If you, like millions of American’s, are a smoker, then surely smoking cessation has crossed your mind at one point or another. In fact, most smokers do attempt to quit at some point in their tobacco-using career. Yet sadly, most fail in this endeavor.
There are many reasons for this. The force of habit is one. The pleasure in smoking with one’s morning coffee or after a meal is another – tobacco tastes good, for those who are hooked. If one has friends who are smokers, the social pressure to join in by lighting up can be quite strong. Yet the most powerful factor that keeps smokers chained to a habit they know is bad for them is simply physical addiction to the drug nicotine.
Nicotine serves to increase the levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the human brain. In response to these elevated dopamine levels, the brain creates more receptors for the extra dopamine, so the dopamine surges can be absorbed. Too, dopamine activates the brain’s reward centers, so a positive reinforcement takes place in response to the action of smoking.
Nicotine Withdrawal Symptoms
Yet when the nicotine is withdrawn, dopamine levels decline below what for the smoker is the new normal. In response, the mind sends out distress signals to the body. Withdrawal symptoms appear, both physical and psychological. No matter how determined the smoker is to quit, those that haven’t prepared in advance for the withdrawal symptoms will usually cave to the physical and emotional agony that is experienced when smoking cessation is attempted.
Stop Smoking Strategy
To succeed in smoking cessation, a strategy needs to be thought out and in place before hand. Such a plan should be a multi-pronged strategy to deal with every aspect of nicotine addiction and the habit of smoking. Specifically, one needs to replace the bad habit with a good one. One should also have a medical support system in place to deal with the withdrawals. Finally, one should have some form of support system emotionally and socially, for when the going gets rough.
The first element of this quite successful strategy is also the central key to long-term success in smoking cessation. One must replace the ingrained, bad habit of tobacco use with one or more new good habits. Whatever the psychological benefits that cigarettes or other forms of tobacco provided are, good, healthy substitutes do exist.
Stress Management Techniques
If one smoked to dealt with stress, one can instead choose to exercise or meditate – or both. If one smoked to relax, the same applies, as well as the option to take up a new hobby; especially one that keeps both hands and mind occupied, such as music, art, or pottery. The trick is to find something you really enjoy, and make that your new habit. Instead of smoking, find something healthy that will fill the emotional need you used tobacco to fulfill.
The second element of the plan is to have a medical support system in place to deal with the nicotine withdrawals, which you can expect to last for 10 to 14 days. A common myth in regards to nicotine withdrawals is that the worst is over in 3 days, after the nicotine has left the system. For most nicotine addicts, however, the withdrawal symptoms don’t begin to peak until after three days, as that is when the body is suffering the most.
Yet effective remedies to the physical withdrawal do exist. While many choose a nicotine substitute such as gum or patches to alleviate the symptoms, the core physical dependency is not addressed by simply replacing the delivery system used to obtain the drug. A better approach is to avail oneself of the newer medical options available, such as the prescription drugs Chantrix and the alpha-blocker Clonodine.
Chantrix mimics nicotine in the brain, and is taken for a 3 month period while the smoker is getting used to his new non-smoking lifestyle. Withdrawal symptoms for users of Chantrix are basically non-existent. Of all the treatment options available, Chantrix has the highest success rate – approaching 60%.
Clonodine is used to treat the withdrawal symptoms for a number of addictions, including alcohol and opiates in addition to nicotine. All these substances create similar addictions at the neurological level, and produce similar withdrawal symptoms. For those attempting smoking cessation, Clonodine can reduce or even eliminate the physical withdrawals that occur when one quits tobacco use.
The final element of a successful smoking cessation strategy is to have an emotional and support system in place especially to deal with stress management. This can be found by joining a smoking cessation support group, having a stop-smoking hotline number to call, or even the use of both. You will find a great deal of encouragement in becoming friends with the ex-smokers you will meet in a stop smoking support group. The reassurance you can have when you are able to call somebody when the going gets rough can literally mean the difference between success and failure. So put the odds in your favor, and make this one of the core elements of your smoking cessation strategy.
An additional option to the above methods can be to join a meditation group. Many people attempting to quit smoking find this to be both a valuable and helpful practice. Mediation will teach you relaxation techniques, and joining a mediation group will provide the additionally benefit of social interaction, which can improve your overall mood and sense of well being.
Smoking cessation is rough. But by putting a plan into place ahead of time to combat the addiction and succeed at quitting smoking, the smoker has a much better than even chance of putting cigarettes behind him or her forever. The three-pronged approach of habit replacement, medical support and social support is the most effective strategy there is. If you are serious in your desire to quit smoking, then putting this plan into place should be your highest priority. What do you have to lose except a habit that will eventually kill you?