How to Stop Smoking for Good
The key to quitting smoking is to make a firm decision to quit. For most people who have succeeded to quit, fear of death, pain or disability was the main reason to drop the habit. Other factors that convinced many people to quit include the health of others and setting a good example to children. Quitting this bad habit is not easy because nicotine is highly addictive, both physically and physiologically. You should not get discouraged if your first attempt at quitting smoking is unsuccessful as it often takes more than just one try.
Aids for Smoking Cessation
Many people fail at quitting smoking because they were not adequately prepared for it. If you are preparing to quit, there are a number of strategies you may wish to pursue including:
- Collecting cigarette butts in a large see-through container, such as a two-liter plastic bottle.
- Switching to lighter cigarettes, containing less tar. However, there is no safe cigarette and this move should be only a temporary step before quitting completely.
- Setting a quitting date.
- Telling family members, friends and colleagues about quitting.
- Discussing nicotine replacement therapy and other smoking cessation aids with your doctor.
- Eating instead of smoking. Buy healthy snacks for the home and office that you can munch on.
- Having the tobacco stains removed from the teeth by the dentist.
- Identifying situations where you are more likely to want to smoke and planning ahead for these situations.
Once you have made a firm decision to quit smoking, you should choose a quitting date. Since smoking is usually associated with parties and socializing, you should avoid setting a quitting date during a party season normally associated with social smoking. Choosing the first day of a two-week vacation is popular because it may be easier to quit while away from the office at a time when you are not stressed and are having fun.
Smokers are also encouraged to switch to a less fulfilling brand of cigarettes compared with those they are currently smoking. Studies show that smokers who switched to light cigarettes were more likely to quit altogether. However, you need to avoid the temptation to smoke more often or more deeply after switching to a lighter brand. Remember that light cigarettes are nearly as dangerous as regular brands and quitting completely is the goal you want to achieve. In addition, it may be helpful to gradually reduce the number of cigarettes you smoke each day before the quitting date. These measures will prepare your body for reduced nicotine levels and should make it easier to sustain quitting.
Nicotine Replacement Therapy
Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) delivers decreasing amounts of nicotine in a safe, non-addictive form to reduce cravings in people who recently quit smoking. There is a variety of nicotine replacement therapy products including:
Nicotine inhaler is a small plastic device in the form of a cigarette that is filled with a replaceable cartridge containing nicotine. It helps smokers who quit recently to reduce strong cravings for nicotine by delivering safe doses of nicotine mainly into the mouth instead of the lungs. The nicotine inhaler is available only on doctor’s prescription and it has proven successful for short-term temptations. However, it should not be used by patients with cardiovascular disease. It can be used for up to six months. The most common side effects from nicotine inhalers are mouth and throat irritation and coughing.
Nicotine gum is suitable for people who were not heavy smokers. It comes in two and four milligram strengths and is now available without a prescription. To reduce your cravings for nicotine, you should chew the gum for 20 to 30 minutes, but no more than 20 pieces per day. It is not recommended to use the nicotine gum for longer than six months. Common side effects include throat irritation, mouth sores, upset stomach and jaw discomfort. However, there is a risk of long-term dependence on the product as 15-20% of those who successfully quit smoking continue to chew the gum for one year or longer. Though better than returning to smoking, the effects of long-term use of nicotine gum require further investigation.
Nicotine patch delivers nicotine painlessly through the skin into the bloodstream. Several different types and strengths are available with or without a prescription. The patch comes in different durations, such as 16 and 24-hour patch, depending on the needs of the smoker. The 16-hour patch may not be effective for early morning withdrawal symptoms. Therefore, heavy smokers (chain smokers) should use the 24-hour patch, which provides a continual dose of nicotine. However, the 24-hour patch may cause increased skin irritation and interfere with sleep. Treatment is normally used for a total of three to five months, while the strength of the patches is being gradually reduced. The patch should be applied somewhere between the waist and the neck and should be moved to new area every day to avoid skin irritation in one spot. The side effects may involve skin irritation, headache, dizziness, nausea, fast heartbeat and muscle stiffness. To improve the effectiveness of nicotine replacement therapy, the nicotine patch may be combined with another nicotine replacement product, such as nicotine gum. The patch will provide continuous dosing while the second product can help relieve strong cravings.
Nicotine nasal spray delivers nicotine to the body through the nasal passages. It offers immediate relief from withdrawal symptoms. However, because the product contains nicotine, it can be addictive and it is, therefore, available only by prescription. The nicotine nasal spray should not be used for longer than six months. Individuals suffering from allergies, asthma or sinus problems should be better prescribed another form of nicotine replacement therapy. The most common side effects associated with nicotine nasal spray are nasal and throat irritation, coughing, runny nose and watery eyes.
Antidepressants for Smoking Cessation
Certain types of antidepressants can be prescribed either alone or alongside nicotine replacement therapy to help some people to quit smoking. One such drug called bupropion (Zyban, Wellbutrin) appears to relieve the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal by reducing the cravings. This treatment is nicotine-free if used alone. Bupropion should not be prescribed to patients with a history of seizures, anorexia or alcohol abuse.
Another drug called varenicline (Chantix) was developed to be used specifically as a smoking cessation aid. Varenicline interferes with nicotine receptors in the brain to reduce the pleasurable feelings people get from smoking. And just like bupropion, it also works to relieve the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal. Studies have demonstrated that varenicline can more than double your chances of quitting smoking.
There is yet another antidepressant called nortriptyline (Pamelor, Aventyl) that is sometimes prescribed off-label for smoking cessation. Research shows that nortriptyline can double the odds of a person quitting smoking.
Alternative Therapies for Smoking Cessation
There also seems to be a variety of alternative methods that may help some people stop smoking. Although some of them are very popular, there is no clear evidence that these techniques or products can really improve your chances of quitting the habit. They include:
- Atropine and scopolamine shots are used by some clinics to reduce nicotine cravings. These drugs are commonly prescribed to treat digestive problems, Parkinson’s disease and motion sickness.
- Clonidine is sometimes prescribed off-label to help people deal with the withdrawal effects of a variety of different drugs including nicotine. Sedative effects of this old drug have limited its use.
- Cold laser therapy
- Smoking deterrents
- Tar and nicotine reducing filters for cigarettes
- Electronic cigarettes are an extremely popular smoking cessation aid, which has not being endorsed by the FDA yet, as their potential benefits and health risks have not been properly documented to date. E-cigarettes were originally marketed as a method for smokers to get nicotine when they are unable to smoke but many people started using them as a smoking cessation aid. However, it has been suggested recently that e-cigarettes may lead young people to try other more harmful tobacco products such as regular cigarettes.
- Tobacco lozenges and pouches contain nicotine and are normally marketed as a way for a smoker to get nicotine in places where smoking is not allowed, though sometimes you can read marketers claims that they can also help people quit the habit. Tobacco lozenges and pouches are not viewed as smoking cessation aids but instead as types of smokeless tobacco products. No evidence exists that these products can help with smoking cessation.
- Nicotine lollipops and lip balm were made by some pharmacies in the past and marketed as a method of obtaining nicotine which could be used alternatively for quitting smoking. The FDA warned pharmacies to stop selling these products on the Internet calling them illegal.
- Vaccine. A new vaccine specifically formulated to block the path of nicotine to the brain is still being researched and thus it has not been approved by the FDA yet. This vaccine should work by preventing the instant high or rush after smoking.