It’s no big secret now that smoking can fill your lungs with tar and promote the growth of hideous ulcers in the body, thanks to the wonderfully placed graphics on cigarette packets. Whether you’re here because you or someone you love want to quit smoking, be aware that the road ahead is an upward battle.
The habit is a hard one to kick, but which habit isn’t? Smoking is both a psychological habit and a physical addiction. Psychological because you feel you have to smoke after a meal, to relieve stress or to be on a social par; physical because the nicotine that it releases gives smokers a temporary and addictive high. In order to quit smoking, both aspects have to be factored in.
Nicotine is a drug that is absorbed into the bloodstream and stimulates the brain. If you’re hooked on nicotine and do not get your fix, you’ll have withdrawal symptoms such as restlessness and irritability, or just feeling plain awful.
These symptoms begin within a few hours after having the last cigarette. If they are not relieved by the next cigarette, withdrawal symptoms get worse. If you do not smoke any more, the withdrawal symptoms peak after about 24 hours, and then gradually ease over about 2-4 weeks.
Many aids have been developed to help wean nicotine addicts off the substance. Known as Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT), they come in various forms, but the basic idea is to provide nicotine without having to smoke (thus reducing withdrawal symptoms), and gradually decreasing the amount of nicotine administered.
Chew the gum until the taste is strong, then rest it on your cheek. Repeat the process until you need a new piece of gum, maybe for about an hour.
The gum comes in two strengths, typically, 2mg and 4mg. If you’re a heavy smoker, you may need to use quite a few pieces of the 4mg gum per day. Gradually decrease the amount of gum you chew, for example, chewing for a shorter time, chewing smaller pieces or alternating with non-nicotine gum.
Basically a patch that releases nicotine into the bloodstream when stuck to your skin. There are ones that last for 16 hours, for when you’re awake, and 24 hours. As you might have guessed, having nicotine pumped into your bloodstream at night might disturb your sleep, but it is said to help with morning nicotine cravings.
Again, the idea is to gradually reduce the strength of the patches used over time. The downside of this NRT is that it delivers a constant stream of nicotine, unlike the sensation you get when you smoke, or when you chew gum. May cause skin irritation.
This resembles a cigarette. Nicotine cartridges are inserted into it, and inhaled in an action similar to smoking. You should use about 6-12 cartridges a day for eight weeks, and then gradually reduce over four further weeks.
You dissolve these under the tongue, not swallow. Nicotine is absorbed through the mouth into the bloodstream. They are easy to use.
Nicotine Nasal Spray
The nicotine in the spray is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream from the nose. Very close to the rapid increase in nicotine level that you get from smoking cigarettes. This may help to relieve sudden surges of craving. May have side effects such as nose and throat irritation, coughing, and watering eyes for a short time after use, do not use it whilst driving.
Nicotine Mouth Spray
This acts in a similar way to the nose spray, providing a very rapid increase in nicotine level. You can use 1 or 2 sprays whenever you get the urge to smoke. You should use no more than two sprays at a time, four sprays in an hour, or more than 64 sprays over the whole day. You might notice irritation of the throat or nose.
As with any bad habit, you will require determination to quit smoking. The first thing you’ll need to do is to decide that you want to quit. There is no perfect way to quit, and there’s no best time to quit, except for now. The psychological aspect of quitting will be much more taxing than the physical.
Pick a day that you will quit and stick to it. Really, there would be no point in picking one otherwise. Make it a day that will have significance – your partner’s birthday, your anniversary or any other day that is important to you. Do not pick a day that’s too far in the future, a month or so is a good timeframe, as picking a later date will allow you to rationalise your decision and make you lose that determination that you’ve taken ages to muster.
Making the Plan
How are you going to quit? Are you going to go cold turkey, or are you going to opt for NRT? Identify triggers that make you smoke and make a plan to avoid them. Do you smoke after a drink or a meal? Try chewing gum instead, or even replacing alcoholic beverages with non-alcoholic ones. Do you smoke at a certain time of day with smoking buddies at work? Tell your family and friends that you are going to quit smoking and have them support your decision.
It will hit you, and you will need to prepare for it. Using NRT can reduce such symptoms, and can be helpful to increase your chances of quitting smoking. NEVER rationalise your decision to quit smoking. The battle is lost once you tell yourself you’ll quit tomorrow. Stay active and keep yourself busy. Find something to replace your cravings to smoke. You will not die from not smoking, you die from smoking.
An alcoholic that has gone off his addiction once called himself a ‘recovering alcoholic’, and went on to explain that it was still a battle everyday to remain sober and not fall back into the vicious cycle of alcoholism. This is also true for smoking. Staying clean from smoking is probably the longest and hardest part of the journey.
Rationalisations will crop up, even a year later. Never give in to the desire to have just one more – you know it rarely ends at just one. Remind yourself why you want to quit smoking. Delay your cravings by keeping yourself busy.
A relapse is when you get back into the habit of smoking. You slip up when you smoke once after quitting, and quickly correct it. In any case, don’t beat yourself up too much. Don’t allow a slip up to give you reason to return to your old habit of smoking. Remember the determination we spoke of?
Many people will take few tries before they actually come off the habit. Find out what made you relapse, and refine your game plan to quit smoking. Then put it into action.