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Is Hypnosis Effective in
   Helping Smokers Quit?   

by John R. Polito, April 11, 2002

The short answer to the above question is "probably not." It is the intent of this page to collect and provide links to "independent" online resources that have taken the time to review the effectiveness of hypnosis in helping smokers quit smoking. If you locate any "independent" resource that you'd like to see added to this page, please send a quick e-mail and I'll gladly review it.

Keep in mind that your favorite hypnotist telling you that she cures 90% of all smokers by using a single hypnotic session is not independent proof. In fact, if the below evidence is accurate, such representations are probably consumer fraud and someone belongs in jail.

Cessation fraud is deadly business. The average smoker only musters the determination for one serious cessation attempt about every three years. Smoking kills half of all long-term smokers, each an average of 13 to 14 years early. For each annual death, twenty other smokers are living with smoking related diseases. They're having lungs removed, brain tumors extracted, trying to recover from a smoking related stroke or heart attack, or fighting though emphysema riddled lungs in an attempt to draw that next breath.

If the below cited Cochrane Review finding is accurate, it truly should be criminal for the traveling hypnotist to rob smokers of a priceless period of cessation confidence. But absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence. Someday, somewhere, someway, some hypnotist may develop a procedure that does in fact help smokers quit. But I'm confident that if it ever happens, that the hypnotist will actually invite credible independent researchers to review all their records, to study their work and publish the results.

It is common practice on the Internet for hypnotists to offer "testimonials" from satisfied customers. Please keep in mind that those quitting on their own, without any assistance from any source whatsoever, have a 10% chance of quitting for six months and a 5% chance of quitting for one year. Yes, at least 10% of all quitters who are hypnotized should still be free at six months. In fact, 10% of those who quit while standing on their head, while eating Billy Bob's Magic Lima Bean Butter, while taking 1,000 different herbs, or while having needles stuck in their ear, should still be quit at 6 months.

A smokescreen of sorts develops when hypnotism hides its ineffectiveness behind proven quitting techniques such as one-on-one or group counseling, a quality cessation education program, skills development exercises, other behavioral training, group peer support, or behind additional sessions or repeated telephone contact that acts as a form of ongoing conscious support.

Adding an effective cessation technique to hypnotism allows the hypnotist to market their program by awarding 100% of the program's success to hypnosis. Yes, having your own pep-rally or cheerleader has been proven to increase cessation rates far above the standard 10%. Care must be taken not to give hypnosis credit for conscious cheerleading that pumps up the team before the next challenge.

U.S. Guideline - In June 2000 the U.S. government published the "Clinical Practice Guideline [for] Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence (USDHHS). Page 68 of the U.S. Guideline states:

Hypnosis. "The original guideline did not conduct a separate meta-analysis on hypnosis because few studies met inclusion criteria, and those that did used very heterogeneous hypnotic procedures. There was no common or standard intervention technique to analyze. Literature screening for the updated guideline revealed no new published studies on the treatment of tobacco dependence by hypnosis that met the inclusion criteria; therefore, this topic did not warrant re-examination. Moreover, an independent review of hypnotherapy trials by the Cochrane Group found insufficient evidence to support hypnosis as a treatment for smoking cessation."See PDF page 82, document page 68)

Cochrane Review - "Hypnotherapy for smoking cessation" by Abbot NC, Stead LF, White AR, and Barnes J, updated January 2002, reviewed the results of nine hypnotherapy studies and concluded that, "We have not shown that hypnotherapy has a greater effect on six month quit rates than other interventions or no treatment."


Additional Online Links

1. Full Text Versions of U.S. Guideline, June 2000 - http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/tobacco/

2. "Hypnosis as Smoking Cessation Therapy Needs Further Scrutiny", May 2000, Ohio State University







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