Why It’s So Hard to Quit Smoking?

You know smoking is an extremely detrimental habit. Globally, smoking is the leading preventable cause of death, and we’ve known since 1964 that it’s linked to cancer. It negatively impacts just about every system in your body, stains your teeth, gives you bad breath, and your doctor has probably advised you to stop. So why is it so hard to quit?

First of all, we’d like you to know it’s not just you. While about 80 percent of smokers would like to quit smoking, fewer than five percent are able to quit on their own. There are several factors that play into this problem.

  • Nicotine is addictive. In fact, some researchers believe it’s every bit as addictive as cocaine or heroin! Because it stimulates the pleasure centers in the brain, it’s pleasurable while you’re using it. Once you try to stop using it, though, you’ll experience withdrawal symptoms. People experiencing nicotine withdrawal may feel anxious, irritable, or fatigued, crave cigarettes, or have trouble concentrating. Some have trouble sleeping, or feel sick. They might experience aches and discomfort similar to the flu, headaches, cough, tightness in the chest, sore throat, or pain in the tongue and gums. People trying to quit may not realize how difficult it’s going to be, and when they experience the intensity of cravings in the first few days, they might give up. Despite the clear danger of addiction, and in spite of the fact that we know it kills five million people globally each year, nicotine is readily available for adults to purchase.
  • There are psychosocial reasons to keep smoking. Behaviorally and socially, smoking cigarettes can be highly rewarding. When you smoke, it becomes linked to daily activities like eating a meal, socializing with friends, consuming alcohol, taking a break, or relaxing. These connections can be as difficult to overcome as the physical dependence.
  • Some people have a genetic disposition that makes quitting difficult. Advancing science continues to uncover genetic effects that influence a number of health issues previously thought to be purely behavioral. Alcoholism is one example of this phenomenon, but studies have also found a significant genetic connection to smoking behavior. Researchers believe that genetics influence many different aspects of smoking, from the urge to start smoking, to continuing on to become a smoker, to the ability to quit. These factors may offer an explanation into why some people never enjoy smoking, others can take it or leave it, and still others will become regular smokers. They may also offer a window into why the relapse rate for smoking is so high, despite all the knowledge we have, and despite the use of behavioral approaches and anti-smoking medicine.
  • For most smokers, smoking becomes a habitual response. A 2009 study by Duke University Medical Center indicated that people who are trying to stop smoking are more reactive to visual smoking cues than they had been previously. What does this mean? As with anything habitual, like brushing teeth or riding a bike, the part of the brain responsible for automatic responses is activated by smoking cues if you’re trying to quit. In order to stop smoking, you have to find a way to break that habitual response.

quitting smoking

So, what can you do if you want to quit? Smoking cessation aids, like nicotine patches and nicotine gum, have proven effective for many people. Ultimately, though, quitting smoking requires a willingness to change your lifestyle. It’s important to have a plan that includes good nutrition, because researchers believe there may be a correlation between the ability to stop smoking and certain nutrients. Some believe tapping into the “mind-body connection” can be helpful, using techniques like yoga and deep breathing to facilitate quitting. Whatever you do, hang in there. Quitting will get easier as time goes on, but it can take eight to twelve weeks to feel comfortable without smoking. Surrounding yourself with people who are supportive of your efforts to quit can greatly enhance your chances of success.

One relatively recent and extremely exciting development in the treatment of smoking addiction is Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (Deep TMS™). Proven safe and effective, Deep TMS is FDA approved for treating smoking addiction. This treatment uses a patented H4-coil to generate electromagnetic pulses and stimulate neurons in parts of the brain associated with addiction. It’s well-tolerated, non-invasive, with no systemic side effects and no significant recovery period.

If you want to quit smoking, contact BrainsWay. A global medical technology company, we’re focused on developing cutting edge medical devices to advance the level of treatment offered to patients. BrainsWay’s advanced flagship technology, Deep TMS, is expanding mental health treatment beyond what was thought possible. This treatment directly stimulates deeper and broader areas of the brain than traditional TMS, and it’s been proven effective in treating conditions like smoking addiction, depression, and OCD. Contact us to learn how we’re changing the field of mental healthcare, or visit our website to find a provider near you.