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Smoking Cessation

Smoking Cessation

Posted on January 2, 2014

Written by Sarah Oprinovich, PharmD

Many people make New Years resolutions to quit smoking.  Quitting is really difficult - don't let that neighbor who swears he quit cold turkey with no problem fool or discourage you.  He's likely pulling your leg.  Not only is nicotine one of the most addictive substances on the planet, smoking is a HABIT.  I've heard so many people say, "I don't know what I'm going to do with myself in the car without smoking," or "I have to have my cigarette after dinner."  Most smokers have a schedule and stick to it unless something stressful comes up.  In my experience, breaking that schedule is generally harder for people than getting over the nicotine.

Here are some helpful tips that just might increase chances for success this new year.

  • First, get a support group - family, co-workers, friends, maybe even a quitting buddy.  If nothing else, there is always someone available to help at 1-800-QUIT-NOW.
  • Second, make a plan!  Most smokers don't plan to fail, they fail to plan.  Identify your triggers and decide how to handle them before you quit, so you'll have a much better chance getting through those cravings.  If you smoke when you drive, keep a bottle of water in the car to sip on.  If you smoke after dinner, get up and do the dishes or take a walk as soon as you finish.
  • Really take some time to make a list of 3 reasons you currently smoke and 3 reasons you want to quit.  Once you have that nailed down, make a reminder to yourself that you can use to help you get through a craving.  Maybe it's a picture in your wallet of your children, or a five dollar bill you keep visible in your wallet.  I had one lady who wanted to quit because she felt smoking was "gross".  She kept a baby food jar with cigarette butts in water...blech!

Think about whether you need medicine to help you quit.  Most people probably do.  Here are some options:

  • Nicotine replacement - Some people say, "why would I want to put the same harmful substance into my body while I'm doing my best to cut it out?!"  If used properly, it weans you off the nicotine more slowly than just stopping cold turkey.  I recommend using the patch daily and adding gum or lozenges for cravings in between.  The trick here is following the schedule to decrease the dose.
  • Zyban (Bupropion SR) - This is a tablet taken twice daily that is technically an antidepressant.  It's not the most effective, but it's a good option if you struggle with depression.
  • Chantix (varenicline) - This is the newest treatment and most people that have used it say it really kills the urge to smoke.  The trick is smoking during the first week of taking the medicine.  The medicine makes the cigarette taste bad and it kills any effects the cigarette would normally have.  The caveat is there are side effects.  It can cause nausea if you don't take it with food, crazy dreams, and insomnia most commonly.  The best part about Chantix is the program that goes with it.  Every starter pack comes with an access code to an online (or phone if you prefer) quitting support program.

The last thing to remember - quitting is hard and it's rare for anyone to be fully successful the first time (or even the next or the next time).  If you try to quit and you fall off the wagon, remember that tomorrow is a new day and you can try again then. 


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