The Challenge of Quitting Smoking

Why is Quitting Smoking the Hardest Thing to Do?

Smoking causes many diseases, including lung cancer, heart disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (which includes emphysema), according to the CDC. Consider counseling or nicotine-replacement therapy to help you quit smoking for good.

Pick a quit date and write down your reasons for quitting. Get ready for your first few weeks without smoking by lining up support and tools that will help, such as quit-smoking classes or apps, counseling, or medication.

1. Nicotine

The main addictive ingredient in cigarettes is nicotine. Nicotine causes a feeling of pleasure, but it also damages your heart and lungs. After you quit smoking, your lung function and blood circulation improve. You won’t cough as much and you’ll have more energy.

It takes time to build a new routine and get used to life without smoking. Be patient and keep your goals in mind. If you do have a setback, don’t give up. Instead, focus on the next day and promise yourself that you won’t smoke or chew.

Find ways to cope with the feelings that might cause you to want a cigarette, like anger, frustration, or anxiety. You can also try to distract yourself by sipping a glass of water, playing a game on your phone, or nibbling on low-calorie snacks, such as carrot sticks or apples. You can even suck on ice cubes or chew gum to help you resist the urge to smoke.

2. Addiction

When you smoke, nicotine gives you pleasurable effects that make it hard to quit. Your body gets addicted to the chemical, and it makes you need more. It takes about 10 to 15 days for your body to get back to a normal level without nicotine.

It is important to find a strong reason to quit. Your reasons can be anything from protecting your family from secondhand smoke to lowering your risk of lung cancer or heart disease. It is also helpful to line up support in advance, including quit-smoking classes and apps, counseling, a quitline, or medication.

There are some drugs that can help you stop smoking, such as bupropion (Zyban), varenicline (Chantix), or clonidine (Neril). These are prescription medications and must be taken under the supervision of your doctor. There are also a number of over-the-counter medicines, such as melatonin, phenytoin, and calcium channel blockers, that can decrease cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Talk to your doctor about all of the options available to you.

3. Stress

Smokers often use cigarettes to cope with stress, anxiety or negative moods. When they smoke a cigarette, their body releases natural chemicals that make them feel better. But over time, the smoker starts to need nicotine in order to feel good. This is why smoking is so hard to quit.

Smoking can also worsen mental health problems, and interferes with the way some antipsychotic medicines and antidepressants work. So it’s important to talk to your GP before you try to stop smoking.

Once you’re smokefree, you can find new ways to deal with your stress. Physical activity, such as a short walk or dancing to music, can help send natural ‘feel-good’ chemicals to your brain. You can also practise deep breathing, muscle relaxation, meditation or yoga. Keeping busy can help, too. Try playing a game, doing some chores or having a hot drink before bed. If you’re struggling, call the Quitline for extra support. You’ll soon start to notice that irritability and stress levels fall over time.

4. Withdrawal symptoms

Many smokers rely on nicotine as a crutch, so when they stop smoking, they experience a variety of withdrawal symptoms. These can range from physical to psychological and emotional.

Symptoms can include anxiety, depression, and irritability, and they may get worse when you smoke or see people who are smoking. It’s important to focus on your reasons for quitting and stick with it, even when you’re experiencing withdrawal.

After about 24 hours without a cigarette, your body will begin to clear the nicotine out of your system. Your blood pressure will return to normal and your sense of smell and taste will improve.

To help combat cravings, try to avoid situations that you associate with smoking, such as taking a break at work or having coffee with a friend. Keep healthy snacks, such as carrot sticks, on hand to satiate your cravings. And if you’re feeling depressed, talk with your doctor. He or she may recommend a mood-stabilizing medication, such as bupropion (trade name Zyban) or varenicline (trade name Chantix). These medications can also help you quit smoking.

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