- January 3, 2022
- Jeanne Adams, PharmD, Pharmacist in Charge
- Healthy Living
Why is it so hard to quit smoking? Why do half of all smokers pledge to quit smoking every year, but only a small handful succeed?
Everyone knows that smoking and vaping are dangerous and may lead to serious health conditions like lung cancer, COPD, and emphysema. The simple answer is that smoking tobacco leads to a nicotine addiction. After inhaling smoke, the nicotine is absorbed quickly and reaches your bloodstream in 10 seconds. Nicotine releases a chemical in your brain called endorphins. Endorphins make you feel good. There is a brief but joyous effect after inhaling nicotine. The pleasure is short-lived, leading the smoker to inhale again to repeat the feeling. This pattern quickly leads to addiction.
It takes grit and determination to stop smoking. Not only do you have to battle the physical addiction to nicotine, but you must also face the behavioral patterns. The feel of the cigarette, the smell, the ritual of lighting, and specific times of day are all behaviors that reinforce the addiction. Both the physical addiction and behavioral actions must be addressed to stop smoking successfully.
One step to help alleviate the physical addiction is to use nicotine replacement products. These include over-the-counter options such as Nicorette Gum, Nicorette Lozenge, and NicoDerm CQ patch. There are also prescription nicotine replacements, including the Nicotine oral inhaler and nasal spray. The goal of these products is to wean you off the nicotine slowly to avoid withdrawal symptoms. Each product uniquely delivers nicotine. It is essential to read and understand some of these differences. For example, the Nicorette Gum is to be chewed two to three chews, then parked between the teeth and cheek to absorb nicotine into the body. The Nicotine oral inhaler is not used like a cigarette; it uses short, shallow, frequent breaths to move the nicotine into the body.
In addition to prescription nicotine replacements, prescription medications are often used to help stop smoking. The most common are bupropion (Wellbutrin) and varenicline (Chantix). Bupropion is used to decrease the withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety and restlessness. Varenicline reduces the urge to smoke. Both medications have websites dedicated to helping you stop smoking. They offer apps for your phone and contact information to let you speak to someone who has been through this process. The smokers who successfully quit smoking have a network of support from friends, family, or electronic programs.
One key area to address is behavioral changes. You need to look at your habits and make a plan. Instead of holding the lighter and putting that cigarette between your lips, what will you do with your hands? Some people use toothpicks or gum to give their mouths something to do. Fidgets or coins can keep your fingers busy. What times of the day do you always smoke? First thing in the morning, break time, right after work? Look carefully at when you reach for the cigarette and create new habits.
You have the power to overcome this addiction! Take advantage of all the tools at your fingertips, including nicotine replacement, prescription medications, and your network of support. This will be the most challenging thing you have ever done, but it will be worth it! You can do this!
Get Healthy with Hartig and ask your pharmacist about quitting smoking today!