Hypnosis for Drug Abuse

 
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Cannabis

In November 2020 Proposition 207 made it legal for people in Arizona 21 and over to possess and use recreational marijuana. It can be smoked or eaten, and purchased legally by adults at dispensaries. It is also readily available on the black market for those too young to purchase it legally.

Partly because of its popularity and legality, many people think this drug is harmless, or at least less damaging than alcohol. Marijuana had accepted medical uses for years, and for certain illnesses cannabis/CBD can be beneficial. However, daily recreational use, even to lessen anxiety and/or insomnia, can have negative consequences. At low doses, cannabis can decrease anxiety, but at high doses people can become more anxious.

Although research on the negative effects of cannabis, especially on young people, was conducted a few years ago, this information is not widely known. However, that may change; on June 23, 2022, the New York Times published an article entitled: "Psychosis, Addiction, Chronic Vomiting: As Weed Becomes More Potent, Teens are Getting Sick." The article's subheading reads: "With THC levels close to 100 percent, today's cannabis products are making some teenagers highly dependent and dangerously ill."

Many parents and grandparents remember the marijuana of their youth, and think of it as harmless. Yet, through genetic manipulation, the current versions of cannabis are many times more powerful--and dangerous--than those available in the 60s, 70s or 80s (when the typical THC content was only around 5%).

 

The article goes on to say: In addition to uncontrollable vomiting and addiction, adolescents who frequently use high doses of cannabis may also experience psychosis that could possibly lead to lifelong psychiatric disorder, an increased likelihood of developing depression and suicidal ideation, changes in brain anatomy/connectivity and poor memory.

The article is illustrated with cases where temporary, or permanent, damage was the result of daily ingestion of powerful cannabis. In addition, there are instances of violence and lawbreaking made more likely when a regular user is high. I've had patients who looked back at their stoner years and realized how weed decreased their motivation, and held them back from fulfilling their dreams.

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Hard Drugs

Hard drugs are seen as more potent and toxic, both physically and mentally.

Cocaine: Over 14% of Americans 12 and older have tried cocaine. It's a powerful stimulant and one of the most addictive drugs in the world. Cocaine often starts with recreational use, but addiction can develop quickly. Symptoms include insomnia, mood swings, anxiety, loss of appetite, excessive sweating and restlessness.

Opioids: Opioids are narcotic drugs that affect the nervous system and act as a pain reliever. They include synthetic or partly-synthetic drugs that mimic opiates such as heroin. Common prescription opioids include codeine, fentanyl, hydrocodone, morphine and oxycodone. While prescribed opioids are a common and effective method of treating severe and chronic pain, long term use and abuse can lead to addiction, physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms.

 

Opioids are some of the most commonly abused drugs worldwide. Fentanyl is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent. Over 100,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in the last year, and 75% were from opioids. Since fentanyl is so potent and relatively cheap, it is added to many illicit drugs (meth and cocaine), and some counterfeit prescription drugs. There is no way to detect if a lethal dose of fentanyl has been added. Many teenagers and adults have rapidly died from ingesting this drug, often unknowingly.

 

It has been reported that 80% of the fentanyl sold illegally in the USA comes through Arizona from Mexico. Does that mean that black market Adderall or Xanax pills in Arizona are more likely to contain lethal fentanyl doses? Possibly, only 13 states have drug overdose death rates worse than Arizona.

Methamphetamine: Is a powerful, highly addictive stimulant that affects the central nervous system. Crystal methamphetamine is a form of the drug that looks like glass fragments or shiny, bluish-white rocks. It is chemically similar to amphetamine, 5.6% of Americans 12 and older have tried meth. Addicts take it by smoking, swallowing a pill, snorting or injecting the powder dissolved in water/alcohol. Effects include, increased wakefulness/activity, decreased appetite, faster breathing, rapid heartbeat, increased blood pressure and body temperature. Most illegal meth is also produced in clandestine labs in Mexico. Long-term meth use can result in extreme weight loss, addiction, severe dental problems, anxiety, confusion, memory loss, paranoia, hallucinations and violent behavior. In 2017, about 15% of all drug overdose deaths involved methamphetamine. It should be noted that fentanyl is sometimes added to street meth without the user knowing.

Treatment

Cannabis: Because of its legality, availability and acceptance, most cannabis users do not try to cut back or stop using. They don't see the negative consequences, although often those around them are aware of the effects. Colorado legalized recreational cannabis use in 2014. Since then, traffic fatalities have increased by 75 a year and many people have been arrested for driving while impaired.

Legalization in Arizona and other states is too new for extensive research on the deleterious effects of this drug, but loss of motivation and interpersonal problems with loved ones are widely reported. In addition, many companies now conduct random or regular drug tests of their employees. Use of marijuana, even though legal, can be a cause for discharge.

It is essential that the teenager or adult wants to stop the marijuana habit. Sometimes a parent or spouse provides the initial push, but the patient themselves must see the benefits to stopping or at least cutting back on use. My approach is to use hypnosis to decrease the need for the drug--usually by diminishing anxiety--and slowly ween the patient off marijuana. Sometimes this is a very rapid process, and takes only a few sessions. The person's desire for a cannabis high is just gone. In more extreme cases, it may take more time, but the process is thorough and effective. When the issue that motivated them to take cannabis is healed or at least diminished, it is much easier to create a successful long-term outcome.

​​​Hard Drugs: Very often an intervention from a spouse or family member is required to get the addict to admit he/she has a problem. Users lie to themselves and others, so promises are mostly meaningless. And despite the person's claims to the contrary they will not be able to do it on their own.

It is important to seek help for prescription or illicit substance abuse/addiction. Withdrawal from many of the common street and prescription drugs can be uncomfortable, painful, or even life-threatening.

In many cases, it will be important to detox in a medically supervised facility, where medications can be prescribed to ease the symptoms of withdrawal. In the case of drugs like heroin, hydrocodone, and oxycodone, specific treatment medications such as Suboxone are approved for use in facilitating detox and for longitudinal treatment of opioid dependence.

 

Detox should be followed by further treatment to address the underlying causes of addiction, and to develop relapse prevention skills. This is when hypnotherapy can be effective. The issue for most hard drug users is not one of stopping, the challenge is to keep from using again. The relapse rate found after most residential treatment programs is very high--at least 90%. Some patients are able to make permanent changes in those programs, but those cases are rare.

In contrast, clinical hypnotherapy provides healing at the subconscious level, and has much better odds of helping to achieve a permanent solution. The patient can begin at any point in their sobriety, but motivation is very important, and sometimes multiple sessions per week are advised. The good news is there is clinical research to prove the effectiveness of hypnotherapy in cases of addiction. Here is a typical research study on hypnosis for drug addiction. In addition, the famous Passages Malibu rehab center also believes in getting to the root of the problem and makes extensive use of clinical hypnotherapy to help permanently heal their patients.