Materia Medica Malaysiana

November 11, 2007

Snap! You wake up ciggie-free

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 9:14 am

NST: ‘Sleep’ an hour and wake up a non-smoker? Can it really be that easy? A doctor and a couple of hypnotherapists tell TAN CHOE CHOE that this is true
KUALA LUMPUR: He had been puffing away for over 30 years and tried desperately to stop for the last 10.
Nicotine patch, mints, nicotine gum; you name it, Dr Omar Abdul Hamid has tried it all.
Each Ramadan, he’d renew his efforts to stop smoking.
“The longest I managed to stay away from ciggies was a mere two weeks. That was during last year’s fasting month,” said Dr Omar, 53, the managing director of Darul Ehsan Medical Centre in Shah Alam.
But he was desperately craving for a cigarette fix in that “seemingly never-ending two weeks”.
On top of it, he was becoming a “grumpy bear” to those around him.
“I had terrible withdrawal symptoms — I was restless, irritable, easily angered, and I couldn’t sleep or think properly!”
Inevitably, he succumbed to the craving and started to smoke again.
But all that became history when he took up a friend’s advice and tried hypnotherapy to stop smoking about two months ago.
“My best friend, who is also a physician, introduced me to hypnotherapy. He told me he was taking a course in clinical hypnosis at this school in Pusat Bandar Damansara.”
Dr Omar said that he was keen to try anything at that point.
“I was sceptical but also desperate, so I thought ‘why not?'”
With that in mind, he met Sheila Menon, the principal of the Malaysian branch of the London College of Clinical Hypnosis, where his friend was studying.
“Dr Omar came to us with a high desire and motivation to stop smoking.
“On a scale of one to 10 — with one being ‘no, I like my smoking habit and I want a cigarette now’ and 10 being ‘I want to quit this very minute’ — he told us he was a nine,” said Sheila.
So she recommended that he try the one-session-stop-smoking therapy — which takes no more than two hours — with Peter Mabbutt, a hypnotherapist and founder fellow of the British Association of Medical Hypnosis.
“Seven to eight out of every 10 patients who have gone for this therapy session will stop smoking. Dr Omar and my own husband are good testimonies of its efficacy,” said Sheila, whose college is also the first of its kind in Asia.

So how does it work?
The founder of this technique, Michael Joseph, the principal of LCCH in London, said it works uniquely for each individual.
“The therapist first obtains information from the patient about his or her smoking pattern, then while hypnotised, employs (usually strong, direct) suggestions that he stop the habit.”
Sheila describes the process as “bringing back the non-smoker that is within the patient” — the feelings and memories before the person first started smoking.
Joseph has been employing this one-session-stop-smoking technique for over 30 years.
“People were sceptical at first, some even hostile. But since those early years, LCCH has trained thousands of practitioners, many of them doing sterling work in the community now.”
Before starting, Sheila said it’s important to understand what a patient associates a cigarette with — like the feelings of absolute control when lighting up; personal reward after a successful deal; or momentary freedom from a boring meeting.
“Most people don’t smoke because of nicotine — you can get that in the first few puffs. Yet why do smokers hold to that last drag?
“It’s due to psychological, social or emotional problems, or just simple habit.”
Sheila said Joseph’s technique worked by helping the patients rationalise the reasons behind why they were smoking and to point out the logic behind the reasons why they could not stop the habit.
“We’re using the memory that they have of themselves as a non-smoker and using it to help build a new image of themselves today as a non-smoker, replacing (their smoking) habits with new healthy habits.”
Then the hypnotherapist will suggest to the patient during hypnosis to utilise that image when thinking of himself in the future.
Dr Omar’s session lasted about two hours but he was only hypnotised for less than an hour — about 45 minutes.
“We spent the early part of the session talking about my habit, my smoking history. Then Peter (Mabbutt) told me he would hypnotise me and gently told me to go to sleep.
“It was strange because I did go to sleep, yet I was aware. I still remember what he said to me before and during the hypnosis, not all, but bits and pieces of it.
“But mostly, I remember thinking that I could hear him, although I couldn’t move and my eyes were closed. You have to try it to know what I’m saying,” said Dr Omar of his experience.
He hasn’t picked up a cigarette for over two months — not even during the most tempting time of the year, the Hari Raya holidays.
“To friends who offered me a ciggie, I just told them what Peter suggested: ‘Thank you, (but) I’m not a smoker’.”
And best of all, he’s experienced no withdrawal symptoms whatsoever.
“I also don’t suffer from insomnia any more. I’m sleeping better, eating better, and I feel great.”
Joseph, who was in town to attend the Master Class in Smoking Cessation Through Hypnosis, especially for doctors, healthcare professionals and students of LCCH, Malaysia, said thousands of people stopped smoking every year, with or without any help whatsoever.
He said everybody already had, within themselves “all the strength and willpower they need to become non-smokers”.
“It is the skill of the therapist to find and liberate this ‘power’ within that will allow them to conquer their habit.”
It was important to understand that a hypnotherapist could not “make” anyone do anything they already were not fully capable of doing, he added.

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