Monday, 28 November 2011

The Effects of Drugs in Hypnosis 'Narco Hypnosis'


Hypnosis works by shutting down the physical senses in combination with the conscious mind so that the subconscious mind can be explored in vivid focus thus creating a greater understanding of mental processes. Traditional hypnotherapy uses simply a relaxed setting and carefully chosen words to create this effect successfully but in more recent times much research has gone into the use of drugs in hypnosis and what effect they might have on the entire process.

Drugs are a controversial subject in any kind of therapy but especially it seems with ‘psycho-active’ drugs that appear to tamper with the mind. LSD for instance is poison in the eyes of the press, with horror stories appearing frequently in most modern forms of media. But LSD has been used in research for many years now with some scientists believing it is the future of therapy due to its healing properties in line with a course of measured treatment. Stanislav Grof is one of the leading figures in this kind of work and his blog (here) makes for some fascinating reading.

Traditional hypnotherapists would argue strongly that there is no need for drugs in hypnotherapy as it is a very successful practice without any need of chemical aids. The list of what hypnotherapy can be used for is very long and varied of course, and it must be stated that many problems certainly can be solved without drugs simply using the power of the mind and moving it in the right direction. So why the research? The answer to that is the human mind will always seek to improve, and if hypnosis can be improved to go further and treat more complex disorders – surely that’s worth the exploration?  

The list of tested drugs in hypnosis includes; mescaline, LSD,  MDMA (a type of ecstasy),  DMT, ketamine, psilocybin,  diazepam,  nitrous oxide, zoplicone, sodium pentothal (aka truth serum), sodium amatol – as well as experiments with drugs in their more natural form; psychedelic mushrooms, salvia, peyote, ayahuaska, iboga, and cannabis. The drugs have been studied to see what effect they have on suggestibility in a test subject, or in other words how the drugs affect a person’s ability to be hypnotised.  

Studies have shown that some of these drugs show only a minimal effect, whereas others show a considerable effect under test conditions. Nitrous Oxide for instance has been recorded as making a 36% change in suggestibility of a test subject in hypnosis (Barber et al) which is a phenomenal increase by anyone’s standards. What is not known however is why these drugs make for increased suggestibility. Cannibis for instance recorded a 22.6% change (Kelly et al) – but is that to do with the drug aligning the conscious and the subconscious – or rather just the effect of making the test subject feel sleepy and relaxed, perhaps allowing them to focus more on the hypnosis or lowering their mental resistance to it? On the other hand alcohol has never been a drug to mix with hypnosis because it lowers suggestibility – so perhaps there is something in the ‘psycho-active’ element linked to these types of drugs.

For thousands of years shaman and tribes people have used naturally existing drugs such as cannabis, tobacco, ayahuaska, peyote, mushrooms, salvia  and iboga to perform what they would call ‘spiritual rituals’ of healing which although appearing very different share many of the same principles as hypnosis (read more). For these people the ‘sacred plants’ open the mind and connect the body and soul, and are used to heal various illnesses both mental and physical, as well as delving into the mind to further understand it - perhaps to a deeper level and faster than could be achieved without chemical aids. The fact that ancient people have used drugs in such a way for so long is significant because even if their work is not scientifically recognised yet, it highlights how humans the world over have used drugs successfully to enter deeper realms of the subconscious in order to heal themselves, something that hypnotherapy attempts to achieve in modern western society.

Both ancient practice and modern clinical trials appear to show that drugs can have a significant effect on hypnosis and mind treatments that attempt to connect with the subconscious, although it is still not clear how this is achieved. I would suggest more study is required until we get a better understanding of the role of drugs in hypnosis, and whether their effectiveness is due to their relaxing ‘drowsy’ lowing resistance element or whether they actually cause the mental experience and suggestibility to be more powerful.

The work of Stanislav Grof, Timothy Leary, Carlos Casteneda and Terrance McKenna on the subject is as ground breaking in the western world as it is controversial, but perhaps to the shaman of various cultures we are still far behind what they know and understand about herbal mind therapies. In the hands of experts and with precaution, I see no reason why drugs could not be used for hypnotherapy in certain cases, possibly for more serious conditions that ordinary hypnosis would not touch such as mental illness, or other cases where hypnotherapy has proved unsuccessful like serious addictions, but certainly more research is the only way to determine the subjects future. If it is possible to cure problems faster and more effectively through the use of drugs then I see no reason why it should not be explored in greater depth at the very least. 

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