Stop Smoking – Good advice

monkey smoker

Why is it difficult to quit? The nicotine in tobacco smoke causes both physical and psychological dependence. This is a complex form of addiction as you will have a strong desire to smoke, even if you wish to stop. Smokers often continue smoking because they experience unpleasant withdrawal effects when they stop, including irritability, difficulty concentrating, craving for another cigarette, you may also gain weight as a consequence of giving up (but Q-active is here to prevent that!). Smoking is also a habit – it becomes associated with various emotional occasions, situations and events. For some people, this psychological dependence can be even harder to break than the physical addiction. If you’ve already tried to give up but you’re still smoking, accept that it was all part of the process for you. Trying again is simply a continuation of your original decision to give up. Most people who give up successfully have been through several attempts to quit. 

What do I gain from quitting?

 By stopping smoking, you can improve your health and enjoy a longer, healthier life. You will also save money – a 20-a-day smoker spends around $3,500 a year on cigarettes. As smoking also causes wrinkled, damaged skin, giving up is likely to make you look better and younger too.

Stop Smoking – benefits of quitting

butt out

Perhaps one of the best motivators for staying away from cigarettes is knowing how it benefits you.  According to the US Surgeon General’s report the benefits of quitting smoking start almost immediately and accumulate the longer you refrain from smoking.  After just 20 minutes of non-smoking your blood pressure returns to normal.  Eight hours later, the carbon dioxide has been eliminated from your system.  During the three months after quitting, your lung capacity increases by 30%.  One year after quitting your risk of heart attack has become half that of a regular smoker.  After five years your risk of stroke has normalized and after 10 years your risk of lung cancer is half that of a regular smoker.

These accumulated health benefits are the same no matter when you quit.  Of course, if you quit when you are young you have a much better chance of regaining normal health within a shorter time.  But even if you quit when you are 60 your life expectancy and quality of living will increase.

Unfortunately, what is going to happen 10 years down the road is often of little consequence during a spell of nicotine craving.  The longer you quit smoking, however, the less often these cravings will occur.  But smoking is more than just a physical addiction, it is also a behavioural habit, and long after the physical need for nicotine has been overcome you may still feel the urge to smoke in certain situations.

Identifying the situations which cause you to reach for a cigarette can be of great help in overcoming the urge to smoke. If you know, for example, that you feel like smoking at parties, you may want to avoid them for a certain period of time until you break the habit.  Likewise, if situations of stress make you want to smoke, finding alternate ways to deal with stress will help you stay smoke-free.

Despite all your best efforts, you may find that you have lapsed and have taken up smoking again.  If this happens, don’t be discouraged — many people have to try four or five times before they successfully quit.  The most important thing is to immediately stop smoking.  Even if you are in the middle of a cigarette, put it out and throw away the rest of the package.  Don’t get down on yourself or think that you have failed — each time you renew your resolution to quit it becomes stronger.

Try to find moral support from family and friends.  If you feel like smoking, talk to somebody about it and let them know what you are going through.  Some communities have support groups for people who are trying to quit.  With regular meetings and contact with other members you can support each other and offer encouragement and advice.

Stop Smoking – symptoms

The psychological symptoms are related to the habit of smoking and the things that are normally done while smoking like drinking coffee or talking with friends.  Like any bad habit, the smoking habit can be replaced with healthier behaviours, but the physical withdrawal from nicotine may be more difficult to handle.Nicotine is a powerful drug related to cocaine and morphine.  There is evidence that nicotine may be even more addictive than these drugs — the one-year success rate for heroin withdrawal is more than double that of nicotine withdrawal.

Nicotine affects the neurotransmitters of the brain.  The brain becomes accustomed to receiving this kind of stimulation and sends out strong signals of craving when deprived of nicotine.  A person trying to quit smoking will experience all kinds of withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, inability to concentrate, insomnia and fatigue.  Symptoms are stronger in people who have been smoking longer, and people will often have a greater urge to smoke in places and situations where they are accustomed to smoking.

Side effects of quitting smoking

The symptoms of nicotine withdrawal can be alleviated with nicotine substitutes such as gum or patches.  This can help overcome the habit of smoking and it may be easier to cut down on these kinds of secondary nicotine sources than it is by quitting smoking cold turkey.  Some types of drugs (particularly antidepressants) can also be used to help lessen the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal.

Nicotine withdrawal symptoms will change over time.  They will start as a strong craving for cigarettes.  As you continue to deny your body nicotine, you may become irritable and have difficulty concentrating.  The brain has become accustomed to working under the influence of this nicotine and may not function up to par when denied this stimulation.
Because the brain is not receiving stimulation from nicotine, you may also feel tired and lack energy.  Ironically you may also have difficulty sleeping — insomnia is a common complaint among people who are trying to quit smoking and will add to your daytime fatigue.

Constipation can also be a problem related to nicotine withdrawal.  The digestive system is sensitive to nicotine in the bloodstream.  Many smokers are familiar with the sensation of needing to use the bathroom after having a cigarette.  The digestive system can become dependent on the stimulation, and when it is removed, the result can be constipation.

Other symptoms related to the mouth, throat, and lungs are also quite common.  You may develop a dry mouth and a sore throat and cough, and the tongue and gums may become tender and sore.

Not all people trying to quit smoking experience all of these symptoms, and some may experience certain symptoms more strongly than others.  It is important to remember that all the symptoms will pass as long as you refrain from smoking.

The urge to smoke will come in waves, and if you can resist each wave in turn, the urges become less frequent and less severe.  Each time that you feel a desire to smoke, try to find some kind of distraction.  Doing a bit of exercise when the urge to smoke strikes has two benefits — your mind is distracted and your health is improved.

Even after you have overcome all of the physical symptoms of nicotine withdrawal, the psychological urge to smoke may remain for months or even years.  Cravings may be stronger in situations where you have been accustomed to smoke like parties or pubs.  This is due more to behavioural conditioning than actual physical dependence on nicotine.

There will come a day, however, when you will not feel the need to smoke.  With time these days will become more frequent until finally the desire to smoke has been completely overcome.