Alternatives for Giving Up Cigarettes
Have you tried unconventional approaches to stop smoking?
A Powerful Addiction continued...
Kiresuk agrees. "When you see what happens to people who
are in the stages of withdrawal, you know that this is a very serious
affliction," he says. Committed smokers, he says, are "willing to risk
death to keep smoking."
Still, the alternative approaches to smoking cessation have a
growing number of converts -- and they've turned some cigarette cravers into
permanent ex-smokers. A primary benefit of most of these unconventional methods
is their ability to empower people to change. "Individuals learn that they
have control over their body that they didn't think they had before. It's a
learning experience that prepares them to make changes like quitting
smoking," says Kiresuk.
Hypnosis: Heightened Awareness
Along with weight management, smoking cessation is the most
popular medical use of hypnosis. Using this technique, individuals enter a
state of focused attention and concentration and become more susceptible to
suggestions that weaken their craving for cigarettes and strengthen their will
However, when researchers at Ohio State University reviewed
nearly five dozen studies of the use of hypnosis for smoking cessation, they
concluded that while smokers participating in hypnosis programs were more
successful in abstaining from cigarettes than smokers who did not use any
stop-smoking intervention, this approach appeared to have no advantages over
other popular stop-smoking programs.
"When you look specifically at the well-controlled clinical
trials of hypnosis, they have not yet confirmed the benefits of this
method," says Timothy Carmody, PhD, clinical professor of psychiatry at the
University of California San Francisco and director of health psychology at San
Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
At UCSF, Carmody and his co-researchers are conducting a
carefully designed study to help definitively answer the question of whether
hypnosis really works for smoking cessation.Â All participantsÂ are
receiving nicotine patches (for eight weeks) and standard behavioral
counseling, and half of them also have gone through self-hypnosis training
These individuals are taught to relax and enter an attentive,
receptive state. "Then," says Carmody, "they're given suggestions
for focusing on and strengthening their reasons for quitting smoking, and
picturing themselves as nonsmokers effectively overcoming and reducing the
experience of urges or cravings to smoke." The UCSF participants are being
asked to practice the self-hypnosis technique at least once or twice a day, as
well as use it as needed to successfully manage situations where they may
experience a desire to smoke.
A unique component of the UCSF study is that it is not relying
solely on patient self-reports of successful quitting. "Our patients who
say they have quit provide a saliva sample, which is analyzed for the presence
of cotinine," a chemical byproduct of nicotine, says Carmody.
A Picture's Worth a Thousand Words
If you can mobilize vivid images in your mind at the drop of a
cigarette ash, guided imagery may be a technique worth trying. Using this
method, individuals enter a state of relaxation and then create mental pictures
that help tap into their unconscious mind and reprogram the nervous system to
resist the temptation to smoke.