Man quits heroin — Remains drug-free at follow-up

Institute of Behavior Therapy, New York — Electric jolts used to treat 23-year old graduate student’s 3-year heroin addiction

This study (Lubetkin, Fishman, 1974) focuses on a 23-year old married graduate who, prior to seeking treatment, had been regularly injecting himself with heroin 2-3 times a day, with occasional breaks of up to 7 days. These breaks had so far given him some control over the habit, however his tolerance for the drug was rapidly growing, leading to an increase in dosage and frequency. This in turn started to have a negative effect on his academic pursuits, marriage and life in general.

After the young man volunteered for treatment, he was given the opportunity to participate in a study at the Institute for Behavior Therapy in New York City, where researchers woulds attempt to break his habit via the administration of small electric jolts.

The treatment consisted of having the young man imagine and verbally describe the various stages of his heroin addiction and consumption cycle, from getting the craving for the drug, to buying it, and finally preparing and injecting it.

At random points during this process, the therapist would deliver an uncomfortable electric jolt to the young man’s arm and simultaneously say, “stop”. The patient was asked to continue with his description until he could no longer tolerate the jolts. At that point, he was asked to change his fantasy into one where he is drug-free and enjoying time with his wife and family.

Patient breaks free of 3-year heroin addiction in just 15 sessions — Relationship with wife improves and he goes on to pursue advanced graduate work

Throughout treatment, the young man abstained completely from the drug. After the 15th session, he sniffed a small dose but his experience was not a pleasant one.

Following treatment, his relationship with his wife improved markedly, and he was also given the opportunity to pursue advanced graduate work at another institution, which he accepted.

Additionally, an 8 month follow-up found him completely drug free, despite his 3-year history as a chronic user, and the infamous persistence of the heroin addiction.

Multiple studies over the past century have proven electric jolts effective against a wide array of other habits

Heroin addiction has a very aggressive hold on its victims, subjecting them to deeply distressing psychological after-effects, and intensely painful physical withdrawal symptoms.

Yet, the electric jolts described in the study above, when supplemented with group therapy and marital counselling, helped tear this young man away from a lethal addiction that threatened to ruin his life and eventually destroy it completely.

But this kind of treatment has proven effective in many other scenarios. In fact, multiple studies over the past century have proven that electric jolts can effectively help overcome compulsive behavior, as well as persistent habits such as nail biting, smoking, alcoholism, overeating, and gambling.


Lubetkin, B. S., & Fishman, S. T. (1974, 12). Electrical aversion therapy with a chronic heroin user. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 5(2), 193-195. doi:10.1016/0005-7916(74)90113-X

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