Therapy for addictions in Oxford, Abingdon and Bampton
The first step in recovery is to admit you have a problem. I have seen many individuals over the years in Oxfordshire that say they are not alcoholics for example because they don’t need to drink when they wake up in the morning. They don’t see drinking a bottle of vodka or several bottles of wine in an evening as being the problem. Or they say they only have one spliff in an evening, but try as they might, if they attempt to give up, they can’t.
I understand that a person who experiences trouble controlling their alcohol consumption is not an alcoholic but rather a person who’s subconscious mind is controlling the habit for them.
Any addiction is driven by a need for the substance or action, this motivation is part of our genetic brain makeup, we are in pursuit of the good feelings and the rush of dopamine we get in anticipation of the substance or act. The purpose of our brains doing this is to motivate us to hunt, eat, procreate and survive. The downside is that our subconscious when it creates that shortcut also includes substances or behaviours that can if in taken or pursued in large quantities can be highly dangerous.
Some people drink to forget a problem, to mask pain or stress. Some may have noticed that there are times when they have decided not to drink alcohol anymore, or maybe cut back on socialising. They may have noticed that as soon as they have decided to make changes, the urge to drink just seems to get worse. Again this is the subconscious mind-controlling the habit.
Addictions to drugs or actions such as cannabis, cocaine and substances such as sugar or refined foods, actions such as gambling or sex are very much driven by the dopamine’s effect on the nucleus accumbens – the “reward circuit” of the brain.
Using Solution Focused Therapy for addictions
Using a mix of Solution-focused therapy we can look at the times you don’t need to drink/ take drugs or take part in the actions and work towards reducing the amount or to stop altogether. It can uncover the needs that are not being met, and this can be addressed. It might be that a person may need to have more social contact for example or may need to change where they go to socialise or change what they drink or take. Whatever the client can bring, their resources, their determination can help them change the addiction template in their subconscious mind.
Using Hypnotherapy for addictions
Using hypnosis it can help reduce the stressful situation that alcohol/substance is either masking or creating – as it often affects relationships with everyone around you. Visualisation can help you set your mind on a future free of the addiction, can help rewrite those templates and feel mentally stronger.
Using BWRT for stop smoking
Smoking tobacco is slightly different to other forms of addiction as it does not change the cognitive thinking. BWRT can help scramble the urge to want cigarettes and replace the habit with what the client favours as the positive outcome, such as being able to partake in sports for example.
Using Mindfulness for addictions
Mindful practices can help lower the stress of withdrawal. It can also help as a good distraction when cravings become a possible problem. Becoming Mindful can also help a person understand what is driving their addiction and to have acceptance of oneself and a little self-love, as many individuals are hard on themselves and the more they try hard to give up the habit, the more they feel driven by it. By becoming mindful and accepting themselves, they can give themselves the mental space to move forward calmly.
Using Cognitive behavioural therapy for addictions
In some cases, I have used CBT activity sheets/thought process forms and experiments for clients who are struggling with giving up. This allows someone to become more aware of what drives their habits and allow them then to go on to find solutions to changing them.
Sleep problems and addictions
There is also the problem with sleep – drinking alcohol or taking drugs disrupts your sleep, especially the REM cycle, which is the time during sleep that the brain processes emotions and memories. Years of drinking and drug taking can severely impair one’s memory and can lead to Alzheimer’s later in life.
We will be working towards the goals you want to achieve, but I insist on being sober during the sessions. This is because you need to be able to be focused, and listen carefully and alcohol and drugs disrupt this processes. It is also a waste of your time and money as it will mean I may have to cancel those sessions, but still charge for them.
The cost of alcoholism on the health services
Ill health linked to alcohol is estimated to cost the NHS in England £3.3bn every year, according to the BBC. Research at Oxford University shows that over 4,000 deaths from cancer, heart disease, stroke and liver disease in England could be prevented if drinkers reduced their average level of alcohol consumption to half a unit per person per day.
The NHS also recommends that drinking small amounts regularly is more beneficial than saving it all up for the weekend, so bingeing of any description causes more damage.
Chronic alcoholics will experience symptoms that will need medical help to control once the alcohol is removed. In these cases, I would insist that the client has full medical support before using hypnotherapy to close the compulsive habit down. In the majority of cases, however, a persons drinking habit can be controlled, reduced and removed altogether. Unlike stop smoking hypnotherapy however, it will take considerably more sessions than 1 or 2. It’s more likely to be anything up to 12.
How alcohol affects the brain
Alcohol affects brain chemistry by altering levels of the chemical messengers called neurotransmitters that carry the signals that control behaviours, thought processes and emotion. Alcohol increases the effects of the GABA – an inhibitor that causes sluggishness. It also inhibits glutamate, which results in a similar type of physiological slowdown. In addition, it also increases the amount of dopamine in the brain’s reward centre, which creates the feeling of pleasure that occurs when drinking alcohol.
Alcohol in moderate amounts is usually not a problem, however, binge drinking is, and so is long-term use. As well as empty calories – a pint of beer being around 250 calories and a large glass of red wine being 200 calories, you can see how a bottle is over half a day’s calorie intake of 1800 if you’re a woman.
The headaches one experiences as a hangover happens because alcohol switches the body to expelling liquid rapidly, so it will increase urine output and this increases dehydration and will even reduce the fluid around the brain, so the head hurts.
Long-term can be an even bigger problem. As alcohol causes the brain to shrink leading to deficiencies in the fibres that carry information between brain cells. The brain accommodates for the regular presence of alcohol by altering neurotransmitter production. Previous research has suggested heavy drinking may be to blame for one in four cases of dementia.
A message to the partners of drinkers
If you’re the spouse, relative or friend of someone with a drinking problem I cannot “remove” their drink problem like removing a splinter from the skin. It’s understanding the needs of the individual and just providing the support needed. I once worked with a recovering alcoholic who found it so difficult to socialise because all his colleagues would insist on taunting him with beer when all he wanted was a diet coke. I used to have a diet coke with him in support, and he always appreciated the effort. As close relatives or friends, you can make the person come to therapy, only persuade and support their decisions.
One reason we become addicted to a whole variety of activities, as well as substances, is because we get a kick of Dopamine in the brain, which awards us for doing something pleasurable. However, some people are more vulnerable to addictive behaviour than others, but this should not serve as an excuse but as a moderating force. Any activity, which becomes a problem – gambling, internet addiction, texting etc can be overcome – you will need to have a goal and motivation and will power to change.
So if you have issues with any of the following solution focused hypnotherapy can help:
- Sugar addiction
- Internet over use
- Use of mobile/tablets
- Drugs – such as cannabis, E, Speed, Cocaine – but not heroine.
Also know that running produces a chemical in the brain that is also found in cannabis: read more.
Penny Ling is a widely experienced hypnotherapist who has worked with everyone from top executives to stroke victims since 2007. She has been editor of Hypnotherapy Today Magazine and is a supervisor and mentor for members of the AfSFH and NCH.
Read Penny’s inspiring story “How I beat all my phobias”, or find out more how hypnotherapy could help your problem by downloading “How Solution Focused Hypnotherapy can help with life”. Feel free to send Penny a message here.