New York Daily News
Tuesday, March 30th 2010, 10:21 AM
BILL: After President Obama’s recent health checkup, he was reported to be in very good shape. But the small print at the end of many articles said he still had not been able to quit smoking. This is the second time he’s gotten that kind of annual report.
You know, Dave, I’ve heard more than one 12-Stepper say it was harder to quit tobacco than drinking. But addiction prone as I am, I never smoked, so the subject is a mystery. What makes tobacco so addictive?
Dr. DAVE: In a word, the brain chemical Acetylcholine. Nicotine dramatically increases the levels of that neurotransmitter’s action throughout the mind and body. It’s the only drug or addictive behavior that triggers this powerful brain chemical.
BILL: I am always surprised by the sheer craving my fellow writers and recovering drunks have for their smokes. Both notoriously mainline their nicotine to meet an editor’s deadline, or while waiting for the start of an A A meeting.
DR. DAVE: Those two or three Pall Mall non-filters pushed into the lungs in the morning send Acetylcholine action out into the entire muscle system, revving up the human engine …
BILL: … just in time for a few shots of espresso to throw the smoker into gear for the day. But 12 hours later, he’s sucking on the last of his second pack to calm down enough to go back to bed!
DR. DAVE: Nicotine adds a unique excitement to the central nervous system. It heightens attention and other brain problem-solving functions.
BILL: Thus giving you a feeling you’re hitting on all cylinders, and better able to resolve whatever problem you face?
DR. DAVE: Problem solved, time for bed. From early morning until late at night, the smoker feels nicotine is a drug for every occasion.
BILL: So, even with professional treatment and the new online support networks like Quitnet, so many people — and our President too — haven’t been able to reach recovery.
DR. DAVE: I’d like our readers to know that, thanks to the Tobacco Settlement monies, some of the best medical programs are given away free. Even the American Lung Association’s gold standard of cessation programs, Freedom from Smoking, is now given away through the internet link and by regular mail.
BILL: What I’ve been wondering is, can hypnotherapy help? “The sub-conscious mind,” Los Angeles Clinical Hypnotherapist, Dr. John McGrail told me, “is like a combination of a three-year-old child and the hard drive of a computer. The three-year-old believes whatever it’s told and the computer must play the programming it is given.” Dave, you’re a psychologist, what do you think?
DR. DAVE: In general, I like the way Dr. McGrail frames it. In typical re-lapse prevention programs, like CEN APS, the alcoholic or other drug addict works on maybe a “deadly dozen” of relapse cues and cravings to use again. I presume Dr. McGrail is setting the stage to encourage a similar wide spectrum approach?
BILL: Exactly. “Basically,” he told me, “hypnosis creates a very receptive state of mind in the smoker. We can then `speak’ directly to the three-year-old, remove the old smoking habit software, and program the computer with new software (non-smoking). With appropriate reinforcement, the smoker quits and stays quit.” So what does the medical research say?
DR. DAVE: Well, if you turn to the authoritative Cochrane Library you’ll find great science explanations plus what they call “plain talk summaries”. According to Cochrane’s review of 50+ quality re-search studies, there is no behavioral intervention, by itself, including hypnotherapy, that has been shown to prevent relapse back into tobacco use. What they do say is that most smokers need to try several times, across several methods, to find their individual path to quit.
BILL: Not particularly encouraging, Doc.
DR. DAVE: Well, Cochrane does give solid guidance — “The verdict is strongest for interventions focusing on identifying and resolving tempting situations” — which does argue strongly for adding hypnotherapy to the person’s individual plan.
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Dr. Dave Hill, DCH
“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” -Walt Disney