Women’s Health: Hypnosis beats nicotine replacement as a smoking cessation aid

Small study also suggests hypnotherapy is a more popular choice among female smokers

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Being encouraged to quit smoking under hypnosis is more effective than nicotine replacement therapy or “going cold turkey,” according to a small study of smokers who were hospitalized for a variety of reasons.

Dr. Faysal Hasan of the North Shore Medical Center in Salem, Mass., and his colleagues studied four quit-smoking strategies: hypnotherapy, nicotine replacement therapy, hypnotherapy plus nicotine replacement therapy, or abruptly stopping.

The 67 smokers in the study were all motivated to quit and had some input as to which treatment they received. “Men were more likely to choose the quick fix with a pill or a patch, or going ‘cold turkey.’ Women were more likely to choose hypnotherapy,” Hasan says.

Six months after discharge, half of the people who received hypnotherapy remained smoke-free, regardless of whether they also received nicotine replacement. One-quarter of people who went cold turkey remained smoke-free, while only 16 per cent of those who received nicotine replacement alone continued to not smoke.

“Data on the success of hypnotherapy are all over the place,” Hasan says. “Success rates ranging from 15 per cent to 80 per cent are claimed. … The optimal number of sessions and the best methods have not been established.”

Hasan says an important feature of his study was the participants’ ability to choose their own treatment. Equally important is the smoker’s motivation to quit, he adds. “This concept of motivation is a mystery.” It may be fear-based, but smokers also need “hope and frequent feedback, and it’s only going to work if patients want it to work.”