening this door, the hypnotist hopes to uncover some of the reasons why drug addiction started. For most clients, there were other issues going on before the addiction started, such as depression, anxiety, abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, neglect, and so on. By understanding these pieces of the puzzle, precise treatment can be offered. When restricted to the conscious mind, however, an addict may never fully understand what led to the addiction, and therefore, can’t find a treatment that matches their initial problems.

Second, when people are under hypnosis, they are relaxed and more receptive to feedback. The client is still fully aware, but they aren’t as resistant to suggestions, advice and recovery methods offered by the hypnotist. In the conscious mind, the client is more closed off and trying to recover from addiction while carrying all the burdens of critical thinking and unrealistic expectations. Breaking through this barrier is essential when trying to achieve sobriety.

Hypnosis is not a cure for addiction, and it’s not for everyone. But it can be a very helpful tool in addiction recovery because it taps into the unconscious, deals with underlying issues and makes addicts more open to recovery. Especially when combined with other alternative treatments such as acupuncture and neurofeedback, hypnotherapy can be a powerful and promising tool.

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