Smoking cessation - a hypno-biological approach
Addiction is a complex and intertwining phenomena that utilises the environment and biology to work in conjunction. This can create situations where things seem out of control and needs are met from habits that take control of actions.
The biology is complex, neurotransmitters and hormones affect the body in miraculous ways and science is learning how the environment can play a crucial role. Environment is key in addiction - change the environment and change the habit, and also, change the needs and feelings associated with addiction.
One of the most interesting insights into the power which environment has over the body in relation to addiction can be seen in heroin addiction. Imagine the story of a heroin addict from the moment the heroin is taken in, his body fights back with an anti-heroin which balances the body so that the poison doesn't cause death. To a degree, this reaction happens with all drugs, once the drug is taken in so to does the body release an agent that prevents the person overdosing. So, use after use the body gets better producing the anti-dote and the individuals tolerance to the drug increases.
What does this have to do with the environment?
Well, over time the body becomes attuned to the environment and can predict when the individual will consume the drug - back to our heroin story, if the user is taking the heroin in the same environment time and time again, the body reacts and produces antidote before the heroin is taken, it also means a great desire to take the heroin so that the effects of the antidote can be balanced out by the heroin, the resulting combination larger and larger amounts of heroin required to get the same feeling.
This is really interesting, so the environment predicts the release of certain chemicals that can make us feel a certain way, or have a certain desire for a drug, and can also perpetuate the quantities consumed. The environmental cues, triggers or catalysts can have a significant effect on the desire for an addictive substance. All right then, but what about if the heroin addict shooted up somewhere else? If they consumed the amount they were used to in a different location, perhaps a hotel bedroom, they would overdose and die. Why? As they are in a different environment to the place they normally take heroin, their body has not reacted fast enough to the prospect of taking a lethal dose of heroin, therefore there is not a sufficient antidote in their body and they die from an overdose.
The story of heroin addiction (and death) clearly shows the importance of the environment when predicting biological effects and addictive behaviour. Even sadder, heroin overdoses tend to be 'that one last hit' in an unfamiliar location.
On a positive note, this gives us an indication of how people can give up smoking. Smoking cessations can have a life course, and a pattern for our changes in the environment over a period of time. Whether that's having a smoke in the same place or resisting for long enough for the dissociation of smoking in that place is strong enough for the smoking antidote (the urge for a cigarette) not to formulate.
Pragmatic approaches to quitting smoking could be to change normal routines on a regular basis, wear different clothes, and even sensory things like changing washing detergent and deodorants or perfumes – smells can be important environmental cues, just think of that juicy steak or bubbling fondue, and possible observe the biological change in your saliva glands.
Some environmental cues could also be our thoughts, feelings and reactions to certain situations. Sometimes the feelings of stress and anxiety can cause a person to smoke, sometimes, quite the opposite, such as when they finish a task. I remember my granddad feeling an overwhelming desire for a cigarette after finishing off wall-papering his living room and he hadn't smoked a cigarette for years, but this time, this environmental cue stayed with him. Hypnosis comes in useful for these very moments, when the situation, thoughts and feelings can have the effects of reaching for a cigarette. The change in internal state and continued satisfaction in oneself, coming from improved calmness and confidence facilitated by hypnosis from situation to situation allows the individual to manoeuvre through these environments that produce the desire to smoke.
With this information in mind all people deciding to quit smoking can go about it in really positive and lasting ways. Get help with the emotional side of things by seeing a hypnotherapist but also make changes to your environment at the same time to get the best results.
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James BrannanNovember 29th, 2016