Background: Approximately 10% of opiate drug addicts on methadone maintenance treatment (MMT) continue using heroin and additional street drugs simultaneously. They constitute the most difficult to treat population in MMT centers as they present extremely difficult and negative behaviors as well as medical problems. Medical hypnosis is a proven effective medical intervention to alleviate pain, lessen anxieties, as well as being partially effective in treating nicotine addiction. One of its advantages is the ability to bypass the critical conscious drug addict's reluctance to the treatment process.
Aims: This article aims to describe a group hypnosis treatment of drug addicts and to present a clinical description of its outcomes and effectiveness in lessening simultaneous use of heroin and other street drugs among addicts on an MMT program.
Methods: The article describes the group hypnosis therapy for 10 methadone patients who continued street drug use, in two 5 patient groups consisting of 10 weekly sessions. Urine drug tests were checked at 3 points of time, before intervention, half a year after termination of hypnosis, and two years after. Follow-up also consisted of a semi-structured interview immediately after treatment termination to evaluate changes in emotional and functional status.
Results: One patient did not complete treatment due to a major operation, the remaining 9 (90%) completed treatment. All patients (100%) completely stopped use of any street drugs and results remained stable for 6 months after end of treatment. Two years after end of intervention, 7 out of the 9 (78%) remained clean of use of heroin, but 2 (22%) returned to partial use; 6 (67%) of the patients returned to partial use of benzodiazepines, none (0%) showed permanent use of marijuana or cocaine.
Conclusions: As this article is a clinical description of an intervention on a small selected group of patients, the initial and partial results point to the possible potential of group hypnosis in the reduction of street drug use. Additional controlled research is needed in order to check the effectiveness of such an intervention on this specific group of patients.