BY ELISA D. WALLACE
While on the whole, the number of smokers is at an all-time low—the numbers reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has declined from nearly 21 of every 100 adults (20.9%) in 2005 to about 15 of every 100 adults (15.1%) in 2015—the habit is still a difficult one to quit. One would think the statistics themselves would be enough to drive smokers to stop. The CDC also reports that, “cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States, accounting for more than 480,000 deaths every year, or one of every five deaths.”
Despite these startling facts, for those addicted, it seems impossible to say no to this drug. Michael M. Miller, MD, an addiction medicine specialist, breaks down the hold nicotine has over its users. “Nicotine’s withdrawal symptoms are powerful and hit the fastest of all drugs,” says the specialist, who works with addicts at NewStart Alcohol/Drug Treatment Program at Meriter Hospital in Madison, WI. “People experience agitation, insomnia, irritability, and strong cravings within two to four hours of their last cigarette,” he reported to Health Magazine. Nicotine addiction is far stronger than alcohol even. “The drugs that seem to be the most addictive are nicotine, cocaine, and methamphetamine.”
For those wanting to quit, safe, effective and reliable methods are what they need. Quitting any habit will not happen overnight. Although many smokers often think they can do so. Many begin thinking that they can quit smoking the “cold-turkey” method. They are quickly disheartened when they relapse. Struggling with quitting smoking yourself? Or have a loved one trying to quit this habit? Read on for seven tips guaranteed to help end this deadly habit.
Tip #1: Begin with taking deep breaths. I know that this sounds very obvious, yet often stress is one of the strongest triggers for nicotine cravings, and this simple exercise will help you relax. By taking in extra oxygen, deep breaths can help with the headaches and feelings of dizziness and lightheadedness. If you’ve been smoking for a long time, it’s possible that you still have residual nicotine located deep in your lungs. Breathing deeply can help take the edge off a craving, through releasing some of that nicotine back into your bloodstream.
Tip #2: H2O to the rescue! Water helps with speeding up nicotine detox. By drinking water, you can also ease your cough by making it easier for your lungs to clear out mucus. Considering that many complain of gaining weight while quitting, it is also a great way to combat increased appetite without changing your eating habits!
Tip #3: Reduce your caffeine. Since nicotine suppresses the effects of caffeine, after smokers quit smoking, coffee has a stronger effect. Coffee is a stimulant; it increases your heart rate and makes dealing with stress more difficult. Many who quit smoking drink more coffee, so this new addiction can lead to insomnia.
Tip #4: Consider nicotine replacement therapy. For those who may need more help, a professional nicotine replacement therapy may be just the trick. Nicotine withdrawal can lead to headaches, among other symptoms, and nicotine-replacement therapy can curb your urge to pick up that cigarette. Studies show that nicotine gum, lozenges, and patches improve your chances of success when you’re also in a quit-smoking program.
Tip #5: Investigate prescription pill programs. There are also prescription pills that can help curb the cravings. Some prescription medicines can curb cravings and even make smoking less satisfying if you do pick up a cigarette. Other pills can ease withdrawal symptoms, such as depression or problems with concentration.
Tip #6: Find other ways to relieve stress. Smokers often say smoking helps them relax. However, they do not realize that there are plenty of other methods to relax. Try exercising to help blow off steam, unwinding with music, re-connecting with old friends, or simply treating yourself to a massage. Once you replace nicotine with another method to relax, you’re almost there!
Tip #7: Let your loved ones help! It is vital to let your loved ones know that you are quitting. Not only will they encourage you to NOT give up, but they can often provide you with an outlet to vent. Find one friend/family member who you can rely on to talk you out of grabbing that next cigarette.