Smoking tobacco is one of the leading preventable causes of premature deaths around the globe. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it kills around 7 million people per year with more than 6 million deaths linked to the direct use of tobacco. Moreover, around 890,000 deaths occur due to secondhand smoke every year.
The statistics in India are more shocking as India has over 100 million adult smokers, the second highest number of smokers in the world after China. Smoking causes around 1 million adult deaths per year in India, which accounts for around 10% of all deaths in India. Moreover, about 70% of these deaths occur at the ages of 30–69 years. These shocking statistics are proof enough to quit smoking.
Here are some tips on how to quit smoking, and deal with challenges of quitting, such as physical addiction, behavioral and social connections, and psychological or emotional connections.
How To Quit Smoking: Tips To Help!
Smoking cessation is quite uncommon. According to a 2016 study published in the British Medical Journal Global Health, only around 5% of men in the age group of 45–59 years are ex-smokers. This indicates that there is a need to raise awareness about smoking cessation and help people quit smoking.
Nicotine is a highly addictive substance that works on your brain in ways similar to heroin and cocaine. One to two hours after you smoke a cigarette, the nicotine level in your body tends to drop, which can cause you to crave for another puff. This is the reason why you experience severe withdrawal symptoms when you quit smoking which in turn can make you feel uncomfortable.
Some of the withdrawal symptoms of quit smoking include headaches, coughing, craving, increased appetite, weight gain, mood changes, restlessness, decreased heart rate, difficulty in concentrating, flu-like symptoms and insomnia. These symptoms are temporary which generally last for around 2-4 weeks and tend to subside once the body gets used to functioning without high levels of nicotine.
Tips To Quit Smoking
If you are planning to kick the butt and wondering how to quit smoking, then there are two ways to deal with it: cognitive-behavioral therapy and pharmacological/ medical therapies. Here’s how these two methods can help.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy To Deal With Withdrawal Symptoms
Headaches: If you are experiencing headaches after you quit smoking make sure you get adequate sleep, eat right and exercise on a regular basis. These lifestyle choices should make the headaches come to a halt or at least decrease its severity.
Coughing: It is essential to stay hydrated to ensure that coughing ceases. Also, you can have a spoonful of honey, juices or warm teas, or inhale vapors which act as remedies to fight cough.
Cravings: It is very common to have cravings for nicotine right after you have quit smoking. In such cases, you can handle this withdrawal symptom using the following steps:
- Delay: Delay for as long as you can while setting a time limit before which you will not smoke. If you feel you are about to give in to the urge, move on to the next step.
- Deep Breathing: Breathe in deeply ten times till you feel relaxed. Fight the urge to give in. If nothing seems to be working move to the next step.
- Drink Water: Staying hydrated flushes the toxins out of your body. It is a better alternative to use your mouth for than smoking. If this does not seem to be holding up, go on to the next step.
- Do Something to Distract Yourself: Watch TV, listen to music, play your favorite sport, or watch a movie. The idea is to basically engage yourself in anything other than smoking!
Increased Appetite/Weight Gain: Increased appetite and weight gain are another common withdrawal symptom. It often causes those who have quit to take up smoking again. Instead, eat healthy (eat lots of fruits and vegetables) and drink water as it can not only help you with to fight withdrawal symptoms but also help you to scale towards a healthier lifestyle.
Mood Changes (Sadness, irritability, frustration or anger): It is commonly experienced by many smokers who quit smoking. It is essential to think positive during this time and to keep your spirits up. To make it easier for you, you can try listening to music or try any other form of distraction to feel apt positive and beat mood swings.
Restlessness: The best way to deal with restlessness is by engaging yourself in some kind of physical activity. Go for a jog in the park or play some sport with your friends to take out that extra energy.
Decreased Heart Rate: This symptom can be managed by making healthy lifestyle choices such as eating right, getting enough sleep and exercising regularly which can help stabilize your heart rate.
Difficulty To Concentrate: Meditation and yoga are some of the tricks that can help you to improve your concentration and fine-tune your cognitive abilities. Whenever you feel your concentration is dipping, give yourself a 10-minute break just to meditate. It is bound to make a huge difference as you will find yourself energized and revitalized.
Flu-like Symptoms: Take sufficient rest and hydrate properly as it plays a key role to keep these flu-like symptoms at bay. Keep drinking enough water, eat healthy food and make sure your body is getting enough sleep to help you come out of this phase.
Insomnia: Many of those who quit smoking recently complain of insomnia or the lack of ability to fall asleep. In order to overcome this hurdle, it is best to practice meditation and try some tips and tricks to help you sleep well instead of counting sheep at night.
Pharmacological Therapy To Deal With Nicotine Withdrawal Symptoms
Another way in which nicotine withdrawal symptoms can be dealt with is through pharmacological therapies. There are two main types of medications available to treat nicotine withdrawal symptoms: nicotine replacement therapies (NRT) and non-nicotine replacement therapies. Nicotine replacement therapies consist of nicotine patches and gums while non-nicotine replacement therapies consist of medications such as Bupropion and Varenicline. Do consult your doctor before you take up any kind of pharmacological therapy to quit smoking
Nicotine gum: Nicotine gum delivers nicotine through the lining of the mouth. It is available in the doses of 2mg and 4mg. Usually, people who smoke more than 20 cigarettes per day are given a higher dose of 4mg while those who smoke less than 20 cigarettes per day are given a smaller dose of 2mg for quit smoking.
Nicotine Patch: Nicotine patches deliver nicotine through the skin. It is available for 24-hour delivery in 7mg, 14mg and 21mg and 16-hour delivery in 5mg, 10mg and 15mg. The dosage ranges from 14 mg per day to up to 42 mg per day depending on the number of cigarettes a person smokes in a day.
Bupropion: Bupropion was initially used as an antidepressant. It affects the levels of neurotransmitters which in turn are known to be associated with an urge to smoke. It is available as a 150mg sustained release tablet. Talk to your doctor to know the exact dose and time before when taking these medications to quit smoking.
Varenicline: Varenicline attaches itself to nicotine receptors and partially blocks the pathways of nicotine that can trigger its production. However, it partially stimulates the nicotine receptors which helps to prevent severe withdrawal symptoms caused due to sudden quitting of smoking. It is available in 0.5mg and 1mg dosages.
How To Quit Smoking: Tips To Keep In Mind
Smoking may also be related to a person’s different emotions. By saying this, what is meant is that a person may link smoking to different emotions by smoking when he is sad, happy, and angry. It is hard to dislodge such emotional links, but it has to be done if you want to quit smoking for good.
Quitting can be made easier by reminding yourself of the benefits of quitting and the dangers of smoking. It is important to reinforce positive self-talk such as ‘quitting smoking can help me save money’, ‘quitting smoking may save my life’, ‘quitting smoking can keep my family healthy’, etc.
Most people associated smoking with other day-to-day activities, which makes it a habit to smoke. These include smoking after eating, smoking as a social activity, and smoking as a stress reliever. There are ways and means to dissociate smoking with such habits. For example, if you smoke every day after you eat, you could replace it with some other activity such as exercising or playing with kids. What is important is that you replace smoking cigarettes with some other activity so that the link between smoking and a certain task may be broken.
Do share your experiences on quit smoking in the comments section below to motivate others to kick the butt and lead a healthy, happy life.
March 13, 2019, was National No Smoking Day. The aim is to shed light on the dangers of smoking and encourage people to break tobacco addiction.
(The article is reviewed by Dr. Lalit Kanodia, General Physician)
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