If you’ve made a New Year’s resolution to stop smoking, you’re not alone. The CDC says about 70% of smokers want to kick the habit. More than half tried last year, but it is certainly not an easy thing to do.
Why is smoking so hard to quit? The short answer is nicotine, which is physically addictive. Over time, your body adapts to the relaxing effects and constantly wants more. People start to associate its pleasant effects with many pleasurable aspects of their lives, whether it is a good meal or a cup of coffee. When your body no longer receives the nicotine, however, a physical withdrawal occurs. People trying to quit, then, have to avoid all those triggers that they associate with picking up a cigarette.
About 90% of people who attempt to quit try to do so cold turkey, but only 10% succeed with the first attempt. It is certainly easier if you also use medication and/or counseling. Although with multiple attempts, more than half of smokers who try to quit eventually succeed.
It is helpful to prepare yourself before attempting to quit. One thing to consider is to write a list of reasons you want to quit. Many people chose to quit for their kids, to rid themselves of the smell of smoke, to breathe easier, to save money, and to reduce their risk of heart disease, cancer, skin problems, premature aging and osteoporosis.
The web site “smokefree.gov” has created an acronym START, to list the steps to quit. S means set a quit date. T is tell family, friends and coworkers that you are quitting. A is anticipate the challenges you’ll face while quitting. R means remove cigarettes and tobacco products from your home, car and work. Finally, T is talk to your doctor about getting help to quit.
There are some immediate side effects of quitting. For example, you may feel strange and just not yourself. Some people develop withdrawal symptoms from nicotine like headaches, irritability, fatigue, and increased appetite. In addition, you may just feel dull and tense. These symptoms usually only last a few weeks. Unfortunately, many people just can’t handle how they feel after they quit and start smoking again.
Nicotine gum, patches, inhalers, sprays, and lozenges are called nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). This is because they take the place of nicotine from cigarettes. NRT can help with withdrawal and lessen your urge to smoke. Ask your doctor, dentist or pharmacist if NRT is right for you. You do need a prescription to buy the inhaler and nasal spray.
In addition, there is also medicine without nicotine that can help. Two examples of these nicotine-free medications are Bupropion SR and Chantix. They can have side effects, however. Certain people, such as pregnant women, cannot use them either. Make sure to ask your doctor, dentist, or pharmacist if this medicine is right for you.
Weight gain can be a side effect when people attempt to quit smoking. However, this does not mean that everyone who quits smoking will gain weight. Fortunately, most that do gain less than ten pounds and are able to drop some weight six months after quitting.
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