Smoking cessation is a major goal for many individuals who have developed a nicotine addiction over their lifetime. With new treatments now recognized for their ability to facilitate smoking cessation, those looking to finally overcome their dependency can choose from a variety of options. Read on to learn more about currently available methods shown to help quit smoking.
Smoking dependency is defined as the compulsion to inhale nicotine, a stimulant commonly found in tobacco products such as cigars and cigarettes. Inhaling nicotine produces a pleasurable feeling, which drives the individual consuming it to do so at an increasing rate. The rising smoking frequency and level of dependency eventually establish what amounts to addiction.
Nicotine is the active ingredient found in tobacco that brings about smoking dependence. It binds with nicotinic cholinergic receptors in the brain, creating the above-mentioned feeling of elation, through the release of acetylcholine, a mood-elevating neurotransmitter. Repeated smoking causes the brain to seek out nicotine binding by increasing the individual’s smoking frequency.
Certain individuals also hold a genetic tendency that increases their likelihood of developing a nicotine addiction. As a result, the same rate of increased smoking may have a different effect on different individuals, causing some to become addicted, but not others.
Social pressure also plays a significant role in developing a smoking addiction. Many smokers first begin smoking within a social setting and associate this activity with acceptance and being part of a group. These associations can then be internalized and carried over to solitary smoking scenarios, which further facilitates this addiction.
Collectively, these different factors hold the potential to create the necessary environment which not only encourage the onset of smoking but also enable the continuation to do so despite the detrimental effects – particularly the health risks associated with it.
13.7% of the adult population are considered cigarette smokers. Men smoke at a slightly higher rate than women (15.6% vs. 12.0%, respectively). Roughly 45 million Americans are considered to be smokers.
Tobacco is considered a highly addictive substance. About one third of those who try smoking tobacco even once become daily users, while only 7% of those who try to quit are successful. Many report the withdrawal process to be very difficult to overcome, with common symptoms including irritable mood, anxiety, insomnia, and increased appetite.
Another striking statistic is that tobacco causes roughly 8 million deaths a year, through its role in the developments of cancer, cardiovascular illness, lung disorders, diabetes, and other life-threatening conditions.
Despite the difficulty in reaching and maintaining smoking cessation, several treatments have been shown to safely and effectively bring about this goal.
Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (or Deep TMS) has been FDA-cleared since August 2020 as a safe and effective treatment for smoking cessation. Deep TMS works by sending out electromagnetic pulses to help regulate the neural activity of brain structures found to play a role in smoking addiction. With repeated treatments, Deep TMS helps reduce the craving associated with smoking addiction, facilitating a more attainable process of recovery and cessation.
Deep TMS is a non-invasive treatment that does not cause anesthesia or any long-lasting significant side effects. It can be combined with any other type of treatment and integrated into the patient’s daily routine.
In addition to smoking cessation, Deep TMS has already been FDA-cleared to treat major depressive disorder (MDD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). It has also been CE-marked in Europe as a safe treatment option for the aforementioned and a number of other mental health and neurological conditions.
While many forms of psychotherapy elaborate on the patient’s emotions and beliefs, research has shown that when it comes to smoking cessation, success is more likely achieved by focusing on the patient’s behavior. Among these is cognitive behavioral therapy (or CBT).
CBT is a goal-oriented form of psychotherapy that focus on the thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, and behaviors that the patient associates with their condition. Working together, the therapist and patient gradually learn more about the different aspects of the patient’s targeted issue. The therapist also takes into consideration the various symptoms the patient is experiencing while teaching them the most beneficial way to respond. In the case of smoking, CBT commonly focuses on the patient’s motivation to quit, their concerns and anxiety surrounding the impending cessation process, and how they experience the process itself in real-time. Studies have shown that CBT offers an effective treatment context while going through smoking cessation, aiding in the patient’s goal in overcoming this addiction.
A different approach that has been shown to assist in smoking cessation is hypnosis. In this form of therapy, the patient (who, despite popular belief, is still conscious and in control) is eased into a state of trance. This is thought to help them concentrate on certain connections introduced by the therapist. When treating a patient for smoking addiction, hypnosis can help them relate the smell of cigarette smoke to exhaust fumes, causing them to experience repulsive sensations when around smokers or even when considering smoking themselves.
In an effort to protect against the adverse effects of smoking, nicotine replacement products have been introduced to the market. These include nicotine gum, patches, lozenges, inhalers, and sprays. They provide a steady flow of nicotine to the brain, thereby assisting with withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
Certain prescription medications have been acknowledged for their ability to ease the severity of the nicotine withdrawal process. One such drug is Bupropion, (sold under the brand name Wellbutrin), which is also prescribed for symptoms of depression. A second drug, called Varenicline (sold under Champix), helps alleviate smoking dependence by blocking the brain’s nicotine receptor.