The Tillandsia Institute offers smoking cessation training for health professionals. The questions discussed in this article will illustrate the importance for therapists to attend regular workshops, masterclasses, or smoking cessation online training: What is addiction? What is an addictive substance? What is an addictive personality?
The institutions that gave us our qualifications no doubt provided us with the answers to these questions. But if those answers were definitive, there would be no debate as to whether addiction is a psychological or physiological condition; why some people can use addictive substances and not become addicted; how even someone thought to have an addictive personality can brake their addiction.
Reason #1 to Update Smoking Cessation Training: Addiction is psychosomatic
If we take this view of addiction, we will be able to help any person to stop smoking. During the 4 years that I practised in Durban I treated a client for smoking, and quickly identified her OCD. The medical explanation for her condition was that her serotonin / dopamine system was dysfunctional. She would therefore have a physiological need for the pleasure stimulus release by smoking a cigarette. This is surely a case of physiological addiction, and many of us have been told in our training that there is nothing we can do as Hypnotherapists because the problem is not of a psychological nature. I treated her condition in two ways, firstly by teaching her how to meditate. This replaced the feeling of calmness (serotonin) that a cigarette would give her, and allowed her to manage her obsessive thoughts more easily. Secondly, I directed her highly active mind using hypnosis onto pursuing her career. This replaced the feeling of accomplishment (dopamine) that her compulsions would give her. The result was that she felt calmer and more productive in general. She reduced her smoking from 3 cigarettes a day to only an occasional cigarette if she felt really stressed.
My client broke her physiological addiction to nicotine because addiction is psychosomatic. The more her OCD spun her mind around, circling the drain with negative and intrusive thoughts, (obsession) the more she felt she needed a cigarette, (compulsion = addiction). But in learning to meditate, she learned to ignore the negative thoughts brought on by her serotonin deficiency, and this brought her a sense of calm. In this way, she replaced the cigarette addiction with a healthy alternative: meditation.
Anti-drugs propaganda film c.1960
Reason #2 to Update Smoking Cessation Training: There is no such thing as an addictive substance
It certainly makes things easier and a lot simpler to believe the anti-drug propaganda films from the 1960s to the present, that portray substances like marijuana as intrinsically addictive, with immediate effect. 50 years after production, one can explain the exaggerated effects of possession, madness, and general melodrama in the example as a compliance tactic to scare the public into staying on the strait and narrow. The anonymous producers of films such as these have successfully frightened millions of Americans into believing that if they so much as inhale one breath of a “marijuana cigarette” they will become instantly addicted for life. Consequently, many people have never tried “drugs” because they are too scared of becoming addicted, meanwhile smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. In retrospect, perhaps fear was not an effective health care strategy. How many habitual smokers, drinkers, and pharmaceutical drug users believe that they are helpless to resist the power of that addictive substance?
In my registration form I ask the question “Have you ever tried any recreational drugs?” About 30% indicate that they have at some point, tried marijuana, ecstasy, acid, cocaine, or meth. Of that 30%, 9 out of 10 report no addiction. They tried it a few times at parties and soon realised that it was not a sustainable life style.
I’m sure that my statistics are just the tip of the iceberg. How is it that so many people are able to continue their normal lives after using an “addictive substance”? Most people do not become addicted because addiction is psychosomatic.
Reason #3 to Update Smoking Cessation Training: Understanding the addictive personality
Another question on my registration form is “Do you have a sweet tooth?” This gives me an indication of the level to which my client is addicted to sugar, which can indicate a tendency for addiction in general. A person who is prone to addiction or we could say has an addictive personality may easily become addicted to other substances or activities such as gambling or sex. However, it is important that we as therapists do not enable the client’s addiction by allowing them to believe that they have no choice in the matter. Blaming their addictive personality will take away their power to change. This is a highly sensitive issue because doctors and psychiatrists seldom understand the degree to which their clients are suggestible in a consultation. It is crucial that health professionals are aware that an addictive personality can change. By identifying the cause of the addiction and using an appropriate script in hypnosis to reinforce the desire for a healthy lifestyle, we can change the behaviour.
The Tillandsia Institute is offering a masterclass in smoking cessation training for health professionals on Saturday 10 December in Cape Town, from 9:30am to 4:00pm. If enough people sign on, we are also going to do the training via live webinar so that people who can’t make it on the Saturday can still learn these amazing tools to help their clients quit smoking.