Drugs and alcohol are often used in an attempt to cope with difficult emotions, and because of the way the brain responds, people can quickly become addicted. Addictions bring with them a whole new set of obstacles, often leaving the drug user trapped in a cycle of drug abuse, trying to quit and relapsing.
According to the NHS, more of us are struggling with addiction. In 2015/16 there was a 6% rise in hospital admissions with a diagnosis of drug-related mental health and behavioural disorders. This is 11% higher than 2005/06.
Managing an addiction can be incredibly hard, affecting all areas of your life, including work, relationships and both your mental and physical health. On this page we’ll take a closer look at addiction, exploring how hypnotherapy for drug addiction can form part of your recovery.
How addiction works
In most cases, drugs will trigger the brain’s reward system, releasing the feel-good hormone dopamine. The reward system controls the body’s ability to feel pleasure and so when it is triggered, it encourages you to trigger it again. When drugs are involved, the reward system is over stimulated, leading to a ‘high’. This high makes people want to take the drug again and again.
Over time, the brain adjusts itself to produce less dopamine and/or making the cells in the reward system less responsive. This means the drug user won’t get the same effect and will build a tolerance. This leads them wanting more of the drug to feel high again.
The lack of dopamine can also make it difficult for the person affected to feel enjoyment from other activities, like seeing friends, eating a good meal or previous hobbies.
If the drug is taken long-term it can lead to further changes in the brain’s chemistry, affecting memory, decision-making skills, judgement, learning ability and stress tolerance depending on which drug is being taken, mental health can also be affected. This can lead users to experience various symptoms such as paranoia, aggression, anxiety, lack of energy and even hallucinations.
Hypnotherapy for drug addiction
Hypnotherapy is one approach that, especially when combined with other forms of treatment, can be incredibly helpful for those in recovery. Here’s a brief explanation of how hypnotherapy works:
A hypnotherapist will encourage you to settle into a state of deep relaxation. In this state it’s believed that your unconscious (the part of your mind that runs without you knowing) is more open to suggestion. Our unconscious is responsible for a huge amount of our behaviours and habits; it’s thought to be responsible for around 90% of our functioning.
Using suggestion techniques hypnotherapists look to change the way you react to certain things. For example, in hypnotherapy for drug addiction, the suggestions made would aim to help you not crave the drug anymore. Suggestions may include not needing drugs anymore or associating drug taking with something unpleasant.
Some hypnotherapists may also teach you self-hypnosis techniques, allowing you to continue the work and support yourself after the sessions are over. These self-hypnosis techniques also work to reinforce the work you’ve done with your hypnotherapist, giving you a greater chance of success.
Hypnotherapy for addiction is not a one-stop cure, however it can become a welcome tool in the recovery process.
Other treatment options
The drug treatment recommended to you will depend on your personal circumstances and what it is you’re addicted to. Typically there is a multi-faceted approach that may include:
· talking therapies like CBT
· substitute medication (if you’re addicted to heroin for example, you may be offered methadone)
· detoxification (and support during the detoxification process)
· reducing harm (helping to reduce the risks associated with drug taking)
Generally, going to your doctor should be your first port of call. They will discuss your treatment options with you and help you find approaches that will suit you.
Drug addiction is a complicated thing and there are usually many factors at play. This means it can be difficult to overcome and usually requires the support of others, including professionals. During the recovery process it is quite normal for people to relapse (start using drugs again after quitting).
If this happens to you, it’s important to know that it doesn’t mean you’ve failed. Recognising what’s happened and reaching out to those who helped you quit is key. You can look at your treatment plan and see if it needs adjusting (are there any other approaches you could try?).
If you have had hypnotherapy for addiction for example, it could be worth scheduling more sessions to reinforce the work you’ve done and to see if a different suggestion/approach could help.
Worried about a friend?
If you suspect a friend or family member has a drug addiction, it’s important to speak to them in a calm manner, with no judgement. Express your concern without being accusatory and perhaps send them any information you think may help (like this page).
Remember, people don’t become addicted to drugs by choice and there are often lots of underlying reasons and factors contributing to the situation.
Encourage them to speak to their doctor and get professional support where possible. Being there for them and showing your support will help them enormously as they seek treatment.
You may feel frustrated and even alone. There are lots of resources and support groups available to help you connect with others going through similar struggles. It’s also important for you to look after yourself and seek professional support where necessary.