Author: Carissa Grother, Telligen Health Coach
Smoking is a Chemical Dependency Called Addiction
Addiction is complex. Nicotine physically alters the brain by releasing dopamine (a neurotransmitter that controls the brain’s reward and pleasure centers). Smoked nicotine has a quick arrival time to the brain; nicotine arrives within 10 seconds of inhaling a puff.
The damaging effects cause impulsive behaviors, the inability to rationally think and at times uncontrollable drug seeking despite devastating consequences. Nicotine affects the same areas of the brain as heroin. Quitting Nicotine can be as hard or harder than quitting heroin.
Good News! Quitting is Possible
It’s not impossible to quit! Learn how to quit smoking in these five steps.
- Find Your Reason for Quitting
Why do you want to quit? Use your reasons for quitting as to help motivate yourself.
- Create a Plan
Create a plan to help you stick to your goal of quitting. Include the following items in your plan:
- Set a start date
- Include coping mechanisms to manage triggers and cravings
- Set up a good support system
- Determine what resources you will use
- Become Aware of Helpful Resources
There are many resources available for those trying to quit smoking, and many of them are free to use.
- Websites: quit.com, smokefree.gov, cdc.gov
- Phone: 1-800-Quit-Now (1-800-784-8669)
- Text: Smokefree TXT
- Apps: There are mobile phone applications available to help provide support/guidance with quitting
- Books/Printed Materials
- Medications: Speak with your physician regarding best choice and strength for you. Below are a few examples:
- Nicotine replacements (patches, gums, lozenges-OTC)
- Prescription medications (Bupropion SR, Chantix)
- Know What to Expect & How to Prepare Yourself
Quitting is hard, but knowing what to expect and how to prepare can help you conquer your cravings and triggers.
- Know what it takes to become nicotine free
- It will take 72 hours to become nicotine free
- Nicotine is cut by half every 2 hours
- After 2-3 weeks, your brain will restore to its natural state and the nicotine will not be in control
- Research shows a maximum of 6 craving episodes per day. This then declines to about 1.4 per day at day 10.
- Withdrawing will occur during this time. Symptoms include irritability, anger, anxiety, trouble thinking, cravings, feeling hungrier.
- Address any reservations or rationales you may have about smoking (i.e., “Smoking makes me feel good” or “I fear I may lose a group of friends”).
- Have alternative activities or remedies as part of your plan that make you feel good. Acknowledge that the harmful nicotine drug is what makes you feel good when smoking.
- Talk with your group of friends about smoke-free activities or gathers that your friend or social group can enjoy together.
- Free yourself of smoking reminders.
- Clean your car, clothes and house to rid the smell of smoke, which may trigger cravings. Discard all lighter and ashtrays
- Know what your cues or triggers are.
- Your body has been trained to expect nicotine at certain times. This could be during times of stress, while driving, while drinking alcohol, after eating or when you meet a smoking friend. Knowing when to expect cravings to be triggered can help you prepare and resist.
- Knowledge is power. Use your resources to stay strong and resist cravings and triggers.
- Celebrate Your Accomplishments
Focus on your successes and applaud your accomplishments! Celebrate milestones like being smoke-free for 24 hours, 2 days, one week, 2 weeks, one month, 2 months, one year, etc. Reward yourself by going out for dinner, going to a movie or doing an activity you enjoy that is smoke-free and trigger-free.
Helpful Hints to Quit
- Take one day at a time.
- Focus on accomplishments.
- Plan activities that help you feel good and de-stress.
- Be sure to get rid of all smoking reminders, such as ashtrays, lighters and smoke smells.
- Have a good support system (groups, family, friends, etc.).
- Address your fears about quitting and eliminate your rationales.
- Keep your hands and mouth busy. Play with a coin, use a straw to hold in your hand and breathe through, keep a toothpick in your mouth, suck on hard candy/cough drops (cool sensations) or chew gum.
- Don’t panic or stress. Instead, try deep breathing, jumping jacks, pushups, lunges or any other exercise. Find someone to talk to like family, friends or a counselor.
- Keep your mind occupied. Have a to-do list to focus on when you get a craving.
- Find an alternative pleasure like a favorite song/artist or movie, or spend time with someone you enjoy being around like friends or family.
- If you are finding yourself anxious, irritable or moody, talk with your physician. Nicotine replacements (patches, gum, lozenges-OTC) can help with this.
- Keep yourself well-nourished with healthy foods (don’t skip meals) and water. Nicotine doubles the rate caffeine is removed from your body, so you may consider decreasing your caffeine consumption while you’re trying to quit.
- Get regular exercise and plenty of sleep.