A recent study of people who are trying to quit smoking shows that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can help reduce cigarette cravings. Overcoming cravings is an essential part of successful addiction therapy, as the craving to pick up another cigarette may, in the short term, overpower the rational reasons for quitting. Helping people overcome cravings by “retraining” the brain has the potential to help people quit smoking more effectively. The study, which was funded by the National Institute of Drug Abuse, took brain scans of people who’d been undergoing cognitive behavioral therapy with the goal of smoking cessation. The scans showed interesting behavior in two areas of the brain.
One area, known as the prefrontal cortex, helps a person control their emotions (among other things). This part was more active in people who’d undergone the smoking therapy. A second area, called the striatum, is related to reward-seeking and craving. This area was less active in people who’d been having therapy. In addition, people who’d been undergoing therapy also reported that their cravings were less intense.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a common form of therapy used to help people overcome a number of issues, including addiction and substance abuse. In the case of this particular study, therapists worked with their clients specifically on cognitive strategies to help reduce cravings. One example would be learning to focus on smoking’s long-term consequences. This type of thinking helps frame cigarettes in a different context. And as the brain scans showed, the therapy had actual physical impact on the way the brain worked, which had direct impact on the severity of cravings people experienced. The study’s leaders, along with the National Institute of Drug Abuse, hope that similar cognitive behavioral therapy techniques can be used to help people overcome addiction to other substances in the future.
© Copyright 2010 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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