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Freeing Yourself from a Nicotine Addiction

separator Why is it so hard to quit smoking? Consider Linda, a 70-year-old woman who stopped smoking 9 years ago. “When I gave up smoking, I felt like I was giving up a good friend. That might sound weird, but it shows you how much I loved smoking. I liked the taste of it, I liked the feel of it. I thought it was relaxing. I had been smoking since I was 14 years old. I had tried to quit several times, and I’m not sure why this time worked.”

According to the American Lung Association, nicotine
  • Improves your mood
  • Reduces anxiety
  • Makes some people feel more alert

On the other hand, quitting smoking can cause the following withdrawal symptoms:

  • Irritability
  • Impatience
  • Inability to focus
  • Increased appetite
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Trouble sleeping

No wonder it’s hard to stop. In fact, Linda is like many other people. The average person tries to quit seven times before finally being successful.

You need a solid approach
Since quitting takes so much effort, a solid plan of action will give you the best chance of success. You have to make the decision clear in your mind. Don’t leave anything up in the air. Here are some things to plan ahead for:

  • Set a quit date and stick to it.
  • Decide on a quit method, whether it’s cold turkey on your own, joining a cessation group, talking with your doctor, using a nicotine replacement, such as the patch, etc.
  • Tell the people in your life—your family, your friends, your co-workers. Their support will help you get through the tough times.
  • Consider starting an exercise program, if you don’t have one already. This can help you keep weight off. It also helps you get rid of stress.
  • Plan on ways to decrease your stress level. Exercise can help. So can meditation, deep breathing, spending time with friends, becoming more active in your church, etc.

Linda followed this advice. “I knew I didn’t want to gain weight, so I started a walking program at the same time I quit. I walked three or four miles most days. That helped me keep weight off and it also helped me get rid of my nervous energy and anxiety.

“I told my grown children, my friends and the people I worked with about my plan to quit. That helped too, because I didn’t want to let them down. And I knew I could call them up and talk to them about it when I was having a hard time.”

Linda decided to quit on her own, without the help of a program or nicotine replacement. It worked for her, but she had already cut back to about four cigarettes per day. Some people do need that extra support. If you’ve already tried to quit a few times on your own, you may want to consider joining a smoking cessation group. Or consider talking to your doctor for advice.

Another option is to use the Web as a tool. In 1995, Boston University School of Public Health started QuitNet. Users can log onto the site and have access to quitting guides and counselors. And maybe the most popular thing about QuitNet is that there’s constant, 24-hour support of an online community of people who are all in some phase or other of their own quit plan. Visit QuitNet if you think you’d like to give this option a try. 

Is nicotine replacement for you?
If you smoke more than 10 cigarettes per day, and you’ve had trouble quitting smoking on your own, you may want to investigate quitting with the help of a nicotine replacement product. There are five types of products: patches, gum, nasal spray and inhalers. They deliver small doses of nicotine to your bloodstream, to help you get through severe nicotine cravings. The patch and the gum are available without a prescription.

Your doctor can help you decide what kind of product might work best for you. But you do need to be aware that at some point, you’ll need to get rid of your nicotine addiction completely, which means giving up your replacement products. That’s why it’s important to have all the other quit plans in place—support from friends, exercise, stress reduction.

American Cancer Society; American Lung Association; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; The Food and Drug Administration.
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