You mean it this time. You’re finally going to quit smoking. Maybe you smoke a few packs a day, or a few cigarettes a week. However much you smoke, you’ve had enough.
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Have you tried to quit before? Don’t be discouraged. Many people quit several times before they can really kick the habit.
Nicotine has a higher dependence level than heroin, cocaine or alcohol – so it’s understandable why it’s so hard to quit. But quitting is not only possible but critical to your health. There is probably no other single thing you can do to help your health more than quitting.
Smoking increases your risk of:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Pulmonary disease
- Reproductive problems
- Periodontal and dental disease
According to Lauren Indorf, FNP-BC, a family nurse practitioner who provides behavior change counseling at the Cleveland Clinic Tobacco Treatment Center, “Tobacco dependence used to be seen merely as an offensive habit. Today, we consider this a chronic disease much like alcoholism that should be treated aggressively like any other illness,” she says.
So how do you quit?
Thinking about quitting cold turkey? While only two to five percent of people can quit successfully cold turkey, research shows that 25 to 30 percent of people can successfully quit by combining medication and behavior change therapy.
This is because the most successful way to quit smoking is to address both:
- Nicotine addiction
- Behaviorial aspect/habit
These are 4 commonly used methods to help people quit:
1. Nicotine-replacement medications
Nicotine replacement medications include patches or gum. These medications deliver nicotine to the body without all the other harmful toxins from cigarettes.
2. Craving-control medications
There are non-nicotine replacement medications currently available by prescription only. They help to control the cravings. As with any medication, talk to your doctor for more information.
3. Behavioral changes
You also need to address the habitual aspect of smoking. Many people smoke in certain situations (driving to work, with morning coffee) or with certain people. Others smoke when they are bored or stressed.
To address behavioral changes:
- Pick a quit day and write it down.
- Write down at least five reasons why you are quitting. Keep that list handy so you can refer to it often.
- Let family and friends know that you are quitting, especially if they smoke.
- Throw away all smoking-related items such as cigarettes, ashtrays, and lighters.
- Anticipate cravings, which will last for only a few seconds to a few minutes – and they will lessen in frequency within a few days. When you get a craving, get up and move around, drink ice cold water or take a few deep breaths.
Another way to get support is to work with a tobacco treatment professional. Indorf says that at the Tobacco Treatment Center, once people make a decision to quit, “Making a change is not a single step or action, but a process we work on as partners.”
4. Alternative and complementary therapies
Other treatment options can be used on their own or in combination with medication to successfully help you quit, including acupuncture, hypnosis, acupressure, reiki, aromatherapy and laser treatments.