The cultural phenomenon of smoking in America is nothing new. In fact, much of America’s past shows cigarettes in photos dating way back. Cigarette butts would litter the streets in major cities, stepping outside of work for one minute would mean a one minute smoke break and airports and hotels were divided into smoking and non-smoking areas.
However, over time the risks of smoking have become impossible to ignore. Harvard Medical School estimates that smoking cigarettes contributes to almost 20% of deaths and is linked to various kinds of cancer, lung disease and cardiovascular disease. As the dangers of smoking have become more well-known in mainstream American culture, so have the efforts of millions to quit smoking.
Thankfully, there are a number of ways to do quit and everyone can find a plan that works best for them.
The Logistics of Quitting Smoking
Quitting anything that has become a habit is difficult, especially if the habit affects the body in the way smoking does. The longer the person has been smoking, the more intense the withdrawal symptoms will be. For this reason, it is important that when you decide to quit, other people are aware and will hold you accountable.
There are only positive benefits linked to quitting smoking — after one day the risk of heart attack begins to decrease, after one month lung functioning begins to dramatically improve and after one year the risk of heart disease decreases by half. These three examples are only some of the many positives that come out of quitting. However, these positive benefits only last if the individual resists triggers and cravings that can lead to relapse.
When planning to quit smoking, set a “quit date.” Pick a day in the coming weeks when you plan to stop smoking and share it with family and friends. This way, when the day comes they will be there for you no matter the circumstances. Additionally, prior to the set “quit date” there are some things you can do to lessen withdrawal symptoms in advance.
Prepare yourself for possible cravings and triggers. Learn what your triggers are and find ways to remove them from your living environment or avoid them outside of it. Let your loved ones know what your triggers are and when you are experiencing cravings as well so they can help.
Start stocking up on distractions and things to take up your time so that you will not have time to focus on smoking. Begin an exercise regimen to avoid any weight gain due to quitting and find a routine that makes you feel good. Also, research common methods to help you quit — these can include treatments, healthy substitutes and therapies.
Methods to Help Quit Smoking
Even with the support of family and friends and a set “quit date,” the effects of quitting smoking are difficult to cope with. Because of this common problem, many other methods have been developed to help anyone with the intention of quitting to achieve their goal. These methods include nicotine replacements, certain medications and alternative treatments such as various therapies and programs.
Despite any hobbies you may have picked up to take your mind off of smoking, your body is still not used to the lack of nicotine entering its system. For this reason, many different nicotine replacements have been created to fill that void in a safe, healthy way. According to Harvard Medical School (HMS), using nicotine replacements nearly doubles the successful quit-rate, as they help curb withdrawal symptoms and slowly allow the individual to curb their smoking as well.
Nicotine replacements can be acquired over-the-counter or through prescriptions, and there are various affordable options. The nicotine patch delivers nicotine through the skin while worn and helps the individual get used to the sensation of not having to breathe in the smoke. Nicotine gum, lozenges and nasal sprays also give the individual somewhat of a nicotine rush without the various negative effects of breathing it in.
That being said, over time, the individual seeking to quit should attempt to slowly stop using these replacements as well so they are eventually able to break free of their dependence on anything.
Two medications are highly recommended for those seeking to quit smoking: Varenicline and Bupropion. Varenicline, according to HMS, has the highest quit-rate among quitting methods. It effectively turns on nicotine receptors in the body without the presence of nicotine which makes smoking less pleasurable. It also blocks the nicotine receptors from the nicotine produced through cigarette inhalation.
Bupropion affects the brain’s hormones in a way that excites them without the presence of nicotine. It also minimizes initial weight gain and can help prevent relapse in the long term. Both of these are likely acquired through prescription and are less affordable than nicotine replacements without insurance to cover the cost.
There are a number of free online resources and alternative treatment methods available for those in the process of quitting. Telephone counseling is available for smokers at no cost and self-help guides are available online as well as online counseling groups. In addition, seeking private therapy to attack the underlying cause of nicotine addiction is also recommended, but is a more expensive option.
Finally, alternative medicine such as acupuncture and hypnosis are known to help certain individuals get in touch with their problems internally and quit as such. These are both more expensive options and are less likely to be covered by insurance.
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