What You Need to Know to Quit Smoking and Never Return to It

Understand what you're dealing with...
(Pixabay photo)

Smoking is bad for you. You’ve heard it a million times but now, under the influence of family pressure and common sense, you let that truth sink in and finally decide to give up smoking for good. You throw your last pack away and bravely make it through the first day. The next day comes, and you start experiencing headache and nausea, irritation keeps building up, and you see no harm in smoking just a single cigarette, offered by a colleague during the lunch break at work.

Although it doesn’t apply to everyone, this is a sad reality for many people. Smoking is normalized in modern society, and quitting is often viewed as a matter of will. Failure to stop smoking on the first try can make a person feel ashamed and discourage them from repeating the attempt. However, overcoming nicotine addiction is no small feat that frequently requires the use of medications and professional assistance in order to be successful. Here are some guidelines to help you create your withdrawal plan.

Understand what you’re dealing with

Smoking is surrounded by many misconceptions and stereotypes that lead to unreasonable expectations. As a result, people frequently fail to quit, because they do it in a radical way that rarely works. Reading up on the problem can help avoid disappointment and reduce the time needed to break this habit.

Whether it’s regular Marlboro, an e-cigarette, or a pipe, there are subtle differences in the composition of their contents and the ways they are used. Hence, it makes sense to research your device as popular e cigarette brands use different technologies. For instance, pipe smokers tend to refrain from inhaling the smoke, which forces nicotine to take longer to reach the brain and contributes to higher rates of oral cancer than in those who smoke cigarettes.

The effects of nicotine on the body

Nicotine is a highly addictive chemical that can be found in tobacco. When inhaled, it reaches the brain via the bloodstream within 10 seconds. Once there, nicotine triggers the release of various hormones and neurotransmitters like adrenaline and dopamine.

Adrenaline ensures that your body’s reactions are most effective in stressful situations through increasing your heart rate and blood pressure, making your breathing more rapid and releasing the excess glucose into the bloodstream. At the same time, nicotine reduces the level of insulin, responsible for processing sugar. Consequently, a high level of blood sugar results in reduced hunger and increased energy.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that regulates the feelings of pleasure and motivation. It is an essential part of your biological reward system. When dopamine receptors in the brain register the increase in the level of this chemical, they send a signal to the orbitofrontal cortex, an area responsible for decision making. When nicotine causes the release of dopamine, the brain recognizes the pleasurable experience and urges you to repeat it. This is how addiction begins.

When you quit smoking, you disrupt a newly formed pattern in the brain, which results in withdrawal symptoms, cravings and mood disorders. Basically, your body begins perceiving the presence of nicotine as something natural, and it takes time for it to readjust to its normal state.

Consider nicotine replacement therapy

Contrary to popular belief, smoking isn’t something you should bring to a halt all at once. A more gentle approach is not only likely to work better, but it allows you to see the benefits of quitting sooner and encourages you to stay tobacco-free. Therefore, receiving small doses of nicotine for a certain amount of time after you quit is, in fact, beneficial.

Nicotine replacement therapies provide a way to ingest nicotine without having to encounter tar, carbon monoxide, ammonia and over 4000 other chemicals contained in cigarette smoke. It’s possible to deliver doses of nicotine through skin patches, gum, prescription-only nicotine inhalers, and nasal sprays.

In addition, these days, it’s impossible to talk about smoking without mentioning electronic cigarettes. An e-cig uses heating rather than combustion to produce e-vapor instead of smoke and thus eliminates the majority of negative impacts that cigarettes have on the body. A nicotine-containing electronic cigarette can have both beneficial and detrimental effects, depending on whether it’s used by those trying to quit or non-smokers. However, it certainly presents fewer health risks than conventional cigarettes.

Break the psychological connection to cigarettes

Emotional dependence is one of the few things nicotine replacement therapies can’t tackle. To quit successfully, it’s important to deal with the causes that led a person to start smoking in the first place. Those can be extremely diverse and vary from experimentation and being peer-pressured into it to attempting to manage such mental conditions as anxiety or depression with cigarettes.

In the first case, it is important to remember that triggers won’t go away when you quit. You will be presented with lots of opportunities to return to smoking, and it won’t always be possible to avoid high-risk situations. Therefore, learning to say “no”, both to yourself and other people, is a valuable skill that will help you stay smoke-free. Besides, in many places, smoking is accepted as a way of socializing, and confronting the need to light a cigarette just to fit in your current environment can be a surprisingly hard thing to do. If you feel like you lack the necessary skills to cope with stress and triggering situations, there are support groups for quitters, telephone- and online-based programs and counseling to assist you.

On the other hand, if you took up smoking because on an underlying mental problem, it is best to consult with your doctor and determine your next steps together. While quitting is still possible using the conventional methods, the tendency to manage your condition through self-destructive habits won’t disappear with the desire to smoke.

One way or another, quitting is always beneficial. Your body starts healing within just 48 hours of staying clean, and the risks of developing major health conditions connected to smoking, including stroke and coronary heart disease, drop back to those of non-smokers between 5 and 15 years after you quit. Although many people slip and smoke again, with the right planning, sufficient support, and determination, you can stop smoking once and for all.


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