Quitting Smoking: What’s the One Best Way to Do It?
Quitting smoking is probably one of the most difficult journeys you’ll face as a smoker. And the process is even more overwhelming when you realize that you have a multitude of smoking cessation techniques to choose from, from programs and treatments to nicotine replacement products. But is there really one method of quitting smoking that guarantees the highest success rate? Which smoking cessation technique will help you stop smoking for good?
The short answer is no, there is no one true method for successfully quitting smoking. There is no one best way to quit smoking, because the most effective method is a combination of three core treatment components.
Experts at the Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine say that the most successful method of quitting smoking involves a combination of counseling, providing assistance to smokers at health clinics or hospitals, and medication. A treatment plan involving all three of these components has been shown to significantly increase successful quit rates.
These are the findings of the United States public health services, which reviewed studies and literature on ways to quit smoking and extensively analyzed the methods involved in the process. More than 8,000 academic articles were reviewed to come up with meta-analytical results that pertained to the complete, current body of research on quitting smoking.
According to the findings, counseling is an indispensable component for the quitting process. The good news is that smokers who want to kick the habit have access to a lot of resources to support and counseling, if they want it. There are numerous quit lines set up all across the US; anybody can call these and get in touch with counseling services that can help them deal with nicotine withdrawal and the other difficulties of quitting smoking. These quit lines are manned by counselors who can give you one-on-one, personalized coaching to help you through the process.
The second core component that can boost successful quit rates for smokers is systematic assistance from health clinics and hospitals. Over the course of their quitting process, as many as 7 out 10 smokers will visit their primary care doctor for a health concern. This is the best chance to provide information and assistance for quitting smoking. It’s important that there is a system in place for identifying smokers who visit health clinics and hospitals, so primary care physicians can give these smokers support and encouragement for quitting smoking with every visit.
The third core component that has been scientifically proven to boost the success rate of quitting smoking is medicine. Currently, seven smoking cessation medications have been tested and are endorsed by the FDA. Five of these medicines are nicotine-replacement products: nicotine gum, nicotine patches, nicotine lozenges, the nicotine nasal spray, and the nicotine inhaler. The remaining two are typically prescribed by doctors; these are Bupropion, brand name Zyban, and Varenicline, brand name Chantix. Both Bupropion and Varenicline have been shown to be effective at helping people quit smoking once and for all, but either are best taken with advice from a licensed medical professional.
Further findings on medicine for quitting smoking
Research indicates that nicotine- replacement medicines can take anywhere from eight weeks up to six months to fully take effect. This is applicable for the gum, patches, lozenges, nasal spray, and inhaler. Nicotine gum and lozenges tend to be used for longer periods compared to the nicotine patches.
Understandably, many smokers who want to quit smoking fear that using nicotine products is just as addictive as smoking cigarettes. On this matter, the head doctor at the Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine says that this is not as big a cause of worry as it seems.
Getting your nicotine fix through cigarettes is dangerous because cigarettes contain 4000 chemicals, many of which are carcinogenic. Getting nicotine through a nicotine patch or medications such as Chantix is definitely not as harmful to your health, as these products contain none of the carcinogenic chemicals that cigarettes have.
Of course, developing a dependence on nicotine replacement products is not an ideal situation, but the health risks for that level of exposure to nicotine is incredibly minimal. It’s definitely preferable to the alternative of getting nicotine through cigarettes.
The goal of a nicotine replacement product is to help get a smoker to the point where he or she no longer needs the nicotine and is no longer craving it, whether from cigarettes or from the nicotine replacement medications. Experts say there’s definitely no harm in using these replacement medications for longer periods of time if it’s taking you a little longer to be completely nicotine-free.
The same conclusion is true for nicotine gum, which smokers tend to use for extended periods. There are some theories about the effects of nicotine on the cardiovascular system, but the health risks of long-term use of nicotine gum are thought to be minimal, especially compared to the major health effects of smoking tobacco.
Quitting nicotine replacement medications
Experts recommend a few strategies for smokers who want to completely stop taking nicotine into their bodies. If you regularly use nicotine gum, one thing you can do is to set up a schedule for using the gum. Gradually lengthen the breaks between periods of gum use until you can get by with no gum at all.
Another technique is to consume half a piece of nicotine gum with a piece of chewing gum. You can also use a spicy-flavored gum, like cinnamon gum, and chew it between periods of chewing nicotine gum. The spiciness of the cinnamon gum should give you the same mouthfeel and sensation of nicotine gum, without the actual nicotine content. Increase your consumption of spicy gum as you gradually decrease your use of nicotine gum.
A sample treatment plan for new quitters
The best way for new quitters to successfully stop smoking is to get some coaching or counseling. A counselor can provide valuable help throughout the process, starting with your quit date. He or she will help you prepare yourself for having what truly will be the last cigarette of your life.
A counselor will also review your past experience with quitting, if any. Many smokers have tried to quit at least once in their lives, and a counselor or therapist can help identify situations that you can handle differently this time around so you’ll actually succeed. You’ll learn about your triggers and how to avoid them, along with coping strategies for nicotine withdrawal. With plans in place for those cravings, you stand a greater chance of completely resisting them.
Your counselor will most likely recommend that you stay dry for the first month or two of the quitting process. This is because alcohol consumption has strong links to smoking relapse. 50% of smokers who relapse into their smoking habits have some alcohol in their bloodstream when they light up again after supposedly quitting smoking. Staying sober for thirty days or so will make sure that you remain focused on your goals.
In some cases, your therapist will also want to know if there are other smokers in your household. If so, he or she will then help you set up some ground rules for your home to make the quitting process easier for you and your loved ones.
Once you and your therapist have extensively talked about all these, he or she can recommend one of the seven FDA-approved nicotine medications. The prescription depends on your history and your current situation. You may be referred to another physician for regular check-ups on the progress of your treatment with the medicine.
With a concrete treatment plan like this in place, you’re well on your way to quitting smoking once and for all.