Overcoming smoking dependency is no easy feat. Due to a combination of factors, many of those who have become addicted to smoking find it exceedingly difficult to quit this habit, causing only a small percentage to achieve smoking cessation. This is why it is imperative to offer former smokers the best possible conditions to continue in their new smoking-free lifestyle.
Read on to find out more about the most effective methods to stay off nicotine and keep your smoking days behind you.
Nicotine dependence, also known as smoking addiction, is the behavioral compulsion to inhale nicotine smoke despite the desire to refrain from doing so. The main substance that brings about this form of addiction is nicotine, a stimulant naturally found in the leaves of the tobacco plant. Nicotine binds with nicotinic cholinergic receptors located within the brain, which releases a mood-heightening neurotransmitter called acetylcholine, resulting in a pleasurable sensation. Over time, smokers begin to require larger and larger amounts of nicotine to maintain the same sensation, causing their nicotine intake to rise.
13.7% of the adult population qualifies as a cigarette smoker or addict. Men smoke at a higher rate than women (15.6% vs. 12.0%). 45 million Americans are considered smokers, making this issue a national (and in fact global) emergency.
As cigars, cigarettes and other smoking products are made from nicotine-rich tobacco leaves, those who begin using them often find it incredibly difficult to stop. A third of smokers become daily users, with only 7% of smokers who try to quit being successful. Many smokers attest that the smoking withdrawal process is an extremely harsh experience, as it commonly includes adverse symptoms like anxiety, irritable mood, increased appetite, and insomnia. Beyond the above side effects of smoking withdrawal, there are detrimental effects smoking can cause to one’s health.
Inhaling tobacco causes about 8 million deaths a year. This habit has been linked to the development of cancer, lung disorders, cardiovascular illness, diabetes and other life-threatening issues.
Despite its overall addictiveness, nicotine induces different levels of dependency in different individuals. This is because of a genetic tendency that can increase the chances of developing an addiction to this stimulant.
Another factor in the process of nicotine addiction is socialization: a great many individuals begin smoking within a certain social setting, be it with friends, family members or as part of a relatively novel social interaction, such as army basic training. As a result, smoking is recognized as a positive, if acquired, activity and linked to pleasant memories of family gatherings or fraternization.
Several treatments have been proven to be both safe and effective in facilitating smoking cessation:
Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (or Deep TMS) is a safe, effective and FDA-cleared treatment for smoking cessation. It works by sending out electromagnetic pulses that regulate the neural activity of brain structures associated with smoking addiction, reducing cravings experienced during withdrawal.
Deep TMS is non-invasive and does not necessitate anesthesia or cause any long-lasting significant side effects. It can be combined with other forms of treatment and integrated into one’s daily routine.
Deep TMS has also been FDA-cleared to treat major depressive disorder (MDD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). It has additionally been CE-marked in Europe as a safe treatment option for these and a number of other mental health and neurological conditions.
Nicotine replacement products help prevent the harmful effects of smoking. They include nicotine patches, gum, lozenges, inhalers and sprays. They normally work by providing a steady stream of nicotine to the brain, mitigating nicotine-related withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
Specific medications have been shown to reduce the symptom severity of nicotine withdrawal. Among them are bupropion, which is also prescribed for depression and varenicline, which blocks nicotine receptors located in the brain.
Achieving smoking cessation is very hard to do but maintaining it can also pose a sizable challenge. The craving for a cigarette, be it on a biological and sensory level, as a means to calm down one’s anxiety or as a way to channel intimate memories of pleasant social interactions, can all continue to plague the recovering smoker after they had already achieved cessation. Luckily, relying on certain tried-and-true methods can help alleviate some of the pressure to lapse back into smoking.
Withstanding the temptation to start smoking again is about self-control. But as successful as one is in avoiding instant gratification, a momentary lapse in control can cause them to have “just one cigarette,” and before they know it they are back off the wagon. Therefore learning to manage one’s triggering stimuli is an important part in maintaining their smoking cessation.
Triggers can be varied and change over time. While one individual might find stressful situations to induce the desire to smoke as a way to feel calmer, another might find enjoyable, smoking-related interactions to be triggers. A third, rather common trigger is noticing the weight gained during one’s withdrawal process. Since many individuals begin to eat as a way to reward themselves this also gives their mouths another form of activity to focus on.
When faced with triggers that push them toward smoking, it can help to remind oneself of the benefits they have experienced, or will experience, thanks to smoking cessation. A longer life that will allow them to know their grandchildren, avoiding cancer and other hazardous health issues, infertility, sexual dysfunction, the unpleasantness smoking can cause those around you, shortness of breath and other chronic symptoms, even better complexion—all of these are possible when one gives up smoking. Compared to a long list of benefits, a specific trigger could look relatively minor and not worth all that would be lost if they decided to indulge, just this once, with a cigarette.
Some parts of your daily life—reading the morning newspaper, meeting up with friends who smoke—are not things you would want to stop doing. However, you still can be cognizant of what is open to change and introduce new activities that add meaning to your life without being associated with smoking. Changes can include simple steps like choosing a different place to sit and read the paper or steps that require more effort like joining a sports team or getting friends to meet outside of your local hangout. Small, achievable steps may be more beneficial when starting out before taking on larger acts of change.
Not only is exercise good for you but it can also counteract some of the weight gain that you may have taken on due to replacing cigarettes with food. Getting in touch with your body and building it up can be a wonderful change of pace after an extended period during which it contended with the adverse effects of smoking.
A great deal of emphasis is put on the dangers of having one last cigarette, after already quitting smoking. This is due to the addictive reactivation that happens when an individual reintroduces nicotine to their system. But while the danger of relapse is very real, being hard on yourself following a slip-up works against your own well-being and decreases your own motivation to get back up. Having another cigarette should not be encouraged when one is trying to drop the habit but it can be understood as they try again to become strong enough to resist their urges.