How to Give Up Smoking

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No more hacking coughs. No more shelling out money to "Big Tobacco" day after day. No more shortness of breath and no more social alienation. It's time to quit smoking, for good.

Consider Chemical Treatments

Chemical treatments tend to be the most effective, because they do the most to alleviate the physical addiction to nicotine. Natural treatments tend to alleviate only the psychological addiction, which is powerful but less disabling and painful. You should always discuss chemical treatments with your doctor before you use them to quit smoking, as they can all have side effects on certain users. Read up on products, and if one appeals to you and it's approved by your doctor, try it.

Zyban is the marketing name for the antidepressant drug bupropion hydrochloride. These are basically "happy pills" intended to lessen or eliminate the nicotine withdrawal symptoms. To use Zyban, start taking the pills a week or two before you quit smoking so they start working. Zyban is only available by prescription and it should not be used with any other antidepressant drugs. You must be sure to tell your doctor about any other medications you are using when you ask him to prescribe Zyban for you.

Nicotine patches are small, self-adhesive patches for your skin so nicotine can enter your bloodstream at a steady rate all day. When you smoke or use other nicotine-replacement therapies, you get a "spike" of high nicotine level in your blood, which then lowers until you feel the need to take another dose and top up your nicotine levels. The patch just keeps you at a steady level all the time, and gets you accustomed to that without expecting to have occasional high levels. Patches come in different strengths. Progress from the strongest one to the weakest available, and eventually cease to use them altogether.

The advantages of nicotine patches are that they provide you with a steady supply of nicotine so you don't have to think about it. They work in any situation (although you can't wear them in swimming pools or while bathing). The disadvantages of nicotine patches are that they are relatively expensive. They can also irritate the skin on which they are placed or cause you to have weird dreams and not sleep very well if you wear them after you go to bed. If you don't wear them after you go to bed, it can be a bit rough in the morning before you get a patch on and it starts working. Though they provide a strong deterrent to smoking, if you smoke while you are wearing one or for hours after taking one off, you could suffer a nicotine overdose.

Nicotine gum helps you quit by providing you with a source of nicotine apart from smoking. It comes in different strengths (usually 4 mg or 2 mg of nicotine per piece), and you choose one based on how much you smoke. Nicotine gum, like any nicotine-replacement therapy, allows you to deal with the physical component of addiction over a longer period of time with less drastic withdrawal symptoms. As long as you don't exceed the amount suggested by the directions, you take it when you need it so you can cut down on your nicotine as quickly or as slowly as you want. It is also relatively inexpensive and it provides some oral gratification of its own to replace the cigarettes. However, you can't chew it while drinking soda or alcoholic beverages. It can also make you feel sick if you chew it too fast and it takes a long time for it to work. So if you wait too long between pieces, you can become extremely irritable while waiting for the piece you're chewing to affect you.

Nicotine inhalers and nasal sprays work according to the same principle as the gum, but are different in design. Nicotine inhalers are shaped like little cigarettes. When you suck on them, they release a mist of nicotine into your lungs. The nasal spray is like the product you use for nasal congestion, only when you pump it into your nostril it sprays nicotine in your nasal cavity. These work much more quickly than gum and can be used in any situation and whenever they are needed. Since the inhaler is very much like a cigarette, it makes a good replacement. The sprays and inhalers can have many side effects, however, like burning of the nasal tissues or throat, stomach ache and nausea. They are more also expensive than the gum.

Conside Natural Techniques

"Cutting down" is of questionable usefulness, as it is usually just a way of putting off quitting for real. However, some people do use it systematically as a way of preparing themselves to quit by some other method. It's just difficult to do so without some kind of plan and the resolve to stick to it.

An electronic device marketed under the name "Life Sign" provides just such a plan and helps you to follow it. It is like a pager that you carry around with you at all times. For the first week or so, you just carry the device and smoke normally, pressing a button to inform it whenever you smoke. Then it gets used to your smoking habits and, when you want to start cutting down, begins to tell you when to smoke by beeping at you. It gradually cuts down the amount you smoke. It is also purported to break the psychological addiction by removing your usual cues for smoking and replacing them entirely with beeping. It is simple conditioning based on the idea that when the thing stops beeping, you won't feel as inclined to smoke.

Quitting "cold turkey" is extremely difficult, especially for the seasoned smoker. But for some people it is possible. The following tips should help defeat the nicotine addiction:

Smoke until your last day of work or school and begin quitting on the weekend (or whatever days you have off). Indulge in other things you like, to the point of foolishness if you feel like it, during the first few days. Avoid any place where people will be smoking. Have something to do with your hands and your mouth. If you like chewing gum, chew it; if you like ripping apart action figures, do so. Remember that you're one cigarette away from failure.

Unreliable Methods

Acupuncture and Laser Therapy: The idea is that these methods are supposed to calm you down by targeting special pressure points with either needles or lasers, so you don't feel bad about not smoking. There is no evidence that they provide anything apart from a placebo effect. Dr. Dean Edell, M.D., describes an experiment in which researchers provided two groups of quitting smokers with either real acupuncture therapy, in which they placed needles in the accepted pressure points, or fake acupuncture, in which they placed needles in random places. There was no difference between the two groups in terms of quitting success.

Hypnosis: There is no evidence to suggest that hypnosis has provided anything but a placebo effect in a smoking-cessation program. It might be nice just to have a friendly hypnotist to talk to, and from whom to receive encouragement and support. No medical researchers seem to have taken it seriously enough to study its effects.

Prepare Yourself Emotionally

Whatever method you choose, you need to prepare yourself emotionally to quit.

Make a list of pros and cons that examines how smoking enhances your life and how it detracts from it. A realistic and comprehensive list of pros and cons will almost certainly show you that continuing to smoke is a really bad idea, and that a rational person would want to stop. That's obvious to most people, but if you think you might want to quit, you should reflect on everything that is unpleasant and harmful about smoking until you decide you don't care or you develop a strong desire to quit. If don't have such a desire, you can have quit-smoking aids sticking out of every orifice, nicotine patches stuck all over you and hypnotists following you around everywhere you go, and you will still fail.

Understand that there are two components to nicotine addiction: the psychological component and the physical component. The psychological component is the habits and routine you have built around smoking, and it takes a long time to go away. For some people, it never really goes away, and there will always be times where they will feel a slight nagging like something is missing. The physical component is the body's dependence on nicotine, and this takes much less time to go away, but its effects are painful and difficult to withstand. It takes at least 3 days for the body to rid itself of nicotine and dispense with the physical component, during which time most people feel physically ill, anxious, restless, angry and so tempted to smoke that they have to restrain themselves from lunging at passing smokers.

The initial 5 days of craziness is the general rule for just about any quit-smoking method, but the 5 days are particularly painful if you quit cold turkey. The psychological and physical components of the addiction work on you day and night, and it can be really difficult not to smoke.

Pick the right time to quit. For example, if you are a student and you are about to have final exams, you should probably wait until after you've walked out of your last exam and partied your brains out that night before you settle down and quit. Look at your calendar, think about what stressful events you have coming up, and pick a day that leaves you at least 3 weeks between major crises. You're going to have to deal with crises all your life, and this will not change after you quit smoking. However, it would be best to have a relatively smooth patch of 3 weeks or so to get over the really rough initial quitting period. You must not use this as an excuse to never quit; we're talking major stress-filled events here--like quitting a job, final exams or planning a wedding. If you find yourself "waiting for the right time" more than once, or for more than a couple of weeks, you're stalling.

Pamper yourself. In order to boost your resolve, treat yourself nicely in return for not smoking. Spend the money you would otherwise spend on cigarettes on something that you've always wanted. Take yourself out to nice restaurants that don't allow smoking. Feel better about yourself, because you've taken steps to improve your health.

It's also a good idea to begin exercising, because if you have a good exercise program going, it makes you feel a lot better about yourself. If you're getting up at 7 a.m. to go to aerobics before you go to work, you're going to feel ridiculous counteracting your hard work by smoking later on in the day.

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