MANASSAS, Va. (Circa) - When Tim Horn fell and hurt his shoulder, he said it was not painkillers that first brought him relief, but hypnosis.
"I fractured my shoulder and dislocated it, but because I'm a hypnotist, I deadened the pain," said Horn. "They took the X-ray. The doctor came in and her face was white. She couldn't believe I wasn't screaming in pain. I just determined the pain wasn't serving a purpose."
Horn is a certified instructor with the National Guild of Hypnotists and founder of Hypnoconsult in Virginia. He helps people on both sides of the opioid epidemic, people trying to manage their pain and those struggling with addiction, and he said hypnotherapy could help curb the crisis.
"We're afraid of pain, and therefore we've run away from it. We take opiates to try to kill it, to try to deaden it. The fact is, if you see the pain as serving a purpose, it has some sort of good, and after the good is done you can release it. The run toward opiates would be lessened," Horn said.
The National Institute of Health acknowledges hypnosis as a possible tool for pain management and has several experts who have studied its effectiveness to control pain, as well as its use for anxiety, reducing smoking, and irritable bowel syndrome.
"Especially chronic pain is not just how you feel, but how you feel about how you feel. So this is getting into an emotional thing," said Don Pelles, a certified hypnotherapist that works with people with pain.
Horn requires all of his patients who are using opiates for pain control to be referred by a doctor.
"I'm not a doctor. I don't pretend to be one. So it's for my protection and also for theirs," Horn said.
And typically, patients referred to him have not found success with other pain relief methods and are looking to reduce the number of opioids they are prescribed, or stop taking opioids altogether.
"What we're doing is we're creating habits that create a new normal, a new normal within the brain that can become acceptable to the brain so that they can move on from the addiction and feel more in control of their lives without the opiates," Horn said.
Dr. Jeff Ennis suffers from chronic pain after being diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrom and chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, a disease that effects the nervous system and almost killed him.
"I slowly became paralyzed and I ended up in the hospital and we had three little baby boys at home, and my wife was told I was going to die and I didn’t. But it left me with a chronic form of the disease," Dr. Ennis said.
Dr. Ennis said opioids do not play a big part in his life, but hypnosis does, and even he was skeptical at first when his friend invited him to a hypnotherapy class.
"It looked like everyone was from Mars and it was really a bizarre real thing and I really didn’t have much of a choice, so I kind of joined in and I tried my best to learn it and it literally took me one year to finally get it, but that’s the level of motivation I had because there wasn’t anything else," Dr. Ennis said.
And with hypnotherapy, Dr. Ennis said he can reduce his pain about 30 to 40 percent.
"I have never taken a medicine that does better than that. I don't get any side effects," Dr. Ennis said.
He now owns the Ennis Centre for Pain Management and suggests hypnotherapy to some of his patients experiencing pain.
"We discovered is there’s a number of patients that would reduce their dose of narcotics once they learn how to do this. And actually, I haven’t had any patient yet who has told me it’s useless," Dr. Ennis said.
But both Dr. Ennis and Horn acknowledge that most people do not have a very positive view of hypnosis.
"In the public’s mind if I say the word hypnosis what they see is a picture of a watch waving in front of somebody putting them into a trance and like count Dracula come to me. And making them do things that are weird and silly and that’s stage hypnosis, not clinical hypnosis," Dr. Ennis said.
Horn hopes hypnosis can have a positive effect on the crisis, even if it is bad for business.
"I have clients come in who are dealing with family members who have to deal with the opiod addiction, so it's a spiraling effect. It causes instability within their family, and that causes other issues to come out as well, so yes, it's increased my business. The truth is, I really prefer that that part of my business gets shut down. I would much rather have less money and know fewer people's lives are being destroyed," Horn said.