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December 3, 2007 12:09 PM   Subscribe

Is it possible to quit smoking through hypnosis?

Over the years, I've half-assed my way through every form of treatment for smoking. Gum, patch, Allen Carr, Wellbutrin, phone consultations, cold turkey will power... I can make it a couple of days without smoking. Now I'm the last person to think that hypnosis works, but I've gotten to the point where I'm convinced there's something wrong in my head that keeps me from quitting. I detest the habit; I hate the way it makes me smell, I hate the energy drain, and my SO hates it, too. I definitely smoke in response to high-stress situations; no matter what program I'm in, or what I'm taking, if something really good or bad happens, I have to have a cigarette. In those moments, there's nothing I can do to prevent a relapse.

I found this website that offers a one-hour hypnosis session that guarantees that I will quit smoking afterwards. My desire to quit smoking is really high, but I feel so helpless to the addiction, that I'm willing to try anything. Am I falling for a scam, or could this really work?
posted by phaedon to Health & Fitness (34 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Am I falling for a scam

Yes.

Also, you didn't mention laser treatment but that doesn't work either.
posted by burnmp3s at 12:18 PM on December 3, 2007


I feel your pain. As to hypnosis I can only offer data points. The 4 people I have known who went the hypnosis route (all heavy smokers) generally stayed off the cigs for 2 to 3 months post hypnosis and then fell off the wagon and back to where they started.

That said, 2 to 3 months of not financing your cigarette habit generally offsets the cost of the hypnosis and 2 to 3 months of not smoking is better for you than 2 to 3 months of smoking.

I seem to have done it after 20 years of trying by not lighting a cigarette. If you don't light a cigarette it's very difficult to smoke it however hard you try. i.e. I set up a stupid barrier for myself and then didn't let myself cross it. It kind of ironed out the ambiguity of the situation.

Good luck with it.
posted by merocet at 12:19 PM on December 3, 2007


I've had friends who found it incredibly helpful. Me, not so much. Even if it was a placebo, well, sometimes placebos work.
posted by b33j at 12:20 PM on December 3, 2007


I think you'll find the answer is a rousing "It depends."

My boss tried hypnosis. It started to work for him, but he didn't keep up with it. He completely lost his desire to smoke for about a week, but didn't go back for a follow-up, and allowed smoking coworkers to tempt him back. Another person in the office went to the same hypnotist a couple of years ago, and hasn't picked up a cigarette since. A third person in the office tried it, and it did nothing at all.

I've never smoked, but I know people who have, and people who've tried to quit both successfully and not. Based on my observations, I'd say a combination of treatments might be best. For example, combine the hypnosis (as long as it works for you) with a medication (like Chantix, which stops the nicotine from having any effect). The hypnosis should stop you from wanting to smoke, and if you slip up, the medication would prevent the cigarette from giving you anything other than a nasty smell.

Whatever you do, though, I wouldn't take a session from a website. Find someone local who can give you one-on-one attention, preferably someone who you can get a personal recommendation for, or at least find good reviews.
posted by CrayDrygu at 12:26 PM on December 3, 2007


"if something really good or bad happens, I have to have a cigarette. In those moments, there's nothing I can do to prevent a relapse. "

I think this applies to most people. The trick is to not consider this a complete failure and go back to regular smoking. Instead, when you come to your senses, get rid of the pack which will force you to buy another one, adding a time barrier next time and a financial disincentive.

The bottom line is that if you are only smoking in the occasional high-stress event that forces you to go the store to get a pack, you'll be gradually kicking the addiction and eventually be completely free of it. It's easier cold turkey though.
posted by Manjusri at 12:29 PM on December 3, 2007


This is purely anecdotal, but I've known 2 people who tried the hypnosis route and found it to be a temporary solution, at best.
Have you tried Chantix? I'm a bit wary of any course that includes prescription drugs, but my husband tried this (I believe you're required to also take weekly classes under a doctor's supervision) and it's been quite effective for him so far. Raging constipation appears to be the big drawback, though.
posted by maryh at 12:32 PM on December 3, 2007


I can't tell if parmanparman is being sarcastic or not, but My final (i.e. successful) quitting smoking attempt (1 year, 4 months ago thankyouverymuch) coincided with using the Carr book. I didn't read it until after I'd quit a few days, but even then it helped to frame my quitting in such a way as to help me not smoke.

For what it's worth, I started out trying to use patches, but was going nutso wanting a cigarette. Somehow I mustered up the fortitude to go cold turkey. It worked.

I think that basically you have to be ready to quit, and I mean REALLY ready. You sound like you're there. I'm betting the hypnosis will "work" for you if you're ready, just as Carr "worked" for me. I

I'm with you, though. It's a hella-difficult, *and* you can do it.
posted by Stewriffic at 12:35 PM on December 3, 2007


Oh, and one more thing. You can fall off the wagon, but don't let it run over you.
posted by Stewriffic at 12:35 PM on December 3, 2007


there's 2 addictions--physical and mental. I've seen this up close. If its physical, it means in the first 72 hours you absolutely lose your shit. You feel insane.
What you're talking about--the couple weeks later, I'm stressed and need a cigarette--is psychological. I don't see how anyone knows what will help you with this problem. we all know that the placebo effect can be quite great with psychological problems.
I guess i say, give it a try. You're the kind of smoker that it just might help.
posted by alkupe at 12:37 PM on December 3, 2007


"In those moments, there's nothing I can do to prevent a relapse."

Don't waste money on charlatans. Nothing, including hypnosis, is going to make you quit. You have to quit. You have to do all the hard work yourself. You have to actively, not passively, stop putting dried leaves and paper into your mouth and lighting them on fire. You have to start by giving up this weak "nothing I can do" line or you will never quit.

You can make it a lot easier, though, if you give up smoke-friendly activities, places, and friends (yes, friends), because they have more persuasive power over you than any mentalist would have. Wherever you've been enjoying smoking, stop going there. Whatever you've been doing that lets you smoke while you're at it, cut it out, or do it so as to eliminate the smoking angle. Whoever your mainly smoking buddies are at work or elsewhere, drop them. Go where smoking is scorned, forbidden, absurd. Take up marathon swimming. Do your reading or homework or daydreaming in the emphysema or cancer ward at the hospital. Get a job at the fireworks factory.
posted by pracowity at 1:00 PM on December 3, 2007 [2 favorites]


Worked for me, but it took about nine more years of smoking to take effect.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 1:02 PM on December 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


I agree with the "rousing "it depends"

FWIW, a check-out man at a local grocery store said this to me as I was purchasing Epsom Salt. After I told him that I buy it to soak in, he said something along the line, "That's so cool. I used it for the same reason when I was coming off cigarettes. It was like I felt the nicotine coming through my skin so I was getting the effects of smoking without actually doing it. It worked."

Good luck!
posted by goalyeehah at 1:05 PM on December 3, 2007


It's not actually hypnosis, from what I've heard, but a number of friends and colleagues I've known have seen the Mad Russian which pretty good success:

Yefim Shubentsov (The Mad Russian)
1680A Beacon Street Suite 201
Brookline, MA 02445
(617) 232-3930
posted by General Malaise at 1:28 PM on December 3, 2007


(I went to the mad Russian 10 years ago)
posted by kuujjuarapik at 1:30 PM on December 3, 2007


My dad tried hypnosis to help him quit smoking cigarettes...he switched to cigars instead...then died of lung cancer. So yeah it works for some.

When I quit smoking I did it through willpower and avoidance of the situations where I was tempted (bars, parties etc) it killed my social life for a while but it was worth it.
posted by robotot at 1:33 PM on December 3, 2007


I worked as a hypnotist's assistant at an anti-smoking seminar (weird job #267). My job was to collect tickets and process payments on the way in to the seminar as well as deal with the people who were getting hypnotized during the seminar. I was supposed to try and make sure people didn't get so tranced out that they tumbled out of their chair. This did happen -- they were quite disoriented when awoken.

Anyway, I can tell you that I have never smoked and I still don't, and that people on the way into and out of the seminar were really happy. I heard many people saying things like, "This guy is great! Each time I see him I quit smoking for about 2 months. This will be the Xth time I quit." It really does work for some people -- I think.
posted by maxpower at 2:24 PM on December 3, 2007


Here are some helpful comments to a an older post of mine regarding hynotherapy.

http://ask.metafilter.com/75307/Recommend-a-hypnotherapist-in-LA

(sorry for the long URL in lieu of a link; I'm using Safari right now and for some crazy reason, the bold, italics, hyperlink buttons are not available.)
posted by HotPatatta at 2:25 PM on December 3, 2007


My Dad's a shrink, and does this occasionally for people. He reports that it works pretty well, but "it depends on the person involved".

Me, I did the patch, and that worked for the first few days to kill the worst of the cravings. It didn't do any good for the much harder part, which was a week or two later, when the psychological crutch kicked in.

To oversimplify, if you want to quit smoking, the most important thing: don't to smoke any more cigarettes. If you rationalize it, justify it, smoke "just one", well, you're smoking again.

Most of these methods are supposed to get you to that point, where it's just up to your willpower and not your physiology. Good luck!
posted by jenkinsEar at 2:28 PM on December 3, 2007


"[I]f something really good or bad happens, I have to have a cigarette. In those moments, there's nothing I can do to prevent a relapse. "

If nothing else, at least admit that the above assertions are false. You do not have to have a cigarette. You think you do. You do not.

This is what the Carr "method" helped me realize. Sorry it didn't work for you. As far as the hypnosis, maybe it will work for you even if it doesn't work. Placebo's are well tested as effective. If you have the cash, why not?
posted by gregoryc at 2:52 PM on December 3, 2007


It was the only thing that worked for my Dad, who, like you, tried everything else before finally resigning to hypnotism. And for my Dad, it worked instantly. He left the place completely devoid of the desire to smoke. He had been smoking for 30+ years at that point (maybe even longer, it's hard to recall).
posted by polyester.lumberjack at 3:08 PM on December 3, 2007


This site is a big help. Got me through some tought moments.

http://whyquit.com/

I've read that 97% of people who have quit and stayed quit, went cold turkey. Everything else is a crutch, and you have to walk out on your own two feet. It's hard, and miserable, but it feels good to beat it on your own, and sometimes that misery you went through is all that keeps you from smoking again.
posted by notmydesk at 3:11 PM on December 3, 2007


I want to explain why the Carr method failed, because I do not want to attribute it as a failure on the part of Carr's methodology. It's just that I refuse to read past a couple of pages in the book. And as long as no one is forcing me to read it, I won't. In this sense, I'm sure Wellbutrin works; I just stopped taking it. As long as its my responsibility to follow through on something, I will fail. I hope I'm not lectured too harshly for admitting to this; but this is the nature of my addiction. I was hoping that hypnotism could help me overcome this problem by dealing subconsciously with whatever fears have robbed me of my will power. I've bought the books, I've thrown away full packs, I've been about as dramatic about quitting as you possibly can without actually quitting.

I want the people who have encouraged me to realize that it is my decision to smoke, to understand that I appreciate the advice, and it helps. I'm just tired of having rationalized this through, and then falling prey to a major craving, and then having to start all over again.
posted by phaedon at 3:28 PM on December 3, 2007


Carr worked for me, as well as several of my co-workers after they watched me break my addiction. A big part of it is to go through the entire damn book and follow his instructions.

Someone here once said "Don't let the fact that you are smarter than Alan Carr keep him from helping you.", a sentiment that I greatly appreciate and agree with. Carr's writing is a bit simplistic, but it really is effective if you just close your eyes to the obvious tricks he is using, and embrace them.

It should be noted, that he decided to write his book after having been attempting to use hypnotism to quit. It worked for a couple of months then let him down.
posted by quin at 3:30 PM on December 3, 2007


phaedon sez:

And as long as no one is forcing me to read it, I won't... As long as its my responsibility to follow through on something, I will fail.

That's so me. Also, my dad was hypnotized and it worked for him; alas, he died from congestive heart failure a few years after that. The last thing he asked me for, a few days before he died, was to wheel him outside so he could smoke a cigarette.
posted by wafaa at 4:30 PM on December 3, 2007


Well I am of the opinion that hypnosis is generally a load of horseshit so I would be inclined to say no. If you do this, I would say that yes, you are falling for a scam.
posted by Effigy2000 at 5:52 PM on December 3, 2007


Anecdotal, but an old housemate quit cold turkey after a couple of hypnosis sessions, and has stayed off since - about half a decade.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 7:04 PM on December 3, 2007


Several of my friends have been helped by the Mad Russian.
posted by starfish at 8:13 PM on December 3, 2007


The first time I quit smoking (freshman year of college), I used Pokemon. Bought a little pocket gameboy, and every time I wanted to smoke, I played Pokemon. It was awesome. I felt absolutely no desire to smoke at all.
I was, however, completely addicted to Pokemon.

The second time I quit, I was sitting outside a friend's house, chatting it up with this fascinating older gentleman. I was smoking a cigarette and after I put it out I made mention that I wanted to quit some day.
He said, "Really? You want to quit?" I nodded. He gave me a sly look.
"Why," he said, "quitting smoking is the easiest damned thing in the world." I laughed but he could tell I was interested.
"Do you want to know the secret to quitting the smokes?"
I nodded eagerly.
"Seriously?"
"Yes, dude, please tell me now."
"You really, really want to quit smoking?"
"Yes! I do!"
"OK," he said, "ready?"
"YES!"
"Quit."
I stared at him.
He stared back at me.
"Right now. Quit right now. Give me your cigarettes, don't ever smoke another cigarette again. You are no longer a smoker. Quit. Right. Now."

I gave him my smokes.

That felt kinda like hypnosis in a way. I didn't smoke again until my dad died - I fell right off the wagon and I smoke today, but I've got a copy of Carr's book staring at me from the corner of the coffee table and I'm going to read it real soon.

We all can do this!

We just have to do it right now.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 9:24 PM on December 3, 2007


Baby_Balrog: That older gentleman's advice is exactly what Carr says.

I started smoking in 1993, the year I quit the varsity track team in college. I quit last month.

In between I'd quit with a yoyo (like the pokemon game trick above), read Carr, the works.

I quit last month because I had pneumonia and my doctor told me if I didn't quit he'd hospitalize me and I might die. Worked like a charm.

Get pneumonia, maybe?
posted by Joseph Gurl at 12:31 AM on December 4, 2007


Again, anecdotal, but both my parents gave up using hypnosis in the late '70s. My mum stayed off them and has never smoked since (shortly after the hypnosis she got pregnant) - my dad went back on them for a while but gave up again, hasn't smoked in twenty years and is now one of the most rabid anti-smokers I know.

I don't know the exact method that was used on them, though.
posted by altolinguistic at 3:51 AM on December 4, 2007


Baby_Balrog, that was a big part of quitting for me. Just doing it. For a long time I tried to have my "last cigarette", and it just never felt right. I could never successfully plan to stop smoking, because I was never really ready.

So, one day I just finished my pack and just never went to the store to buy more. I think it helps to realize you've already had your last cigarette then to say "Okay, THIS one is my last one."
posted by notmydesk at 11:22 AM on December 4, 2007


I commented in a previous thread on hypnosis that the technique should just be thought of as a kind of mental training, so if you really want to quit, and you're willing to have someone help you set up a new approach and series of habits, I can imagine it could be pretty helpful. Of course, if you're not into it, then it probably wouldn't, and afterward the longer you go getting back into your old habits, the less the new influences are going to be effective.

It's definitely not magic, but if you're feeling kind of psychologically conflicted, wanting to quit but somewhere sabotaging yourself, it could help to bring in a strong authoritarian voice to bolster that part of you that can't quite be bothered to stick to the decision.
posted by mdn at 12:41 PM on December 4, 2007


The non-physical aspects of addiction are what I've found to be the most problematic in quitting. It's hard to break those associational habits like having a smoke after a meal, or going out to a bar, or feeling stressed, etc... Everyone I know has used different methods for quitting. I think, ultimately, the one that ends up working is a very personal thing. For myself, I needed to know that there would be some kind of tangible reward (other than the obvious health benefits). What I did was think of something I really wanted but was out of my reach for financial reasons. I chose a new bike as that thing. My goal was to be able to afford to buy a new bike with the money I saved through choosing to quit. Here in Chicago smoking is a very expensive habit, smokes cost on average about 8 bucks a pack. I was smoking at least a pack a day, sometimes two or three if I was out drinking, so I knew that in X amount of days I would have all the money I needed for the bike I wanted (we're talking a 3000 dollar bike here). When I worked it out I found that I would have enough money saved right about the time that spring hit. That was enough incentive for me to quit because I had a tangible/visible goal in mind. Just something to think about. I know a couple of people who have used this technique to great affect.
posted by ISeemToBeAVerb at 2:29 PM on December 4, 2007


One more anecdotal data point... I quit smoking about 12 years ago. I tried "the patch" by itself--didn't work. I tried hypnosis by itself--didn't work. I tried both of them together--finally stuck (but it was still nowhere near as easy as the ads would lead you to believe).
posted by jknecht at 6:41 PM on December 4, 2007


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