As you probably are already aware, by smoking cigarettes you are providing your body regular doses of nicotine. The reason quitting smoking is so difficult is because your body gets dependent on nicotine. There are receptors in your brain that nicotine reacts with, which results in the release of a neurotransmitter called dopamine. This is what causes the positive feelings that you experience each time you light up and take a deep drag.
When you stop smoking, deprived of the nicotine, your brain receptors stop producing as much dopamine as it used to before. This slowing down of dopamine being released is what causes the typical withdrawal symptoms associated with smoking cessation such as anxiety, irritability, restlessness, difficulty in concentration, drowsiness, headache, and sometimes even anger.
Hence, it takes a fair amount of resolve to quit smoking, and stay quit. However, if you have seriously made up your mind to quit the habit, and are looking for ways to stop smoking, there are plenty of smoking cessation programs that can help you in your endeavor.
Preparative Strategies for Quitting Smoking
- Changing Behavioral Patterns: Apart from resolve, you need to go about it systematically, using strategies that will help you to succeed. Whether or not pharmacological agents are used, behavioral modification should be an integral part of your stop-smoking strategy. Behavioral modification involves changing the patterns of habit that act as cues to light up a cigarette. Often, you don't even realize that you are following the dictates of such patterns of habit. These behavioral patterns could be as simple as taking a coffee break, some pleasurable moment, even a telephone call. Stress at work, delays in the traffic, boredom, and other such frustrations can also trigger off an urge to smoke. Hardcore smoking addicts need to light up as soon as they wake up, with the first drag of the day being the most pleasurable and necessary. So, you need to be aware of such patterns in your behavior and make conscious efforts not to allow them to trigger off the habit of lighting up.
- Decide on a Quitting Date: Decide consciously on a quitting date and stick to it. On that day, get rid of your cigarettes, and hide all the ashtrays as well as your lighter. See that you stay very busy on that day - take long walks, join an exercise program, go to the movies, and so on. Remind your friends and family that this is your quitting date and get them to support you over the rough spots that will inevitable occur in the first few days. If you use pharmacological medications as stop-smoking aids, remember, the strategies differ according to the drugs used. For instance, if you use a nicotine replacement method, you should start it on the day you quit. However, if you are prescribed bupropion, you should start it about two weeks before your quitting date.
Since dealing with the withdrawal symptoms is the hardest part of quitting smoking, one of the best ways to overcome it is to use nicotine replacement therapy. This includes a broad category of products such as gum, lozenges, patches, inhalers, and other ways of getting nicotine into the body without using tobacco products.
Nicotine replacement therapy works by providing small doses of nicotine that your body craves for, minus the harmful byproducts and gases of smoking. However, it not a sure fire way to cure smoking, since it just suppresses the craving of the body and does not treat the underlying psychological aspects of addiction to nicotine.
- Nicotine Patch: This is one of the most popular means of quitting smoking. The patch is place either on the side of the abdomen or on the upper part of the arm, and left there according to the time period recommended by the manufacturer. These patches have an infusion of nicotine, which is transmitted into the body through the skin over the period of time it is kept on. Although the user usually does not notice any dramatic reduction in their cravings, however the withdrawal symptoms do become more manageable. Like in the case of any type of medication, patches do have side effects. The patch causes irritation of the skin sometimes.
- Nicotine Gum: Similar to nicotine patches, nicotine gum also has nicotine in it, although minus the harmful cancer causing substances in cigarettes. It is chewed for a while and then held against the gum or cheek. A tingling sensation is often felt in the area where it is held, which, according to the manufacturers, is caused by the nicotine being transmitted into the body. One piece of gum can last for several hours.
- Nasal Spray and Inhaler: Nasal sprays can be used instead of patches or gum, or used along with other products that contain nicotine. Nicotine is delivered into the lungs in a form of mist, which is absorbed via the lung's lining. Inhalers work in a similar way. Inhaled types of nicotine replacement therapy generally have a shorter duration compared to gum or patches.
Non-nicotine replacement therapy can also be useful stop-smoking aids. These include bupropion, which basically is a neurotransmitter modifier, due to its dopamine-like characteristics. In other words, although drugs like Zyban, which contains bupropion, and Chantix, both of which are prescription drugs used for stopping smoking, do not provide a dose of nicotine, they stimulate the brain to release dopamine. This is what helps in reducing the craving for nicotine and thus lessen the nicotine withdrawal symptoms. In fact, Chantix even blocks the nicotine receptors in the brain. However, these drugs do have side effects. For example, Chantix can cause constipation, changes in dreaming, nausea, vomiting and/or gas. While Zyban can result in nausea, headache, changes in the appetite, confusion, and dizziness. And because Zyban is an antidepressant, some people may experience suicidal thoughts when the first use it.
Some of the other ways to quit smoking include hypnosis and acupuncture. Although the success rate is dependent on certain types of selected people.
- Hypnosis: Hypnosis is regarded as a breakthrough in the field of smoking cessation programs. You will be given CDs or audiotapes by a counselor, which contain anti-smoking messages. These CDs or tapes should be played all day as you go about your tasks, or even in the night while sleeping. The idea is to inculcate the idea about the harmful effects of smoking firmly in the subconscious mind, along with the importance of quitting immediately. Your propensity of being hypnotized will determine the success rate of this method.
- Acupuncture: This is an ancient method of Chinese healing involving inserting thin needles into various parts of the body to stimulate nerve endings. Amongst other things, this practice is said to help in releasing endorphins, which are also known as 'feel good' hormones, which encourage a feeling of well-being and happiness.